Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

89 or 92 mins | Biography, Musical | December 1952

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Life of John Philip Sousa . The film's title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever ." The film features intermittent voice-over narration describing Sousa's life. At the film's end, a shot of Clifton Webb as "Sousa" is superimposed over scenes of the then-current Marine Corps Band marching and performing "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
       The picture is loosely based on the life of renowned composer and band leader John Philip Sousa (1854--1932), who joined the Marine Corps Band at the age of thirteen and became its leader when he was twenty-six years old. After leading the Marine Corps Band for twelve years, Sousa formed his own band in 1892 and toured extensively and successfully for many years. Although Sousa's popular marches earned him the nickname "The March King," he also wrote ballads and comic operas, as well as a number of books. Studio publicity reported that whenever possible, Sousa's original music scores were used for the picture. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, producer-writer Lamar Trotti consulted with members of the Sousa family while preparing the film's screenplay. The characters "Lily" and "Willie" were fictional and created for the picture.
       In Nov 1938, a LAT news item reported that Warner Bros. was "likely to produce" a picture about Sousa, and according to a Mar 1940 HR news item, Universal was among the studios interested in purchasing the rights to Sousa's autobiography. A Nov 1942 studio press release announced that the film ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Life of John Philip Sousa . The film's title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox presents John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever ." The film features intermittent voice-over narration describing Sousa's life. At the film's end, a shot of Clifton Webb as "Sousa" is superimposed over scenes of the then-current Marine Corps Band marching and performing "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
       The picture is loosely based on the life of renowned composer and band leader John Philip Sousa (1854--1932), who joined the Marine Corps Band at the age of thirteen and became its leader when he was twenty-six years old. After leading the Marine Corps Band for twelve years, Sousa formed his own band in 1892 and toured extensively and successfully for many years. Although Sousa's popular marches earned him the nickname "The March King," he also wrote ballads and comic operas, as well as a number of books. Studio publicity reported that whenever possible, Sousa's original music scores were used for the picture. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, producer-writer Lamar Trotti consulted with members of the Sousa family while preparing the film's screenplay. The characters "Lily" and "Willie" were fictional and created for the picture.
       In Nov 1938, a LAT news item reported that Warner Bros. was "likely to produce" a picture about Sousa, and according to a Mar 1940 HR news item, Universal was among the studios interested in purchasing the rights to Sousa's autobiography. A Nov 1942 studio press release announced that the film was set to be produced by Kenneth Macgowan, with Harry Goetz serving as associate producer. In Sep 1943, HR announced that due to Macgowan's heavy schedule, the picture would instead be produced by William Bacher. Information in studio records indicates that in 1942--1943, Bacher, Ketti Frings, Harry Kronman, Stephen Longstreet and John Twist worked on drafts of the screenplay. It is unlikely that their work was used in the completed picture, however. Although 1950 DV and NYT news items reported that independent producers Jerry Wald and Norman Krasna had purchased the rights to Sousa's song "The Stars and Stripes Forever," and would be using it in a film about "a U.S.O. troupe in the South Pacific," that project was not completed.
       According to a 27 Nov 1942 LAEx news item, Alice Faye was set to star in the picture, which was described as "an early romance between the famous bandmaster and a beautiful girl--Alice." In Feb 1952, LAEx announced that Rory Calhoun and June Haver had been cast in the romantic leads. Although the CBCS includes Benay Venuta in the cast, her role as "Mme. Bernsdorff-Mueller" was cut from the final film. Studio publicity includes Marilyn Russell, Fred U. Brown, William Martinez, Jack Santora and Carli Elinor in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed.
       In connection with publicity for the film, star Clifton Webb, assisted by several Marines, imprinted his hand- and footprints in cement in the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre forecourt on 7 Dec 1952. According to Dec 1952 HR news items, the U.S. Marine Band received presidential approval to play at the film's premiere in New York, which marked the first time that the band had played at such an event. The gala's highlights were broadcast in several cities by the ABC network, marking the first time that a premiere had been covered for television, according to HR . Stars and Stripes Forever was the last picture of Trotti, who died on 28 Aug 1951. Trotti, who wrote and produced many successful films at Twentieth Century-Fox, had also worked for the PCA Office in the early 1930s. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
22 Nov 1952.
---
Cue
20 Dec 1952.
---
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1950.
