Released 12/24/26 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Director: George Hill; Screenplay: E. Richard Schayer; Cinematography: Ira Morgan; Titles: Joe Farnham; Film Editor: Blanche Sewell; Settings: Cedric Gibbons and Arnold Gillespie; 10 reels (8748'); Print Source: Warner Brothers Classics
CAST: Lon Chaney (Sergeant O'Hara), William Haines (Pvt. "Skeet" Burns), Eleanor Boardman (Norma Dale), Eddie Gribbon (Cpl. Madden), Carmel Myers (Zaya), Warner Oland (Chinese Bandit), Mitchell Lewis (Native), Frank Currier (Gen. Wilcox), Maurice Kains (Harry)
SYNOPSIS: Skeet Burns, a young slacker with a taste for the race track, joins the Marines simply to get a free train ride to San Diego so he can hop over to Tiajuana. Skeet confides his plan to a Marine General, traveling in civies, and the officer tips off Sgt. O'Hara, the tough drill instructor at the base. O'Hara tries to nab Skeet, but loses him; nevertheless, a few days later a tired, broke Skeet shows up at the base and reluctantly reports for duty. O'Hara puts him through the ringer in basic training, determined to make a man of him. Skeet takes a fancy to Norma Dale, a Navy nurse at the base, and when he goes off on a tour of duty to a Philippine village, she tells him that she just might wait for him. On the boat ride over, Skeet picks a fight with a sailor, unaware that he is a boxing champ. The two put on an exhibition fight for the entire crew, but the experienced boxer makes short work of Skeet. On the island, Skeet flirts with Zaya, a native girl, but when he rebuffs her advances her native friends attack him, and O'Hara has to dive into the fight to save Skeet's skin. Norma and Skeet meet in Shanghai, but she has heard about the affair of the native girl, and she brushes him off. Before they can be reconciled, Norma and the other nurses are ordered to Hangchow due to the outbreak of an epidemic. Skeet blames O'Hara for his troubles with Norma, and picks a fight with him. For coming in after hours one night, he is sent to the brig, but O'Hara releases him when word arrives that the nurses are under siege in Hangchow and every soldier is needed. The nurses are under attack by a band of Chinese bandits, and the Marines must defend a bridge until reinforcements arrive. O'Hara is wounded, but Skeet pulls him through and demonstrates true bravery in the battle. His tour of duty over, Skeet leaves the Marines, but not before offering to share his new business opportunity with O'Hara. The Sergeant declines, and he goes about starting to break in his next batch of green recruits.
"Much interest has been evinced by the fans in the fact that in TELL IT TO THE MARINES Chaney discards the elaborate character make-ups which have brought him so much renown and plays more or less 'straight' the character of a Sergeant of Marines. As a matter of fact this is one of his best character roles, and he makes himself O'Hara and not Lon Chaney." -- -Moving Picture World.
"TELL IT TO THE MARINES is a sure-fire box office if there ever was one...That it has Lon Chaney as the star isn't going to drive anyone away from the money window, for he certainly has a great box office following, especially among the men. It's a funny thing, that Chaney following among the boys, the boys who don't care for the pretty face actors. They figure that a guy with a pan like Chaney's getting by on the screen gives them about an even break on life after all...The picture is full of action, laughs and holds a lot of love interest. In addition, the photography is great. Some shots worthy of an artist's brush." ---Variety
NOTES: TELL IT TO THE MARINES is one of the gems of Chaney's career. The story is little more than a lighthearted p.r. job for the USMC, but Chaney absolutely dominates the picture as the tough-as-nails Marine with the heart of gold...or brass at least.
The film took 57 days to shoot, the longest time of any of Chaney's MGM films. At a production cost of $433,000, the film was the most expensive of all the Chaney MGM films, but earned the largest profit...$664,000. Foreign bookings of the film were only about average, earning less than MR. WU and LAUGH, CLOWN, LAUGH, but domestic bookings were tremendous, with a total of $1,250,000, more than double the domestic sales of nearly every other Chaney film at MGM. Next to Garbo's FLESH AND THE DEVIL it was MGM's second most profitable film of the year and the high profits, combined with critical acclaim, led to Chaney being cast in a number of additional "straight" roles for the remainder of his career at MGM.
Also, check out this lobby card in my Poster Gallery.
© 2000,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
Return to Filmography