Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Tell It to the Marines

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Lon Chaney, out of makeup but commanding as ever, delivers one of his best performances in this 1926 MGM silent feature, as a hard-bitten drill sergeant determined to make a marine of a brash young recruit (William Haines). The story would be recycled in countless war movies, and the roaring but sentimental military man would become a Hollywood cliche, yet Chaney's sensitivity and attention to detail are evident in every scene, as he loses himself in esprit de corps, confides in his pet bulldog, and struggles to express his feelings for a beautiful navy nurse (Eleanor Boardman). Though his performance was praised as a departure from the usual grotesques, the film's love triangle sticks to the perverse dynamic of his signature features: even without the putty and fright wigs Chaney is a pretty scary-looking mug, and inevitably the girl rejects his rarefied adoration for the leading man's toothy charm. Director George Hill shot the film on location at the San Diego marine base and on board the USS California (later sunk at Pearl Harbor); the taut and funny scenario is by E. Richard Schayer. 75 min. On the same program, the 1917 newsreel Soldiering for Uncle Sam. The excellent David Drazin will provide live piano accompaniment. LaSalle Theatre, LaSalle Bank, 4901 W. Irving Park, Saturday, November 10, 8:00, 312-904-9442.

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