Film Review and Rating / Synopsis

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  • Tell It to the Marines (1926) - Plot Summary - William Haines stars as the good-looking, very cocky and self-assured "Skeet" Burns, on his way to San Diego to join the Marines (but not before he hightails it to the racetrack at "Tia Juana" to "wreck the races"). Back at the Marine base, he is soon introduced to his tough Sergeant ("a hard-boiled egg"), played by Lon Chaney, and sent to the barber for a haircut - Skeet wants it "Sheik-style", the barber boasts he'll cut it "close to the bone" (but for reasons probably related to keeping Haines looking handsome, the filmmakers leave his hair fairly long for a Marine). Skeet is immediately seen as a fresh wise guy and the men in charge of his training decide to "give him the works" - but when it comes down to it, the Sergeant seems to be sporting a somewhat soft heart inside. He never comes across as nasty as his gruff-looking exterior and mean mug make him look. The Sergeant has a crush on one Norma Dale (Eleanor Boardman), the pretty nurse who works on the base - - when Skeet meets Norma he's soon in hot pursuit himself, leading him to aggressively push her into going on a drive with him, at which point he keeps her out late at night (though she asks to be taken home), and then paws all over her ending up with his car in a ditch. She "squeals" to the Sergeant and Skeet ends up in the Brig. But seems our little lady secretly kind of liked his fast pursuit of her, she asks the Sergeant to let him off and join the other Marines for sea duty (which the Sergeant already intended to do!). They end up at a Navy base at a rain-soaked Tondo Island where Skeet gets some of his own medicine when a native(?) girl (played by Carmel Myers) pursues him and tries to seduce him in her hut. Nurse Norma hears of this via "common knowledge" and tells Skeet to take a hike - but when the nurses are shipped to China to help in an epidemic, bandits bring trouble and the Marines are to the rescue! The Sergeant wants Norma - and so does Skeet, but who will end up with her?

    Review - I found this romantic comedy with a love triangle element to it an entertaining watch, mainly because of the star quality of the always likeable William Haines, the great Lon Chaney (one of my all-time faves), and Eleanor Boardman, looking especially attractive in this film. Haines certainly seems to specialize in playing this sort of sure of himself, cocky character who learns a lesson in the end - and it works for him. Chaney, also in typical character (though un-typically out of his usual make-up and playing it straight) as the third wheel of a love triangle who often loses out in the end. One small complaint though is that I thought the film dragged a bit in places, with too much stuff on Marines marching and such and particularly in the end part, with too much Marine action in China and way too little romance between our leads. Interesting to note the little Listerine bottle seen in the background during one scene. Nicely done score by Robert Israel enhances the film, as screened on TCM. Rating - * 8/10 stars *

    Director: George W. Hill
    Film Genre: Romantic Comedy
    Film Runtime: 103 minutes

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10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

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