---
Daily Variety
19 Nov 52
p. 3.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1953.
---
Film Daily
30 Nov 1942.
---
Film Daily
28 Nov 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1940.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1943.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Aug 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Apr 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Apr 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 May 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 52
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 52
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 52
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 53
p. 7.
Los Angeles Examiner
27 Nov 1942.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
25 Feb 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
29 Nov 1938.
---
Los Angeles Times
1 Jan 1953.
---
Motion Picture Daily
19 Nov 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
22 Nov 52
pp. 1613-14.
New York Times
9 Jul 1943.
---
New York Times
15 Oct 1950.
---
New York Times
22 Dec 52
p. 20.
New York Times
23 Dec 52
p. 17.
Newsweek
22 Dec 1952.
---
Time
29 Dec 1952.
---
Variety
10 Jan 1940.
---
Variety
19 Nov 52
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Maude Prickett
Thomas E. Jackson
Thomas F. Martin
Helen MacAllister
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Screen story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
Vocal dir
Orch
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
"Springtime in New York" staged by
Dance coach
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Clifton Webb's conducting instructor
Mus research
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Marching Along
Recollections of Men, Women and Music by John Philip Sousa (Boston, 1928).
MUSIC
"The Stars and Stripes Forever," "Semper Fidelis," "Washington Post March," "Presidential Polonaise," "The Thunderer," "The High School Cadets March" and "El Capitan (March)" by John Philip Sousa
"Hail to the Chief," music by James Sanderson
"Light Cavalry (Overture)" by Franz von Suppé
+
MUSIC
"The Stars and Stripes Forever," "Semper Fidelis," "Washington Post March," "Presidential Polonaise," "The Thunderer," "The High School Cadets March" and "El Capitan (March)" by John Philip Sousa
"Hail to the Chief," music by James Sanderson
"Light Cavalry (Overture)" by Franz von Suppé
"Mein lebenslauf ist lust und lieb" by Josef Strauss
"Dixie" by Daniel Decatur Emmett.
+
SONGS
"My Love Is a Weeping Willow," music by John Philip Sousa, lyrics by Ken Darby
"Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud," music by John Philip Sousa, lyrics by William Knox
"Father's Got 'Em!" music and lyrics by Harry Wincott
+
SONGS
"My Love Is a Weeping Willow," music by John Philip Sousa, lyrics by Ken Darby
"Oh, Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud," music by John Philip Sousa, lyrics by William Knox
"Father's Got 'Em!" music and lyrics by Harry Wincott
"Battle Hymn of the Republic," music by William Steffe, lyrics by Julia Ward Howe
"Springtime in New York," music by Alfred Newman, lyrics by Ken Darby
"The Bowery," music by Percy Gaunt, lyrics by Charles H. Hoyt
"I'm Afraid," music by Alfred Newman, lyrics by Lester O'Keefe.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever
The Life of John Philip Sousa
Release Date:
December 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 22 December 1952
Los Angeles opening: 31 December 1952
Production Date:
early April--17 May 1952
"Springtime in New York" seq began 10 July 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2347
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
89 or 92
Length(in feet):
8,301
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15881
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1890, noted composer and Marine sergeant major John Philip Sousa, who has been the leader of the famed Marine Corps Band in Washington, D.C. for twelve years, remains frustrated that only his marches, not his ballads, are embraced by the public. Sousa is supported by his adoring wife Jennie and idolized by musicians, including young Marine private Willie Little, who has modified a tuba and named it the "Sousaphone" in his honor. After Willie gets into a fistfight, commander Maj. George Porter Houston allows him to join Sousa's band so that Sousa can keep an eye on him, and Sousa becomes attached to the enthusiastic young man. One evening, Willie persuades Sousa to visit a theater where his ballads are to be sung, but the "theater" turns out to be a vaudeville house in which Willie's girl friend, Lily Becker, is featured as a dancer. When the theater is raided because of the dancers' skimpy costumes, Sousa, Willie and Lily escape to the Sousa home, where Willie convinces Sousa and Jennie to listen to Lily, an aspiring singer, perform. Sousa is bemused by Lily's frenetic style, but encourages her to take singing lessons. Later, Sousa, who has served under five Presidents, introduces his new march, "Semper Fidelis," at a reception hosted by President Benjamin Harrison and his wife, much to Harrison's pleasure. Sousa is given a special award for the song, which is the only composition to have received official recognition from the United States government. Soon after, Sousa informs a disappointed Houston that he will not be re-enlisting in the Marines and intends to form his own band. Houston pleads with Sousa to ... +


