Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Real Glory

The title and soundtrack may be incongruent, but Henry Hathaway's 1939 adaptation of The Real Glory, a 1937 novel by Charles L. Clifford, sheds a lot more light on American foreign policy than was probably intended at the time. Though set in the Philippines in 1906, parallels to American frontier fighting and US military adventures in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan shout out to be heard. But is anyone listening?

The Real Glory stars Gary Cooper as a sort of action-doctor, along with David Niven as Lt. McCool. They are based in a small village enclave on Mindanao, part of a cadre training "native troops" (as they are called in the movie).  The biggest threat to happiness apparently comes from the Moro* people, Muslims who'd fought against the Spanish for nearly four hundred years, and now (in 1906) the Americans, and later the Japanese, and later still, the  Filipino central government (through the time of this post). 

One American officer complains that he could not possibly train the local "constabulary force" in ten years, let alone sooner.  Another quips:
"From now on the little brothers will have to stand on their own feet -- if they can."

Other interesting stuff to watch for: Moro strategy and tactics. The Moros, even as portrayed in the movie, are relentless guerilla fighters and raiders. They gather intelligence about the American enclave, assassinate officers with suicide attacks. They set ambushes and traps and use punji stick pits. They cut freshwater supplies to the village in order to force small contingents out into the jungle and then attack them on rough chosen ground. And so forth. The American commander responds by fortifying the village with sandbags, putting up barbed wire, and rounding up village Moros, forcing them into the village stockade. What happens to the prisoners after that we are never told.      

Another line from The Real Glory: "If you believe in marriage, never say 'yes' to a soldier." The great San Francisco earthquake is referenced, and a cholera epidemic figures prominenently, as does a wise Spanish Catholic padre. The music soundtrack is very lame, but otherwise, interesting film.

*Moro sounds like Moor and Moors, and derives from the same Spanish Christian nomenclature for Muslim historical adversaries in Spain.

Today's Rune: Harvest.   


pattinase (abbott) said...

Love Gary Cooper but I have never seen or head of this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

So easy for a country at the peak of its power to believe that it always was at such a peak, when there were certainly times when it was the "little brother."