Marines, Let's Go!
Saddling Up For The War
Basically a training camp comedy/romance that suddenly got serious when a real-life war happened, To The Shores Of Tripoli caught luck of timing to become a major hit for 20th in 1942. We barely know it today for dated content, but this was one for flags flown and goosing patronage to rout of the enemy.
We can observe from seventy-five year distance and imagine WWII to be more fun than not, based on Technicolor pour over reality. Easy to smite To The Shores Of Tripoli for misleading its public, but this was war. All had to be aboard for the struggle to stay free and continue to enjoy silly movies loose with the truth, but reassuring all the same and at a time where no questions need be asked re harsher truths of the conflict. Leave that to newsreels, which, sanitized as most were, at least showed men in actual field of combat instead of soundstage repose and being kissed by Maureen O'Hara. We'll never know how seductive To The Shores Of Tripoli was to youth already with an itch to join. Pic was premiered March 1942, appropriately in
|1952 Cleveland Reissue with, Ouch!, B/W Prints|
Here's suggestion for a double-bill: To The Shores Of Tripoli with Laurel and Hardy in Great Guns, both begun as peacetime service shows, accent on lighter aspect of training programs, each benefiting from actual war that made them popular beyond merit of either. What we overlook now is how timely the two were, and basis this was for pleasing reviewers and the audience. To praise especially Great Guns seems irrational to us, but we weren't there in 1941 when it raised roofs of theatres nationwide. Laurel and Hardy were far more relevant here than they had been for years ... at least to 1941's reckoning. As for To The Shores Of Tripoli, what more joy than spending ninety minutes inside a very camp to which loved ones might be dispatched. Such glimpse of their training to come had close-to-home significance for almost everyone in seats. What seems silly to us was like documentary for them. And to put Laurel-Hardy in uniform, on eve of a brand new war, seemed only natural (even though both were plenty old enough to have fought in the last war).
It mattered less that the team lost creative input. Just showing up was plenty enough. Frightful as their Fox films now seem (to some, but not all), going there could be argued as a right move, at least in context of the times. Options for L&H otherwise? More for Roach, likely streamliners, w/ distribution through United Artists no match for 20th Fox finesse in that area, or continued tours through presentation houses, a viable notion, but essentially vaudeville and constant on-the-road. To stay truly visible, Laurel and Hardy had to be on screens, and in new product. At least Fox got them out there and in front of large audiences. Plus the films were well-attended and presumably enjoyed. Fact they'd date, and be less appealing today, was fate Great Guns and rest of 40's L&H would share with To The Shores Of Tripoli and so much of what came out in wartime, but viewed with WWII urgencies in mind, they can all still be appreciated and enjoyed. To The Shores Of Tripoli streams in HD on I-Tunes, where it looks terrific.