The Long Gray Line (1955)

135 or 138 mins | Comedy-drama | February 1955

Director:

John Ford

Writer:

Edward Hope

Producer:

Robert Arthur

Cinematographer:

Charles "Bud" Lawton

Editor:

William Lyon

Production Designer:

Robert Peterson
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Mister West Point . The film begins with the following written foreword: "The United States Military Academy at West Point is 153 years old. This is the true story of an enlisted man who was there for 50 of those years. His name is Marty Maher." The phrase "the long gray line" refers to the succession of officers who have been educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, many of them sons and grandsons of earlier graduates. It also refers to the line of cadets, who wear grey uniforms. In May 1947, LAT reported that Robert Fellows was planning to produce a film set at West Point entitled The Long Gray Line for Paramount, but it has not been determined if that project is related to this film.
       According to NYT , producer Jerry Wald had originally wanted to produce a film adaptation of Maher's life story while under contract to RKO. The studio, however, refused to purchase the rights, and after his production company, Wald-Krasna, was dissolved, Wald took an executive producer position at Columbia. He then convinced that studio to purchase the book and assigned Robert Arthur to produce. After casting problems delayed the production, Arthur left Columbia for Universal-International. Later, when Tyrone Power was hired to star and John Ford to direct, Arthur was borrowed back from Universal-International to produce the film. HR casting information adds Stewart Vannerson, Richard Bishop and Allen Norse to the film, but their appearance in the final film has ... More Less

The working title of this film was Mister West Point . The film begins with the following written foreword: "The United States Military Academy at West Point is 153 years old. This is the true story of an enlisted man who was there for 50 of those years. His name is Marty Maher." The phrase "the long gray line" refers to the succession of officers who have been educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, many of them sons and grandsons of earlier graduates. It also refers to the line of cadets, who wear grey uniforms. In May 1947, LAT reported that Robert Fellows was planning to produce a film set at West Point entitled The Long Gray Line for Paramount, but it has not been determined if that project is related to this film.
       According to NYT , producer Jerry Wald had originally wanted to produce a film adaptation of Maher's life story while under contract to RKO. The studio, however, refused to purchase the rights, and after his production company, Wald-Krasna, was dissolved, Wald took an executive producer position at Columbia. He then convinced that studio to purchase the book and assigned Robert Arthur to produce. After casting problems delayed the production, Arthur left Columbia for Universal-International. Later, when Tyrone Power was hired to star and John Ford to direct, Arthur was borrowed back from Universal-International to produce the film. HR casting information adds Stewart Vannerson, Richard Bishop and Allen Norse to the film, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to MPHPD and HR , portions of the film were shot at West Point. The film was the first CinemaScope picture to be directed by Ford and was his first film after a nearly one-year layoff due to eye surgery. The Long Gray Line was the last film of actor Robert Francis (1930--1955), who died on 31 Jul 1955 in a plane crash. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Feb 1955.
---
Daily Variety
9 Feb 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Feb 55
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
12 Feb 55
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Feb 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
15 May 1947.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Feb 55
p. 321.
New York Times
18 Apr 1954.
---
New York Times
11 Feb 55
p. 19.
The Exhibitor
9 Feb 55
pp. 3913-14.
Variety
9 Feb 55
p. 10.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
James Sears
Hubert Kerns
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus supv and cond
Mus adpt
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Bringing Up the Brass: My Fifty-Five Years at West Point by Marty Maher and Nardi Reeder Campion (New York, 1951).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Mister West Point
Release Date:
February 1955
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 February 1955
Production Date:
15 March--17 May 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Rota Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4353
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
135 or 138
Length(in feet):
12,314
Length(in reels):
16
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17118
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a specially arranged meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army officer Martin Maher complains that the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he has served for fifty years, is forcing him into retirement. Protesting that he is perfectly healthy, Marty remembers his first day at the Academy: Having just arrived from County Tipperary, Ireland, Marty reports to West Point to begin his job as a waiter. Unimpressed with military discipline, and too much the exuberant Irishman to maintain a silent and respectful demeanor, Marty gets himself into trouble from the very beginning. His salary proves insufficient to pay for the dishes he constantly breaks, and when he realizes that enlisted men receive better treatment than do hired laborers, he immediately joins up. Mistakenly believing that Corp. Rudolph Heinz betrayed a cadet, Marty fights the officer, and is placed in the guardhouse. Upon his release, he learns that Capt. Herman J. Koehler was impressed with his boxing skills and wants him to assist in athletics instruction. Soon after Marty begins teaching boxing classes, he meets Mrs. Koehler's cook, Mary O'Donnell, an attractive young woman who has just arrived from County Donegal. It is love at first sight for Marty, but Mary refuses to speak to him. Exasperated, Marty finally proposes and is astonished when Mary says yes. Capt. Koehler, she explains, had advised her to remain silent because to speak to an argumentative Irishman would have invited an immediate fight. The two do fight but are married nonetheless. Over the following few years, Marty becomes a corporal, and Mary saves enough money to bring his father and brother Dinny ... +


