To the Shores of Tripoli  (1942)




Director:  H. Bruce Humberstone. 

Starring:  John Payne (Pvt. Chris Winters), Maureen O'Hara (Lt. Mary Carter), Randolph Scott (Sgt. Dixie Smith), Nancy Kelly (Helene Hunt), William Tracy (Johnny Dent), Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom (Okay Jones), Harry Morgan (Mouthy), Edmund MacDonald (Butch), Russell Hicks (Maj. Wilson), Margaret Early (Susie), Minor Watson (Capt. Christopher Winters), Alan Hale Jr. (Tom Hall), Richard Lane (Lieutenant on Minesweeper).

egotistical young marine recruit gets taught some valuable lessons just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Filmed in San Diego at the Marine Corps Training Station. Sgt. Dixie Smith tells his recruits that a marine named Reuben James saved Captain Stephen Decatur because he stuck his neck out and took the blows that were meant for his captain. A recruit raises his hand to tell the sergeant that it was not Reuben James who saved the captain, but Daniel Frazier. He said that the doctor on the Enterprise ought to know because he treated Frazier for his wounds. The sergeant calls him to the front and then balls him out for being a know-it-all.

A recruit due to come the next morning pays an early visit to the sergeant. The sergeant is happy to learn that the new recruit is the son of his old World War I buddy, Captain Winters. The son, Chris Winters, hands the sergeant a letter from his father. The sergeant reads the letters which says that the father can do nothing with his son and the sergeant is to show him no favoritism at all. The sergeant asks Chris if he has read the letter and Chris says no. The sergeant smiles and lets Chris know he will receive no special favors. Chris gets a little mad and says firmly that he does not ask for or give favors.

At night Chris heads over to the Hotel del Rey where he sees a beautiful young woman named Mary Carter. He overhears that she is waiting to see a Major Wilson. That doesnít deter Chris. He approaches Mary and tells her that the Major has been delayed and that the Major asked him to make sure Mary has a good time. The two dance for awhile. When other men start cutting in on his dances with Mary, Chris decides to take Mary to another place. They go to a Mexican-American restaurant. After that he takes her up to loverís lane where she proceeds to get mad at him and tells him to take her back to the hotel.

In uniform Chris runs into Mary Carter again. But this time, she is dressed as a nurse. When Chris presses Mary, she grabs his sergeant and tells him to tell Chris that as a nurse she is the rank of a lieutenant and therefore superior in rank to Chris. The sergeant tells him, but that does not discourage Chris. He pretends he is struck by a passing truck and has to be taken to the dispensary. In the dispensary he gets to see nurse Mary again.

It is not long before Mary knows that Chris is pretending to be hurt. To teach him a lesson she puts mustard plaster on his chest and back and puts his legs in traction. Chris starts sweating profusely from the heat of the mustard plaster and starts screaming for help. After teasing him a bit, Mary finally helps him get up and out of the hospital. But Chris is still not giving up.

An old, wealthy girlfriend comes to visit Chris on the marine base. She kisses Chris and carries on about him and Mary sees all of this. She is obviously a bit jealous of the woman. Later Chris gets to see Mary to tell her the old girlfriend means nothing to him. The two kiss.

Chris is still being very arrogant and the sergeant gives him his squad to lead for awhile in order to teach him a lesson. Chris leads the men in marching formation, but soon the men are carrying on, laughing and joking. The sergeant is pleased by the disorder. But after awhile, Chris and the men return and the marching is very impressive. The sergeant is shocked. He goes up to Chris and Chris tells him that he was the top boxer at his old prep school. He just had to knock down a few of the trouble-makers and the rest fell in-line.

Chris is angered by the sergeant when the non-commissioned officer selects him but does not select his friend Johnny Dent for the honor of attending sea school. They get into an argument about it in the presence of Mary and Chris slugs the sergeant. The sergeant tries to tell him he is making a big mistake and to cut it out, but Chris wonít listen. Chris is grabbed by other marines and is sent to the brig. After only a short time in the brig, Chris is let go. He is told that the sergeant insisted to his superiors that he was the one who struck first, not Chris. When Chris sees the sergeant he tells him that he does not want any favors from the sergeant or any one else. Chris goes into report to Major Wilson that it was he and not the sergeant who struck the first blow. Major Wilson calls his niece Mary Carter into his office since she was present at the fight. Mary tells her uncle that it was the sergeant who struck the first blow, despite Chrisís protests. Later Chris asks Mary why she did that and she says that she did it only because Sergeant Smith asked her to do it. She is mad at Chris for being so egotistical.

Chris is fed up with Mary, the sergeant and the marines, so he decides to get out of the service. His old girlfriend comes to pick him up. But when they start to leave, they are stopped. Maneuvers are starting and all leaves (even ones signed by General Gordon) are cancelled.

Chris and his unit serve on a mine sweeper that is to pull targets along while the big ships take their firing practice. Chris, the sergeant and some of the others in the unit take a boat out to repair the targets after they have been fired upon and hit. While making the repairs the sergeant falls, hits his head and loses consciousness. The repair boat takes off without the sergeant. Once back at the mine sweeper, the absence of the sergeant is noticed. Chris takes out the repair boat in order to save the sergeant despite the fact that the firing has begun again. Chris manages to grab the sergeant and bring him back to the mine sweeper.

Later Chris visits the sergeant in the hospital. He makes the sergeant mad at him again because he says he only wanted to pay the sergeant back for what he did for him. He runs into Mary again and asks her to marry him. She says that she has wanted to hear those words for a long time, but still tells him good-bye because of his continuing egotistical attitude.

Chris discovers that Johnny Dent is now an MP (military policeman). The old girlfriend once again makes an appearance. She tells Chris that she has his release papers ready for his signature. Chris signs the papers but before he turns them in he runs into his father there to visit with him. The father tells Chris a made-up story about how Dixie Smith had saved him from his own cowardice when he forced him to act when he froze out of fear during a skirmish during the World War I. Chris gives the signed release papers to his father to deliver for him. After the father leaves, he sees Dixie and they compare notes. (But Chris overhears what they are saying, gets disgusted and decides to definitely get out of the Marines.)

As Chris and his girlfriend are leaving the base, they hear the news that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor. They then run into stopped traffic due to the parade of marines headed to their ships. Chris has a change of heart and decides to rejoin his unit. He has his uniform in his suitcase and he puts it on while marching in the midst of his unit.

As Chris starts up the gang-plank he stops to tell his father to get him re-enlisted into the marines. His father tells him not to worry because he never delivered the release papers, so he is still in the marines. Sgt. Smith then tells Chris to look up high and higher. He sees nurse Mary on the boat already. They come together to continue their relationship.


Pretty good movie.  Not a lot of history, but it is a nice love story set in the days just before Pearl Harbor.  It's pretty standard fare, but I still enjoyed it.  Not much history either, but I still liked it. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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