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Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

Clifton WebbRobert WagnerDebra PagetRuth Hussey
Henry Koster


Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) is a English movie. Henry Koster has directed this movie. Clifton Webb,Robert Wagner,Debra Paget,Ruth Hussey are the starring of this movie. It was released in 1952. Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) is considered one of the best Biography,Comedy,Music movie in India and around the world.

In the 1890s, Sgt. Major John Philip Sousa, leader of the Marine Corps Band, meets Private Willie Little, inventor of an instrument he calls the Sousaphone...and Little's girlfriend, shapely showgirl Lily. To support his growing family, Sousa leaves the Marines and forms his own band; Willie and Lily go along. Though he'd rather write ballads, Sousa's marches bring him increasing fame; from their debut in 1892 the band is a great success. But Sousa's 'no wives' rule threatens the romance of Willie and Lily...as does the Spanish-American War.


Stars and Stripes Forever (1952) Reviews

  • Memories of the March King


    What should be understood is that Stars and Stripes Forever is in no way a full biography of the famous March King which was the nickname given to John Philip Sousa. It is rather a portrait of the era known as the Gay Nineties in America where Sousa first achieved his reputation and prominence. Also included is a romance between fictional characters played by Robert Wagner and Debra Paget. In that beard with those pince nez glasses, Clifton Webb looks remarkably like John Philip Sousa in that period and by reputation, Sousa was as much a dilettante as Webb normally played on screen which made him perfect casting. After leaving the Marine Corps band, Sousa formed his own orchestra which became world famous and toured the globe well into the Twenties. But our story concerns Sousa the March King. Though he composed all kinds of music, it is his marches that have come down today and have given him his reputation. The Marine Corps official march, Semper Fidelis, was composed by Sousa and the incident involving President Benjamin Harrison as depicted in Stars and Stripes Forever is somewhat true. The Marine Corps Band was playing at a White House reception and the Harrison who was not the most social of presidents ordered Sousa to speed up the tempo so the receiving line would move at a brisk pace. Ruth Hussey is cast in the Myrna Loy type role of the perfect understanding mate for her genius husband and she fulfills the role admirably. Even Clifton Webb does make you forget you're watching Clifton Webb and you do think you are seeing the real Sousa. Stars and Stripes Forever is an admirable film and of course the finale does have several bands and marching armed forces personnel playing and marching to Sousa's most famous composition.

  • Charming and entertaining all the way...


    The only indisputable and exciting great element in "Stars and Stripes Forever" is its music... Clifton Webb does a fine work as the great band-master and composer of memorable marches who, on the 1890's, when he leaves the Marines Corps., forms his own concert band and travels around the world... With the sensitive and beautiful Debra Paget as the singer-dancer, and the sympathetic and good-looking Robert Wagner as the horn player, the loving couple shares a real and firm part of the 'imagined' tale... The great highlights of the picture are when a black choir is singing "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic," and the outstanding performance of "Dixie," played by Philip Sousa and his Orchestra as they enter the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta... With Ruth Hussey playing Sousa's sensible wife, and with vivid costumes and a rich amount of Sousa's music, this colorful film is charming and entertaining all the way...

  • Our First Great Composer?