In a specially arranged meeting with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army officer Martin Maher complains that the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he has served for fifty years, is forcing him into retirement. Protesting that he is perfectly healthy, Marty remembers his first day at the Academy: Having just arrived from County Tipperary, Ireland, Marty reports to West Point to begin his job as a waiter. Unimpressed with military discipline, and too much the exuberant Irishman to maintain a silent and respectful demeanor, Marty gets himself into trouble from the very beginning. His salary proves insufficient to pay for the dishes he constantly breaks, and when he realizes that enlisted men receive better treatment than do hired laborers, he immediately joins up. Mistakenly believing that Corp. Rudolph Heinz betrayed a cadet, Marty fights the officer, and is placed in the guardhouse. Upon his release, he learns that Capt. Herman J. Koehler was impressed with his boxing skills and wants him to assist in athletics instruction. Soon after Marty begins teaching boxing classes, he meets Mrs. Koehler's cook, Mary O'Donnell, an attractive young woman who has just arrived from County Donegal. It is love at first sight for Marty, but Mary refuses to speak to him. Exasperated, Marty finally proposes and is astonished when Mary says yes. Capt. Koehler, she explains, had advised her to remain silent because to speak to an argumentative Irishman would have invited an immediate fight. The two do fight but are married nonetheless. Over the following few years, Marty becomes a corporal, and Mary saves enough money to bring his father and brother Dinny to America. Dinny becomes a successful businessman, and although Mary loves West Point, Marty decides to quit the military and join his brother's firm. When Mary becomes pregnant, however, he re-enlists. The baby, named Martin Maher, III, dies only hours after his birth, and Mary learns that she may never have another child. The cadets, who cherish the couple's friendship, remain with them during their grief. One of these cadets is James "Red" Sundstrom, who worries that he will be dismissed because of his poor grades. Marty and Mary introduce him to Kitty Carter, who tutors Red and, after several years, becomes his bride. As time passes, Marty continues to earn the love and respect of cadets such as Omar Bradley, James Van Fleet, George Patton and Eisenhower. When the U.S. enters the war in 1917, both Marty and his father try to join the troops at the front, but Koehler, now a colonel, argues that they are needed at the Academy. Soon after the armistice is signed, Marty hears that Red has been killed, and in pain and disgust, he again decides to leave the Academy. Kitty receives Red's posthumously awarded medal of honor, along with an honorary West Point appointment for her baby son. When she reacts with bitterness, it is Marty who reminds her how important military service was to Red. Years later, Marty is still at West Point, and James "Red" Sundstrom, Jr., along with the sons of others whom Marty had trained, is becoming a cadet. News of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor is announced, whereupon Red, Jr. makes a confession to Marty: He has broken the Academy's code of honor by secretly marrying and then having the marriage annulled. Because Red, Jr. is like a son to her, Mary begs Marty to keep quiet about the incident, but the breach of honor so disturbs him that he decides to retire. During their conversation, Red, Jr. and Kitty arrive. Red, Jr. has resigned from the Academy, enlisted in the Army, and is being shipped overseas. Beaming with pride, Marty watches him depart. Later, Mary attempts to view one of the parades she so loves, but her health is too poor and she is forced to watch the proceedings from her own porch. As Marty is fetching her shawl, she quietly dies. On Christmas Eve, Marty returns home alone. He begins to prepare a poor supper for himself but is interrupted by a group of lively cadets. Suddenly Kitty arrives with Red, Jr., who has earned his captain's bars on the battlefield and wants Marty to pin them on. By Eisenhower's desk, Marty completes his reminiscences, adding that West Point "has been my whole life." Eisenhower contacts West Point, and when Marty returns to the Academy, the cadets arrange for a full dress parade in his honor. As the band plays a series of Irish tunes, all the people Marty loves, both living and dead, join the marching cadets on the field. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.