Director William A. Wellman’s approach is starkly realistic. The documentary quality of the picture is enhanced by the frequent use of authentic Signal Corps footage of the North African and Italian campaigns, and the sparse, idiomatic dialogue.The opening scene shows a truckload of Eighteenth Infantry greenhorns, waiting to shove off toward Faid Pass and fondling a newly acquired mascot. “Get that pooch out of here,” barks the lieutenant, “want to get him killed?” And much later, on a bleak, cold, and sodden Christmas night in the shell-pocked valley below Cassino, the captain sums up his men’s aspirations with simple eloquence: “If only we could create something good out of all this energy, all these men.”Ernie Pyle was an unobtrusive sidelines observer, more interested in the individual doughfoot than the strategic deployment of regimental power, and his Story of G.I. Joe depicts infantry action in the terms of rain-soaked, mud-caked, and desperately tired men. They are of all types. The tough sergeant who carries a carefully wrapped record of his baby’s voice, the Brooklyn lothario who makes romantic capital out of his Italian heritage, the long-legged G.I. who was washed out as an air cadet because of his height and talks about cutting off his legs, and the taciturn captain, who understands his men better than he did his wife.As the wandering correspondent who brings all the threads into sharp focus, Burgess Meredith plays Ernie Pyle with the same humility and spirit of camaraderie which endeared the correspondent to so many G.I.’s.
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