The Fighting 69th

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This article is about the 1940 film. For the actual infantry unit nicknamed "Fighting Sixty-Ninth", see 69th Infantry Regiment (New York).
The Fighting 69th
Fighting 69th VHS cover.jpg
VHS cover
Directed by William Keighley
Produced by Louis F. Edelman
Hal B. Wallis
Written by Norman Reilly Raine
Fred Niblo, Jr.
Dean Riesner
Starring James Cagney
Pat O'Brien
George Brent
Dennis Morgan
Alan Hale, Sr.
Music by Adolph Deutsch
Cinematography Tony Gaudio
Edited by Owen Marks
Release dates January 26, 1940 (US)
Running time 90 min.
Country United States
Language English

The Fighting 69th (1940) is an American war film starring James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, and George Brent. The plot is based upon the actual exploits of New York City's 69th Infantry Regiment during the First World War. The regiment was first given that nickname by opposing General Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War.

In addition to father Father Francis P. Duffy (Pat O'Brien), the real-life personages depicted in The Fighting 69th include future OSS leader Wild Bill Donovan (George Brent) and poet Joyce Kilmer (Jeffrey Lynn).

Most of The Fighting 69th was filmed at Warner Brothers' Calabasas Ranch which doubled as Camp Mills, the regiment's training base, various French villages and numerous battlefields.[1]


The plot centers on misfit Jerry Plunkett, played by James Cagney, and his inability to fit into the unit due to a mixture of bravado and cowardice. Pat O'Brien plays Father Francis P. Duffy, a military chaplain who attempts to reform Plunkett. "Wild Bill" Donovan, played by George Brent, is the first battalion commander, who ultimately orders Plunkett to be court-martialed. One of the characters portrayed in this film is Sgt Joyce Kilmer, the poet. Alan Hale, Sr. plays Sgt. Wynn, who loses both his brothers due to Cagney's blunders.

While Jerry Plunkett was a fictional character, Father Duffy, Major Donovan, Lt. Ames, and Sgt. Joyce Kilmer were all real people who served in the regiment and many of the activities depicted (Camp Mills, the Mud March, dugout collapse at Rouge Bouquet, crossing the Ourcq River, Victory Parade, etc.) actually happened.

Jerry Plunkett redeems himself and sacrifices his life at the end of the movie by throwing his body on a grenade.



John T. Prout, an Irish American, former Captain in the regiment and Irish Army general, was the movie's "technical advisor".[2][3]

Priscilla Lane was initially cast as one of the soldier's girls back home, but the part was cut prior to production. No female characters are seen in the film.

Young man viewing original movie poster at theatre, 1940



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