Although loudmouthed braggart Jerry Plunkett alienates his comrades and officers, Father Duffy, the regimental chaplain, has faith that he'll prove himself in the end.
Diddly day it's The Fighting 69th! Jerry Plunket is a street brawling, tough as boots rebel from Brooklyn, he has no time for the traditions of the all Irish 69th New York Regiment, and he has even less time for his army superiors. But as Jerry is about to find out, War has a knack of making or breaking a man... It's not hard to see why "The Fighting 69th" was a very popular movie back on its release, coming out as America was about to enter WWII, the flag waving patriotism targeted its audience with gusto supreme and lashes of Irish sentiment. Furthering the cause was in having James Cagney in the critical lead role of Plunkett. Yet oddly, Plunkett is the made up character here, for the story is based on actual characters that the film wishes to honour. Father Duffy (Pat O'Brien) & Wild Bill Donovan (George Brent) being two highly respected men from this actual (and highly acclaimed) fighting unit. The story follows a now well trodden path, brash cocky man learns lessons the hard way, is there to be redemption come the finale? Respect, bravery and indeed salvation are all given the once over by the makers here. There are few surprises but the film gets in there, does the job, and leaves without lingering either side of the good or bad fence. The direction from William Keighley is vigorous, and the supporting players are solid, if unspectacular (haven't we seen this O'Brien turn before?), but all and everything is second fiddle to the perfectly cast Cagney, bullish and stoic, his turn as Plunkett lifts the film above average, because without him the film would be instantly forgettable. 6.5/10