Monday, May 24, 2010

There’s Something About a Soldier (1943) Alfred E. Green

This is a Columbia Pictures production made during World War II and I mention it for several reasons, none being the quality of the film. The movie centers on Officer’s Candidate School applicants, their backgrounds, and progression. Rear projection footage is poorly and overly used. Watch and cringe.

The always lovely Evelyn Keyes is the love interest. For “Leave It to Beaver” fans, Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver) is amusing to watch as he plays the heavy-handed lieutenant to the new recruits. Bruce Bennett (you know him from “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “Mildred Pierce”) is the serious, war veteran. Also look for William Edmunds as the Polish father, and Louis Beavers, a talented black actress forced into the stereotypical maid or cook roles. In her first film role, Shelley Winters appears as Norma.

Tom Neal (1914-1972) plays an arrogant soldier who comes to be a decent human being by the end of the movie. Born in Evanston, Illinois to a wealthy family, Neal became a champion boxer at Northwestern University and received a law degree from Harvard. Intelligent and nice-looking, his movie roles ended up being thugs, or at the very least, tough guys. And in real-life, that’s what he was. He shared girlfriend, Barbara Payton (she’s a whole other story), with actor Franchot Tone for a while and once beat Tone up so badly he ended up in the hospital with a coma. Neal killed his third, and last, wife by a gunshot to the back of the head, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail for involuntary manslaughter (must have had a heck of an attorney).

More notorious than famous, Neal made fewer than 100 film and TV roles and all between 1938-1959. Watch for this hapless, handsome actor and you’ll appreciate, if not his acting, his back story.

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