Hail the Conquering Hero

I love this picture of Sturges! It is so cute!

I admire Preston Sturges for what he did in Hollywood in order to make intelligent, witty films that were script based as opposed to actor or cinematography based. He paved the way for many other screenwriters to become directors, producers, actors and/or cinematographers. He wrote dialogue that was at once clever and perfect for the scene and the character he constructed. (That is way harder than you think. Clever dialogue is most of the times not suited for the character, but rather for the screenwriter writing it.) Comedy as a genre wouldn’t be known for its verbally wittiness if it wasn’t for Sturges. (See the Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels)

Hail the Conquering Hero could on the surface be seen only as a propaganda film that is pro-individual, but it has subtler tones of anti-Americanism that can be seen peeking out of the corners of the film. Even though in the first sentence, I said this film can be construed as pro-individual, it actually is not. When Woodrow Truesmith denies that he is a hero and delivers a speech explaining why, the audience still sees him as a good candidate for mayor. This is just my interpretation, but I believe it is because the same reason that Clinton got elected for president despite having several allegations of infidelity against him (foreshadowing his later in presidency scandal). The collective townspeople still saw him as having more integrity and honesty than the establishment mayor.

Also the mayor is pro-business and Sturges recognized, like many people at the protests for Occupy Wall Street realize, isn’t the best idea to mix politics and business. It becomes sticky and makes a candidate look slimy, much like this slimy mayor looks with his pompous speeches and his rapid fire insults. Although this may be considered an idealistic film in line with Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Meet John Doe, the commentary is pretty deep cutting even for today’s audiences. Politics should be more idealistic than it is. Politics should be populated by people who tell the truth and have a real passion for the welfare for people, other than just making money and being power-hungry.

This film should be shown in history classes along with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and war films. In fact it should be shown in place of war films.


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