Stars and Stripes Forever
Stars and Stripes Forever is the highly fanciful filmed biography of "march king" John Philip Sousa. Clifton Webb does a fine job as Sousa, while Ruth Hussey is equally good in the less-demanding role of Sousa's wife. The problem faced by screenwriter Lamar Trotti (who adapted the film from Sousa's autobiography Marching Along) was that, outside of Sousa's early travails in organizing his own band after leaving the Marine Corps, there just wasn't much drama in the great composer's life. Thus, a secondary (and wholly fictional) romance involving young musician Willie (Robert Wagner) and ex-chorus girl Lily (Debra Paget) is given special emphasis. Willie invents the Sousaphone on behalf of his mentor, and upon returning from the Spanish American War minus one of his legs, Willie makes an inspirational solo appearance with the Sousa band. The best scenes include Sousa's ongoing efforts to break free from the "march king" onus and write romantic ballads, and Lily's high-kicking rendition of the music-hall ballad "Father's Got 'Em." When first telecast on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies in 1962, Stars and Stripes Forever was accompanied by a short newsreel clip of the real John Philip Sousa in action.