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When Willie Comes Marching Home & Up the River [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

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  • Actors: Dan Dailey, Spencer Tracy, Claire Luce, Warren Hymer, Humphrey Bogart
  • Directors: John Ford
  • Writers: William Collier Sr., John Ford, Mary Loos, Maurine Dallas Watkins, Richard Sale
  • Producers: Fred Kohlmar
  • Format: Colour, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 4 Dec 2007
  • Run Time: 178 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B000WMA6H8
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 161,414 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alan Bennett on 26 Dec 2011
John Ford is exactly the director to turn to when you're feeling blue! This great double album (featuring among others the young Humphrey Bogart) is certain to lift your spirits : I was doubled up with laughter throughout a large part of the films ! A most enjoyable moment.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"Is that drip still here?" 12 Dec 2007
By H. Bala - Published on
Here we go with two of John Ford's oldies but goodies. First, WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME:

The great John Ford, in his time, managed to direct a passel of very good war pictures (They Were Expendable, The Wings of Eagles, The Lost Patrol - Authentic Region 1 DVD from Warner Brothers starring Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny & Directed by JOHN FORD, etc.), not to mention several acclaimed WW2 documentaries. But, here and there, he's also helmed one or two wartime comedies. While 1950's WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME isn't his best comedy about WW2 (that title falls to Mister Roberts), it's still a hilarious film. Apparently, for whatever it's worth, this was one of Lucille Ball's favorite movies.

Most people have never heard of this film. I recently stumbled across it, while flippin' channels. It was on cable television's TCM network and, for the next 82 minutes, I just sat there and laughed myself silly. WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME is somewhat reminiscent of Preston Sturges' HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO, same tone, same sensibilities. Dan Dailey, who plays the lead role, also provides voice-over narration.

Plot SPOILERS now.

During World War 2, Willie Kluggs (Dailey) becomes the first native of Punxatawney, West Virginia to enlist in the U.S. Army, and, as such, he gets a big send-off from his tiny town. But, after boot camp, Willie is surprisingly posted at the new air base in his hometown. So, then, expected to ship out any day now for active combat, he's thrown a big shindig by the citizens of Punxatawney. However, as days and weeks and months go by and Willie continues to languish at the home front while others risk their lives, Punxatawney begins to cool towards him. Soon enough, Willie becomes the hometown laughingstock. Even his sweetheart and his parents begin to doubt him (his dad caustically asks: "You here again?"). Doesn't help that Willie keeps rapidly advancing in rank while perceived to be not doing much. He's embarassed and desperately craves overseas assignment, but his commanding officer insists that he's too invaluable at home as a gunnery instructor. Finally,Willie does get a chance to prove his mettle. But does anyone still believe in him?

The first half of the film has several funny moments as Willie copes with Punxatawney's gradual disillusionment of him. Then John Ford switches gears for a sec as Willie is catapulted in an adventure in Nazi-occupied France, where things get serious. But then the comedy returns as a supremely exhausted and sick as a dog Willie Kluggs attempts to get some rest as he journeys home, only to be hilariously thwarted by the military, who insist on debriefing him over and over. Whoever said the hair of the dog will cure what ails ya has never seen this flick.


This often neglected movie is apparently loosely based on the military experiences of some bloke named Sy Gomberg. Which, I guess, goes to show that real life sometimes really does trump fiction. This really is a chuckle-fest, beginning to end. John Ford never really directed too many straight-out comedies, his forte lying more in westerns and dramas. But he did better than good with this one. He certainly wrung an entertaining performance out of Dan Dailey, who was never one of my preferred song and dance men. Here, Dailey's a very sympathetic character and even manages to sneak in two amiable songs. William Demarest is a hell of a character actor, and he does his thing here as Willie's dad. Meanwhile, Corinne Calvet stands out in her too few moments onscreen as the sexy French resistance fighter. Not too surprising that Willie's bland girlfriend Marge - as played by the bland Colleen Townsend - pales in comparison.

