The Fighting 69th (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Fighting 69th (1940)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Officially, America had no intention of entering the Second World War in 1940: Why, then, were there so many "preparedness" pictures like The Fighting 69th? This film, based on the experiences of military priest Father Duffy (Pat O'Brien), is set during World War I. The US 69th division was a national guard contingent comprised of Irish Americans, who fought with the Rainbow Division in the years 1917-1918. Into this Hibernian stronghold comes cocky Jerry Plunkett (Jimmy Cagney), a streetwise tough who is certain that he can lick the Germans single-handedly. But during his first taste of real combat, Plunkett turns coward and inadvertently reveals the 69th's position. Held responsible for the deaths of his companions, Plunkett is sentenced to a firing squad. Thanks to a conveniently dropped bomb that levels the stockade in which he is held, Plunkett redeems himself on the battlefield by sacrificing his life to save his fellow soldiers. The beauty of James Cagney's star performance is that he is as thoroughly convincing as a "yellow belly" as he is a hero. In addition to father Duffy, the real-life personages depicted in The Fighting 69th include future OSS leader Wild Bill Donovan (George Brent) and poet Joyce Kilmer (Jeffrey Lynn). Other Irish "regulars" include Alan Hale, Frank McHugh, Dennis Morgan, and Sammy Cohen.more
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Fred Niblo, Norman Reilly Raine, Dean Franklin, Fred Niblo, Jr.
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 24, 2007
Warner Bros. Pictures


James Cagney
as Pvt. Jerry Plunkett
Pat O'Brien
as Father Duffy
Jeffrey Lynn
as Sgt. Joyce Kilmer
George Brent
as Maj. Wild Bill Donov...
Alan Hale
as Sgt. Big Mike Wynn
Frank McHugh
as 'Crepe Hanger' Burke
Dennis Morgan
as Lt. Ames
William Lundigan
as Timmy Wynn
Dick Foran
as John Wynn
Henry O'Neill
as The Colonel
John Litel
as Capt. Mangan
Sammy Cohen
as Mike Murphy
Harvey Stephens
as Maj. Anderson
William Hopper
as Pvt. Turner
Tom Dugan
as Pvt. McManus
George Reeves
as Jack O'Keefe
Charles Trowbridge
as Chaplain Holmes
Frank Wilcox
as Lt. Norman
Frank Mayo
as Capt. Bootz
John Harron
as Carroll
Eddie Dew
as Regan
Frank Sully
as Sergeant
James Flavin
as Supply sergeant
Trevor Bardette
as Alabama man
John Arledge
as Alabama man
Frank Melton
as Alabama man
Edmund Glover
as Alabama Man
Edgar Edwards
as Engineer officer
Ralph Dunn
as Medical captain
Arno Frey
as German officer
Roland Varno
as German Officer
Layne Ireland
as Hefferman
Elmo Murray
as O'Brien
Frank Faylen
as Engineer Sergeant
Jerry Fletcher
as Telephonist
Byron Nelson
as Soldier
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Fighting 69th

Critic Reviews for The Fighting 69th

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | July 7, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Among best of Cagney-O'Brien Warner team-ups, this one set in WWI.

March 22, 2008

The Fighting 69th...may become a gushy tearjerker by its end, but you can't argue that its heart isn't in the right place.

Full Review… | April 22, 2007
Movie Metropolis

In one of his few war films, Cagney displays his "specialty" of explosive energy, as a despicable Irishman, who initially sneers at the regiment's traditions but then learns the hard way the mistakes of his cowardice and irresponsibility.

Full Review… | July 15, 2006

Audience Reviews for The Fighting 69th

This film is weird. Cagney is a brawler who becomes a coward in the face of war and gets half of his battalion killed. He finds religion, kills a bunch of Germans and redeems himself. It's Cagney so it's enjoyable, but you don't like his character and you never root for him. Very strange.

cody franklin

Super Reviewer

Cagney is as always wonderful to watch, adding a softness to the otherwise rough around the edges and rather cowardly character. It's rather predictability and jumbled plotline leaves his characters a little thinner developed than deserved, but Cagney makes up for that.

Lisa Conant

An absolutely fantastic film, while riding the slippery slope of being another propaganda film, this movie beams heart and substance all the way through.

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