1940s The Fighting Sullivans (1944)

Published on May 21st, 2008 | by Chris

5

The Fighting Sullivans (1944)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On May 21, 2008
Last modified:October 6, 2012

Summary:

I can only imagine the reaction to this film by the public of that time, with so many lives given up, and so many others sharing a common experience. The Fighting Sullivans, while not so much war movie as it is tribute to American sacrifice, is still a classic.

The Fighting Sullivans (1944)The Fighting Sullivans documents the tragic loss of the five Sullivan brothers, who died while serving together on the USS Juneau in the Solomon Islands. This story served as an inspiration for Saving Private Ryan, and it is as relevant and painful a story today as it was then.

Although the film itself is not at all what I expected it to be. We find ourselves "getting to know" the Sullivan boys, from their christenings, on up through the years and their various (mis)adventures. Instead of a typical "war movie", we get a sort of biography. Not that its a bad thing, the majority of the film is as heart-warming, funny, and true-to-life for most people as you can get.

Which makes the final few scenes all the more heart-wrenching. In a lot of ways this film could be made today, in spite of the fact that the Navy won't allow these sort of situations to happen anymore (I think?) But whether its five or one, the loss is just as bad.

The Fighting Sullivans is also a bit of a time-machine, with respect to what it was like growing up back then, and how problems were dealt with. The scenes with the young brothers running around un-challenged in a train yard made me think how commonplace that sort of thing must've been, and how horrified most people today would be at that. The entire "smoking" incident also brings a "it'd never happen today" vibe, although you've all heard the stories, you'd probably be thrown in jail for doing that to your kids today.... Don't even get me started on the wood-box scene!

Like most films of the era, though, The Fighting Sullivans ends on a somewhat triumphant note, both with the "life must go on" mentality of the father as he goes to his job the same as always immediately after hearing the terrible news, and passing the water tower where his young kids would see him off. Likewise as we end the picture, with the family christening the USS The Sullivans, and we see the brothers marching off towards the pearly gates.

I can only imagine the reaction to this film by the public of that time, with so many lives given up, and so many others sharing a common experience. The Fighting Sullivans, while not so much war movie as it is tribute to American sacrifice, is still a classic.

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Description

The Guts and Glory of the Navy! This is the movie that inspired "Saving Private Ryan." It's the true story of five brothers who fought and died together when their ship, the American cruiser Juneau, was sunk in the South Pacific during World War II...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Brand: Video Communications Inc.
Manufacturer: Vci Video
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Anne Baxter
  • Thomas Mitchell
  • Selena Royle
  • Edward Ryan
  • Trudy Marshall

Features

  • Factory sealed DVD

Reviews

Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

115 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American family sends its five boys off to World War II, July 7, 2001
By 
Lawrance Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
"The Fighting Sullivans" is the true story of five brothers who died together when their Navy ship, the Juneau, was sunk in the South Pacific during World War II. But only the last act of this 1944 film, directed by Lloyd Bacon, shows the Sullivans at war. Most of this film is pure Americana, following the lives of the boys from their childhood in Waterloo, Iowa. Thomas Mitchell and the marvelous Selena Royle are the loving parents, while the five boys are played by unknown actors: Edward Ryan (Al), John Campbell (Frank), James Cardwell (George), John Alvin (Matt), and George Offerman (Joe). Trudy Marshall plays their only sister, Genevieve. Top billing actually goes to Anne Baxter as the young girl who marries into the family and will be left a widow with a baby in arms. Ward Bond plays the Navy lieutenant who befriends the family when the Sullivans insist that they will only join up if they can serve together. Eventually the Navy relents and the boys get their... Read more
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will live in my heart and memory forever, November 20, 1999
By A Customer
My mother brought me to see this movie at the Crest movie theatre in Highbridge. It was soon after the Sullivan brothers had so heroically died for their beloved country. There were many other mothers or fathers who wanted their children to learn about why we were at war at that time, and to have respect for the Sullivans and all the other men and women in their service of their country during World War II.
I was only five years of age at that time, but I remember everything about the movie. Ofcourse, I saw it in the movies a couple of more times within the next few years as well as staying up until the wee small hours of the morning to see it on the late show. Each and every time, the movie evoked the same reaction from me, tears and trembling.
I felt as though every member of the Sullivan family was a friend of mine. Perhaps I may sound old fashioned or outdated, but I appreciated The Fighting Sullivans more than I could any of the films of the present day... Read more
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always a classic, never too late to see., November 17, 1999
In 1955 my mother made me sit and watch this movie at the ripe young age of 10. I will never forget the emotions that overcame me even at this youg age. For years I had looked, and looked for this movie, and alas a few years back it appeared on late nite tv. I watched, I recalled, and I cried my eyes out. Mind you I am a seasoned Viet Nam veteran...and this movie is so realistic as to what life was and should be, that it will affect anyone who views it in a favorable light. I now insist that my two adult children view this movie, and will purchase it for each of them as a reminder as to family values, and the sacrifice that past American's have made for our freedoms. This is a film that should be viewed by every American. This is a film which should be included as required viewing for any immigrant entering and enjoying the freedoms of the USA. This film is reality, family values, loyalty, tradition, and patriosim all intertwined into a classic movie which has and will... Read more
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The Fighting Sullivans (1944) Chris

Summary: I can only imagine the reaction to this film by the public of that time, with so many lives given up, and so many others sharing a common experience. The Fighting Sullivans, while not so much war movie as it is tribute to American sacrifice, is still a classic.

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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



5 Responses to The Fighting Sullivans (1944)

  1. Curstie Ingam says:

    being the great grand-daughter of Albert Sullivan i have always loved this movie, just to kind of have an idea of what they were like and knowing the story of how he met my great grandma is amazing

  2. ELEANOR says:

    WHERE CAN I BUY THIS MOVIE ?

  3. the war movie buff says:

    Disagree. I found it trite and cheesy. It might have been entertaining back then, but compared to modern war movies it is definitely a curio. Try comparing it to “Saving Private Ryan” – what a time warp!

  4. Christian says:

    To “The War Movie Buff”, if you were such a buff, you would know that the Sullivans ARE the basis for Saving Private Ryan. Either way, I really find it unfair to compare the two movies. But to be that ignorant, as a movie lover, tells me that you should limit your comments to what you know.

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