Something interesting. Underneath the humor John Ford strives to get a point across. It's slyly and gently done, but he touches a bit on the topic of patriotism and how it could sometimes turn into hypocrisy - witness the town's various reactions towards Willie, who at turns is a hero, then a drip, then a hero again. But, really, Willie's nature never alters - it's all about the town's fluid perception of him. Something to think about. Or not.


UP THE RIVER is the companion film to WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME in this dvd. Released in 1930, UP THE RIVER might be a piece of fluff, but it is historically significant fluff. For one thing, John Ford directed it, and UP THE RIVER is, in fact, one of his earlier talkies. It also marks Spencer Tracy's feature film debut and Humphrey Bogart's second film appearance. What's more, this is the only movie to ever star these two iconic actors together. Which is disappointing when you think about it, as Tracy and Bogie were such great lifelong chums.

Back to the film. The light-as-a-feather plot involves two inmates, Saint Louis and Dannemora Dan (Tracy and Warren Hymer), escaping prison to help out a friend and former inmate (Bogie), who's being blackmailed.

Originally intended to be a prison drama (but then the BIG HOUSE beat 'em to it), UP THE RIVER instead became a prison comedy. No sweat, though, as Ford's rugged type of humor certainly works well in these penitentiary environs. There's quite a bit of song-and-dance routines packed in here, and some baseball shenanigans, and there's even a knife throwing exhibition. I've never seen so many well-behaved, good natured ex-cons...

Even this early in his career Spencer Tracy's effortlessly natural acting style comes across, and it doesn't take but a moment to realize that this guy was going places. Bogie, on the other hand, hadn't yet found his way and, furthermore, was saddled with the generic romantic role. This was definitely way before Bogie would stamp out his own hardboiled cinematic persona, so it's no surprise that his role of Steve comes off as a bit wishy washy and unremarkable. Oh, he's not awful; he's just not yet the Bogie we know and love.

UP THE RIVER will tickle the funny bone at times, but may also bore and irritate you. The musical interludes do not impress at all. It's a lightweight prison comedy, so don't go looking here for serious insights into our penitentiary system. But, from a cinematic point of view, there's an element of fascination involved, with both Bogie and Tracy here. One wonders what it would've been like, to see these two playing off each other at the height of their ferocious skills. Instead, we get UP THE RIVER. Which, even as creaky and dated as it is, does have its good bits. That Saint Louis fella, he's quite a charmer.

Lastly, here's a tip for those who'd like to check out some of John Ford's other comedy films (and can afford it): Out there is a dvd set titled John Ford's American Comedies (Steamboat Around the Bend / Judge Priest / Doctor Bull / When Willie Comes Marching Home / Up the River / What Price Glory), which not only collects WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME and UP THE RIVER, but also WHAT PRICE GLORY (which reunites Dailey, Demarest, and Calvet, with James Cagney starring). Happy viewing.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Rare and Worthwhile 18 Dec 2007
By Jim Davidson - Published on
I first saw "Up the River" at a tiny repertory cinema in San Francisco in the late 1970s. Since then, it's been largely unavailable, so it's good to see it back in circulation. TCM aired the film for the first time on December 10, 2007, less than a week after Twentieth Century-Fox released it as part of its "Ford at Fox" mega DVD set (as well as on a single disc with "When Willie Comes Marching Home").

As others have noted, the main reason to watch this movie is that it marks the feature film debuts of Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart, the only time these two Hollywood icons made a film together. ("Bogey: The Films of Humphrey Bogart" by Clifford McCarty lists "Up the River" as Bogart's second opus, following "A Devil With Women." But according to Internet Movie Database and TCM's movie database, "Up the River" was released six days before the other film.) The second reason to watch this is that John Ford directed it.

The plot is pretty flimsy - a big shot gangster (Spencer Tracy) and his sidekick (Warren Hymer) in a midwestern prison play cupid to two fellow inmates (Humphrey Bogart and Claire Luce). Originally conceived as a drama, "Up the River" was transformed into a comedy so as not to be compared unfavorably with "The Big House," a hit film released while the former was in production.