In 1890, noted composer and Marine sergeant major John Philip Sousa, who has been the leader of the famed Marine Corps Band in Washington, D.C. for twelve years, remains frustrated that only his marches, not his ballads, are embraced by the public. Sousa is supported by his adoring wife Jennie and idolized by musicians, including young Marine private Willie Little, who has modified a tuba and named it the "Sousaphone" in his honor. After Willie gets into a fistfight, commander Maj. George Porter Houston allows him to join Sousa's band so that Sousa can keep an eye on him, and Sousa becomes attached to the enthusiastic young man. One evening, Willie persuades Sousa to visit a theater where his ballads are to be sung, but the "theater" turns out to be a vaudeville house in which Willie's girl friend, Lily Becker, is featured as a dancer. When the theater is raided because of the dancers' skimpy costumes, Sousa, Willie and Lily escape to the Sousa home, where Willie convinces Sousa and Jennie to listen to Lily, an aspiring singer, perform. Sousa is bemused by Lily's frenetic style, but encourages her to take singing lessons. Later, Sousa, who has served under five Presidents, introduces his new march, "Semper Fidelis," at a reception hosted by President Benjamin Harrison and his wife, much to Harrison's pleasure. Sousa is given a special award for the song, which is the only composition to have received official recognition from the United States government. Soon after, Sousa informs a disappointed Houston that he will not be re-enlisting in the Marines and intends to form his own band. Houston pleads with Sousa to stay, but the composer is determined, as he has three children to support and has received only $105 in royalties for his marches. At Sousa's request, Willie is released from the Marines and accompanies him to New York, where he holds auditions. Sousa warns the musicians that he will insist on strict military discipline and will not allow wives to accompany them on tour. Willie fibs to Lily, telling her that Sousa wants to audition her for the band, but when she discovers that he has already hired opera singer Estelle Liebling, she is furious. Soon, Sousa has assembled a group of superlative musicians, and their performance at the Chicago's World Fair is a success. As the band tours the world, Sousa earns the nickname "The March King," while back in the U.S., Lily continues to study with the singing teacher he selected for her. One day, Willie and Lily share a passionate kiss, and Lily, disturbed by her "unladylike" response, asks Jennie for advice. Jennie counsels Lily to kiss Willie back, and also informs her that Sousa plans to include her in the band's next tour. Lily is upset, for she had hoped to marry Willie but does not want to break Sousa's rules. Jennie laughingly tells Lily that what Sousa does not know will not hurt him, and soon after, Lily and Willie marry in secret. After the band plays at the Dancing Masters Convention in Atlantic City, Sousa is informed that their upcoming engagement at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta has been canceled because marching bands supposedly do not draw big enough crowds. Disgruntled, Sousa shepherds his group onto a train bound for Atlanta, and during the journey, sees Willie sneak into Lily's drawing room. Jennie calms down the outraged Sousa by informing him of their marriage, and Sousa agrees to keep his knowledge secret. Sousa's band is a hit at the exposition, and their happy times continue over the next few years. Sousa often seeks new ways to entertain his audience, and the elaborate numbers he stages around Lily are well-received. One day, however, the band learns that the Maine has been sunk, and Willie re-enlists in the Marines. Sousa also re-enlists, but an attack of typhoid fever prevents him from serving. Sousa recovers and while working on the music for a comic opera, composes a new march, named "The Stars and Stripes Forever," and predicts that it will be his most popular composition. Later, during rehearsals of the show, which features Lily, Jennie receives a letter from Willie, stating that he has been wounded and may lose a leg. Sousa comforts Lily and admits his knowledge of their marriage. After the war's end, groups of wounded men return home, and in Brooklyn, where Willie is hospitalized, Lily escorts him to an evening's entertainment at the recreation hall. Willie is thrilled to see that Sousa's band is to perform and is deeply touched when Sousa calls him to the stand, where his sousaphone is waiting. Willie, who has lost his left leg, joins his comrades on the bandstand, and they play "The Stars and Stripes Forever," which, as Sousa predicted, becomes his greatest hit and inspires generations of Marines. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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