Sep 10, 2008

They Gave Him a Gun

Franchot Tone and Gladys George (shown above) star with Spencer Tracy in this 1937 movie. The basic idea is that Tone, a mild mannered bookkeeper, is turned into a violent gangster and killer when he is trained by the army to kill in WW I. He is wounded in the war, and falls in love with his nurse, Gladys George. Upon his return to civilian life he is unable to find work, and becomes a gangster who robs banks. When he is finally gunned down the police sergeant who kills him, who is also his former drill sergeant, makes a comment about Tone being one of his boys. Tracy comments that he trained him to kill.

What’s going on here is that we have an early example of some liberal pathologies.

The soldier as victim. The Tone character is wounded, and is unable to find work. The soldier as brutalized by the army. One woman that I know through the Internet said that military people were trained “to be brutal and to kill.” The denial of free will. Tone chooses to rob banks. He is not forced to rob them. The movie ignores the fact that Spencer Tracy, who receives the same training, from the same drill sergeant, chooses to return to his job, running a circus, and does not kill anyone.