Most sources give a running time of 92 minutes, but the TCM version and the DVD release are only 84 minutes. It's likely that the missing 8 minutes are at the end, since a couple of plot elements are left unresolved - namely, the conclusion of the prison baseball game and the reunion of Bogart and Luce. And the "The End" title card looks too modern for 1930. There are also quite a few flaws in the film, with words of dialogue dropping out and lines on the screen. But considering its age and rarity, these are minor complaints. This movie is highly watchable and well worthwhile.
Home All the Time 19 Aug 2009
By James - Published on
"When Willing Comes Marching Home" is the first of three films by Director John Ford that takes a nostalgic look back at our recent involvement in the world wars. The horrors that were WWI and WWII have past, but it was very real history to millions of Americans. These movies take a reflective and somewhat more humorous look at a time of great sacrifice. The films are "When Willie Comes Marching Home", "What Price Glory", and "Wings of Eagles".

Director John Ford served in WWII as did many Hollywood stars but he had a particular fondness for the military and greatly respected the men who wore the uniform. Ford served in the Navy and actually saw combat at the Battle of Midway, not from a safety of a distant ship, but actually on Midway Island as it was under attack by the Japanese. In fact he filmed a documentary of the actual attack for which we received an Oscar.

In "When Willie Comes Marching Home" we have William Kluggs (Dan Dailey), local boy from Pauxatawney, Wva. (which is actually in Pennsylvania by the way) being the first man to enlist from his hometown and is treated like a hero for doing so. Trouble is, that he winds up being stationed at near by Loring Field and never gets to go anywhere causing the townfolks to view him somewhat differently. Try as he might Bill Kluggs simply can't into the fight until a happy accident occurs permitting him to go overseas where he will meet a very beautiful French Resistence leader, Yvonne (Corinne Calvet)

Without giving away the fun of the movie, from this point on Bill's life is a wild adventure but it lands him right back again in Pauxatawney, Wva. where his family and friends now think he's gone AWOL. Follow the adventures of Bill Kluggs as he tries to serve his country during WWII. This is a really enjoyable family movie.


You may think this 1929 movie is a just so much filler for the DVD. But nothing could be further from the truth. Its really quite entertaining.

UP THE RIVER introduces the first movie with well known stars Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracey in this delightful spoof about life in the Big House. If you ever get sent to jail, this is the place to go. All the convicts are exceedingly friendly and participate on the prison baseball team or play in the marching band. In fact all they ever complain about is not getting a piccolo player for the band and the loss of a good quality pitcher from the team. I really enjoyed watching interaction amongst the men.

There is no violence to speak of to the kids can enjoy it as well and nobody gets hurt. I don't think you could ever meet a nicer bunch of convicts.

On the downside, this film is old so there are breaks in the audio soundtrack. It is recommended that you have the caption feature turned on when watching so you won't lose the dialogue. Another problem with this set of movies is that they are recorded on a double sided DVD so you have to be extra careful when handling it and need to look closely to be sure which movie you want to play.

All in all both movies are highly recommended for family viewing.

Readers of this review are invited to comment below or by email as listed in my profile.
John Ford, Bogey and Spencer Tracey Double Bill 18 Feb 2014
By Ron Foley Macdonald , . - Published on
Verified Purchase
I bought this for the 1930 Humphrey Bogart/Spencer Tracey flick Up The River. And while the print is choppy, the film is a delight.
Seeing Bogey at such a young age is something else; the interplay with Spencer Tracey is also unforgettable. And it's all directed by
the great master, John Ford. The other film, the raucous war comedy When Willie Comes Marching Home, is a real pleasure, with
a wonderful contrasts between the farcical domestic front against a mile-a-minute war adventure. Watching John Ford channel
Preston Sturges is indeed an unexpected pleasure. For Ford fans, this double bill is well worth it.
Dan Dailey 22 Sep 2013
By Vickey - Published on
Verified Purchase
I love old movies & Dan Dailey is in many of them. Musicals are my favorite. Dan Dailey is a great actor.
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