    John Philip Sousa's position in American (and World) music is set in stone by now. Others have composed great marches (the English composer Edward Elgar with his four "Pomp and Circumstance Marches" for instance, two of which are memorable), and such major composers like Wagner and Mendelsohn. But Sousa remains the "March King". Like Johann Strauss the Younger, Alexander Scarlatti, and Scott Joplin, he is recalled for his domination of a single area of music: marches in this case, rather than waltzes, sonatas, or "rags". But this really does not explain why he remains the "March King". There is a sense of fun and spirit in Sousa's marches that transcend what a march is usually supposed to do. Marches were originally meant for troops to walk in step either on a training field or on the battlefield (music was used until the end of the 19th Century to keep up the spirits of the soldiers, and even to help orchestrate the speed they were to fight at when running across the battlefield). Sousa came from a musical family (his father was a musician in the Marine Corps band). Sousa followed in his father's footsteps, but played several instruments and rose to be the bandmaster. He began composing pieces for the Marine Corps Band, such as "Semper Fidelis", "The Washington Post March", "Manhattan Beach", and he tried to expand his abilities into other fields. When he left the Marine Corps, he formed his own band, which he developed with a perfect balance of brass, stings, percussion, and woodwinds. His band would go around the world performing, not only his own pieces, but also other composers as well. The movie does touch, once or twice, on Sousa's attempts to broaden his musical ability by doing Broadway shows (operettas). At the start Clifton Webb, as Sousa, does play the melody of "Semper Fidelis" for his wife Jenny (Ruth Hussey) as a tune to be sung. It doesn't quite work. He would do a successful operetta (which is still revived) called EL CAPITAN, which starred DeWolf Hopper (we hear an actor as Hopper singing a tune at a rehearsal during the movie). However, EL CAPITAN had a book by Charles Klein, a major dramatist of the 1890s - 1915 (he drowned in the Lusitania disaster). Klein was not a W. S. Gilbert, but his libretto was serviceable. Unfortunately Sousa never had another librettist/lyricist like Klein, and spent the rest of his career seeking his "Gilbert". As a result the leading operetta composer from the U.S. in Sousa's lifetime (and since) was Victor Herbert. Sousa was talented in other ways too. He sometimes wrote clever lyrics to comic songs, such as "A Typical Song of Zanzibar". He wrote about five comic novels too. He designed the special marching tuba, the "Sousaphone" (which is shown in the film being designed by Webb and Robert Wagner). But it is the string of great marches that he left which are his great donation to our culture. The reason is more than just his gift for melodious music. He was a genius at composition and orchestration - probably the best orchestrator among the major American composers. His best remembered march is the title march for this film: THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER. The film mentions how Sousa, on a trip for his health, was walking the deck of the liner at night and thought of the beat of the music. We hear Webb describing the moment (quoting a passage from Sousa's memoirs, MARCHING ALONG), and the film ends with the playing of the great march. The film does not mention that that Sousa also composed words to be sung to it (which occasionally still are sung). A few years ago, the U.S. Congress formally adopted THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER as the national march. I have gone into a great deal of detail regarding Sousa and his career, for the movie (for a biography) skims a lot. His literary efforts are not dealt with, and the film ends (really) with the playing of THE STARS AND STRIPE FOREVER. That was in 1899. Sousa would live until 1932, and would be a public figure until then. He was still composing until the 1920s. Webb had an extensive musical comedy career in the 1920s and 1930s (he was one of the stars in Irving Berlin's AS THOUSANDS CHEER, for example). But aside from an occasional tune he sings like "When I wore a Tulip" or a dance he does with Jeanne Craig in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, he never did a musical. STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER is his one "musical film". He is credible as Sousa, but the film never really goes deeply into the great man. The dramatic portions are handled by Robert Wagner and Deborah Paget as friends and lovers, whose love affair is twisted for awhile by the Spanish American War. The film is certainly watchable (the cast is game, and the music is first rate) but it is not a showcase for Webb's talents in musicals. Ironically he could have been in Vincent Minelli's THE BANDWAGON with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, but opted for the lead as Sousa. Probably a bad decision - but it is hard to say. Every July 4th STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER is shown for it's great holiday music. What we lost in not seeing Webb opposite Astaire is not enough to prevent our still seeing Webb as the great maestro composer.

  • SOUSA - The musical "spirit" of the United States!


