The Long Gray Line
|The Long Gray Line|
1955 Theatrical Poster
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||Robert Arthur|
|Written by||Nardi Reeder Campion|
|Screenplay by||Edward Hope|
|Based on||Bringing Up The Brass: My 55 Years at West Point (1951)
by Martin Maher
|Narrated by||Tyrone Power|
|Music by||George Duning|
|Cinematography||Charles Lawton Jr.
|Edited by||William A. Lyon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$4.1 million (US)|
The Long Gray Line is a 1955 American Technicolor drama film in CinemaScope directed by John Ford based on the life of Marty Maher. Tyrone Power stars as the scrappy Irish immigrant whose 50-year career at West Point took him from a dishwasher to a non-commissioned officer and athletic instructor. Maher was buried there in January 1961.
Maureen O'Hara, one of Ford's favorite leading ladies, plays Maher's wife and fellow immigrant, Mary O'Donnell. The film costars Ward Bond as Herman Koehler, the Master of the Sword (athletic director) and Army's head football coach (1897-1900), who first befriends Maher. Milburn Stone appears as John J. Pershing, who in 1898 swears Maher into the Army. Harry Carey, Jr., makes a brief appearance as the young cadet Dwight D. Eisenhower. Philip Carey plays (fictional) Army football player and future general Chuck Dotson.
The phrase "The Long Gray Line" is used to describe, as a continuum, all graduates and cadets of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Many of the scenes in the film were shot on location at West Point, including the "million dollar view" of the Hudson River near the parade grounds. The film was the last one in which actor Robert Francis appeared before his death at age 25, due to an air crash in which he was the pilot.
The movie is framed as the reminiscences of Master Sergeant Martin Maher (Tyrone Power), who first came to West Point in 1898 as a civilian employee. Arriving from County Tipperary, Ireland, Marty begins as a waiter. When he realizes that enlisted men receive better treatment than do hired laborers, he immediately signs up. Capt. Koehler (Ward Bond), impressed with his boxing skills, wants him as an assistant in athletics instruction.
Marty meets Mrs. Koehler's cook, Mary O'Donnell (Maureen O'Hara), also recently arrived from Ireland. They marry and settle into a house on campus. Marty becomes a corporal, and Mary saves enough money to bring his father (Donald Crisp) and brother (Sean McClory) to America. Mary becomes pregnant, but the baby dies only hours after birth, and Mary learns that she may never have another child. The cadets become the children they will never have. Over time, Marty continues to earn the love and respect of cadets such as Omar Bradley, James Van Fleet, George Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Mahers grow close to the family of "Red" Sundstrom, a former cadet killed in World War I.
Years later, Marty is still at West Point, and James "Red" Sundstrom, Jr., along with the sons of others whom Marty had trained, has become a cadet. Later, Mary attempts to view one of the parades she so loves, but her health is poor and she is forced to watch the proceedings from her porch. As Marty is fetching her shawl, she quietly dies. On Christmas Eve, Marty prepares for quiet evening but is joined by a group of cadets. Kitty (Betsy Palmer) arrives with Red, Jr., who has earned his captain's bars on the battlefield and wants Marty to pin them on. The film concludes with a full dress parade in Marty's 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.
- Tyrone Power as Martin Maher
- Maureen O'Hara as Mary O'Donnell
- Robert Francis as James N. Sundstrom, Jr.
- Donald Crisp as Old Martin
- Ward Bond as Captain Herman Koehler
- Betsy Palmer as Kitty Carter
- Philip Carey as Charles "Chuck" Dotson (as Phil Carey)
- William Leslie as James Nilsson "Red" Sundstrom
- Harry Carey, Jr. as Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Patrick Wayne as Abner "Cherub" Overton
- Sean McClory as Dinny Maher
- Peter Graves as Corporal Rudolph Heinz
- Milburn Stone as Captain John J. Pershing
- Erin O'Brien-Moore as Mrs. Koehler (as Erin O'Brien Moore)
- Walter D. Ehlers as Mike Shannon
- Willis Bouchey as Major Thomas
- Russell Reeder as Commandant
Variety called The Long Gray Line "..a standout drama on West Point". Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film sentimental but a rich and rousing tribute to West Point, and likens Power's Martin Maher to "'Mr.Chips' with a brogue".
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956
- Variety film review; February 9, 1955, page 10.
- Harrison's Reports film review; February 12, 1955, page 26
- "The Long Gray Line" -Overview, Turner Classic Movies
- "The Long Gray Line is a standout drama on West Point", Variety, December 31, 1954
- Crowther, Bosley. "'Long Gray Line' Tinted Green; Movie of West Point Honors Irish Hero", The New York Times, February 11, 1955