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Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

A film biography of the composer John Philip Sousa, from his early days in the Marine Corps Band through the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Director:

Henry Koster

Writers:

John Philip Sousa (book), Ernest Vajda (story) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Clifton Webb ... John Philip Sousa
Debra Paget ... Lily Becker
Robert Wagner ... Willie Little
Ruth Hussey ... Jennie Sousa
Finlay Currie ... Col. Randolph
Roy Roberts ... Maj. George Porter Houston
Thomas Browne Henry Thomas Browne Henry ... David Blakely (as Tom Browne Henry)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Frank Ferguson ... Mr. Wells (scenes deleted)
Jack Rice Jack Rice ... Mr. Jones (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

In the 1890s, Sgt. Major John Philip Sousa, leader of the Marine Corps Band, meets Private Willie Little, inventor of an instrument he calls the Sousaphone...and Little's girlfriend, shapely showgirl Lily. To support his growing family, Sousa leaves the Marines and forms his own band; Willie and Lily go along. Though he'd rather write ballads, Sousa's marches bring him increasing fame; from their debut in 1892 the band is a great success. But Sousa's 'no wives' rule threatens the romance of Willie and Lily...as does the Spanish-American War. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Strike up the band! Here comes The Greatest Musical Show on Earth!


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 February 1953 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

John Philip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sousa was superstitious and refused to wear a pair of gloves more than once considering it to be bad luck. In the beginning of the film he orders 110 dozen pairs of kid gloves (1320 pairs) at five dollars a pair. That comes to $6,600 at a time when a new car cost about $700 and you could buy a house for around $4000. Some biographical sources attribute his never wearing the same pair of gloves more than once, not so much to superstition, but to the white gloves getting stained easily by the ink of his music scores as he turned the pages and otherwise handled them during his concerts. See more »

Goofs

In the film the famous Sousaphone was invented by Willy Little. In actuality the first sousaphone was developed by James Welsh Pepper in 1893 at the request of John Philip Sousa. See more »

Quotes

Willie Little: I always say a concert sounds better if it's raining.
John Philip Sousa: Well, there may be something to that.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening display of 20th Century Fox's logo, Sousa's "Semper Fidelis" was played instead of the usual 20th Century fanfare See more »

Alternate Versions

Some releases include at the end a clip of the real John Philip Sousa leading the band in one of his famous marches. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Worth Winning (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Semper Fidelis
(uncredited)
Music by John Philip Sousa (1888)
Played during the opening credits
Also played by the Marine band at the presidential reception
See more »

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User Reviews

 
starchy Sousa, '50s romance
11 November 2007 | by weezeralfalfaSee all my reviews

Having spent 6 years in orchestras and marching bands before graduating from high school, often playing Sousa's best known marches, I anticipated this partial biographical film. Clifton Webb does indeed come across as the real Sousa and certainly appears much younger than his 60+ years. He much reminds us of Frank Gilbreth in "Cheaper by the Dozen", another perfect role for him. The inclusion of the fabricated young couple played by Robert Wagner and Debra Paget was understandable, serving to lighten things up from time to time as contrasted to Sousa's rather starchy exterior. However, they come across as basically a '50s show biz couple interjected into an 1890s historical film. I was disappointed that more of Sousa's best known marches were not featured, nor the background of how he came to compose some of them revealed. After all, he did compose more than 100 marches, of which at least 8 should be recognized by every American as classics. In addition to "The Washington Post", "Semper Fidelis" and "The Stars and Stripes Forever" prominently featured in the film, "The Thunderer", "The Liberty Bell", "King Cotton", "El Capitan" and "The Corcoran Cadets March" should be instantly recognizable. In the film, we briefly see Sousa on a ship talking to himself about an idea for a classic march. But, we never find out that it is Christmas day, he is on a ship bound from Europe to America and is composing "The Stars and Stripes Forever" in his head. Also, it could have been brought out that his popular march "The Liberty Bell" was due to have quite a different name. However, after he saw a large backdrop of the Liberty Bell and coincidentally received a letter from his wife saying his son was marching in a parade honoring the Liberty Bell, he changed his mind. Sousa's opposition to recording his band and to radio broadcasts of his band could have been brought out(True, radio broadcasting had not been invented during the time period covered). Although he did allow many recordings of the Marine Band around 1890, he later became strongly opposed to recordings of his own band until very late in his career. In this resistance to new electronic technologies that allowed many unseen people to enjoy his music whenever they wished, he was in sympathy with Irving Berlin.

Sousa was not quite the one-dimensional genius popularly supposed. The film brings out to some extent his ambition to be a composer for the musical stage. He also composed several novels. The film could have also brought out the fact that Sousa was recognized as one of the top trap shooters in the world and initiated a national organization for trap shooters.

Sousa's name and origins were a subject for speculation. Several sources claimed that he was from various European countries and that Sousa was a stage name, the "usa" part representing "USA", his adopted country. Im fact, he was born and raised in Washington, D.C., his father being a member of the Marine Band. His ancestry is mostly Portuguese and Bavarian, Sousa being a rather common Portuguese and Spanish name. Variant spellings include d'Souza, Soza and Sosa.

One of film's highlights is the defiant appearance of his marching band in a southern city after notification that it's booking had been canceled due to popular opposition. I don't know if this incident has any factual basis, but Sousa's music and band are depicted as seen by many southerners as a purely Yankee institution. We see the faces of a group of African Americans when "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is played, but I wonder what the reaction of the typical Caucasian southerner would have been. This inspirational Civil War favorite was in fact an unintentional collaboration between South Carolinian William Steffe, who composed the tune shortly before the Civil War, and unionist Julia Ward Howe, who provided the lyrics, one of various lyrics sung to this tune in both the North and South. Thus, it might have been interpreted as a unifying symbol.


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