    Watch this movie to get a historical perspective on some of America's and the World's Best Marching Band Music by John Philip Sousa! The film is a chronology of snippets about the life of John Philip Sousa, his wife, and two apparently fictional friends written into the movie to have a young romantic sub-plot. All other performers in this film are not interesting enough in character to comment upon. Most of the actors were not even credited in the films running credits. Clifton Webb (real name: Webb Parmalee Hollenbeck) was 63 years old when this movie was released in 1952. While his written dialog is not all that dramatic, Mr. Webb was a long time actor, singer, dancer, silent screen performer and theater performer before making this picture. Clifton Webb doesn't really have to act in this film. He carries the part of John Philip Sousa by standing straight with a stiff back, wearing many colorful marching band uniforms, looking very snobbishly "British" with a stiff demeanor while putting on the airs of a musical task-master demanding perfection, yet with a silent softness in his heart for the two younger performers, a 22 year old Robert (John) Wagner and the vivacious, effervescent, and energetic 18 year old Debra Paget (real name: Debralee Griffin). Mr. Webb died in 1966 at the age of 77 years old. Ruth (Carol) Hussy at age 38 years plays Sousa's wife "Jennie" Sousa. Research reveals that Sousa's wife's name was Jane van Middlesworth Bellis whom Sousa met during rehearsals for a stage play she was performing in. They married when he was 25 years old. Ms. Hussy portrays the role of a wife and homemaker who runs the Sousa household and cajoles her husband to be sympathetic to the secret romance of Willie Little and Lily Becker. She is the `binder' of the Sousa household and the `understanding' wife behind the scenes. Internet research reveals no existence of the two characters, Little and Becker, in real life. A web site of the Dallas Wind Symphony has a listing of every band member who performed in Sousa's Band. The name of Willie Little is not listed among them. The movie explains that Willie Little is a Marine Private who joins the Corps with the desire to perform in Sousa's Band. The Little character comes to Sousa's home, unannounced, with a Sousaphone Little claims to have "invented" and had built for Sousa's march music to make the sound better than a standard tuba which is too brash a sound for a concert hall. Sousa takes a liking to Private Little and takes him into his band. However, Sousa himself gave a personal interview to the Christian Science Monitor on May 30, 1922 and claims that he, Sousa, approached the J.W. Pepper Company in Philadelphia and commissioned the Sousaphone to be made in 1893, one year after Sousa gives up his directorship of the Marine Band. Debra Paget, best known for her part four years later as the beautiful `Lilia the Water Girl' in the epic The Ten Commandments, gives this film all the levity of young romance and a love tension which the mature Webb-Hussy parts can not produce. It is a pleasure to watch her dance and sing numbers as well as the way she gives Robert Wagner "love kicks" in the shins. At the age of 28 years Ms. Paget married for the third time and quit the motion picture business. A loss to all whom appreciates a beautiful woman! When the battleship USS Maine is blown up in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898 Willie Little re-enlists in the Marines and goes off to Cuba to fight in the four month Spanish-American War of 1898. He loses a leg and returns home to his "secret wife" Lily and a seat at a Sousa concert to entertain the hospital patients in Washington, D.C. Historical data from various web sites highlight that John Philip Sousa was placed into the Marine Corps in 1867 at the age 13 years as an apprentice musician, by his father, John Antonio Sousa, who was a trombonist in the Marine Corps band, because young Sousa wanted to run away to join the circus. Eight years later, Sousa was discharged from the Marines (1875) at the age of 21 years. In the next five years Sousa builds a reputation good enough for the Marines to contact him and offer him the Directorship of the Marine Band. Sousa returns to the Corps and accepts the Directorship in 1880. Sousa is 26 years old and is now being referred to as a Sergeant Major (however his uniforms display no marine enlisted rank) until he departs the Marines at age 38 years (1892) to form his own civilian marching band because he cannot afford to support his family of wife and four children on Marine pay. Real photos of Sousa show him with a thick dark beard, which makes it believable, that the 63-year-old Webb can play the 38-year-old Sousa during the Marine years. Watch this movie to get a good dose of the famous Sousa marches, Semper Fidelis (1888) the Official Marine Corps Hymn, Washington Post March (1889), and the Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) the Official March of the United States. You will even enjoy the band's playing of the song, Dixie as well as the inspiring gospel choir performing the Battle Hymn of the Republic when Sousa's Band marches into Atlanta after their commission to perform at a convention was canceled. If you like pretty, late-19th Century, dresses and snappy military band uniforms this is a movie to see. No one else could play John Philip Sousa but Clifton Webb. And, next Fourth of July when you see the Boston Pops Playing The Stars and Stripes Forever you will have some historical background into the world of the man who composed this enduring Spirit of America.

  • A darned entertaining bio-pic


    As one of our reviewers learned, if you really wanted to learn all about John Phillip Sousa, this film wouldn't be the way to do so. But if you want to spend a couple of very entertaining hours, then you're in for a real treat. First off, the arrangements here are absolutely top notch, and feature excellent renditions of Sousa's music. Second, you have the always entertaining Clifton Webb at the top of his form...this time without the sarcasm that most of us learned to love. Webb is no less entertaining here, but it is a bit of a different role for him. And, you have Robert Wagner...who was...well, let's just say it...beautiful at this age, as well as being a very pleasant actor to watch. Debra Paget is fine as Wagner's love interest, as is Ruth Hussey as Sousa's wife. This is not a perfect film. The whole Wagner role is simply fiction, but that liberty helped make the film so very entertaining, and gave the film some context. The conclusion is a rousing rendition of the title song, and I have to say that more than once, even now, I have seen audiences roused to cheering with that number. This is a very entertaining film. And, you can say that while you are watching this film, Clifton Webb IS John Phillip Sousa! I last saw it when I was only a boy, probably on "Saturday Night At The Movies", and I remembered it as being very entertaining. Now in 2012, I still find it to be wonderfully entertaining. P.S. And now in 2017, with the new Blu Ray edition, I enjoyed it once again. The color here is stunning Technicolor. There is a very slight graininess, but the transfer is still top notch. Highly recommended.


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