The Road to Glory

This is perhaps the most perfect and profound cinematic expression of Howard Hawks' basic themes of companionship, professional duty, and moral responsibility in group situations. The plot resembles that of his earlier The Dawn Patrol but here the setting is in the trenches of World War I rather than in its skies. As usual, Hawks undermines all potential cliches in his dramatization of the crises and conflicts in a doomed regiment. The mood is fatalistic and even the rather unlikely love interest (centered around the stunning June Lang) is treated with a minimum of sentimentality. In its depiction of trench combat, The Road to Glory anticipates Kubrick's Paths of Glory. Critic John Baxter, in “Hollywood in the 30's,” hails The Road to Glory as “The most moving and accurate of all anti-war statements.” This may be true, but Hawks' masterpiece, in its resolution of a conflict between two men under stress (the officers played by Fredric March and Warner Baxter), rises to the level of tragedy, modern tragedy in which there is no catharsis, only an absurdist vacuum and an almost ritualistic repetition of bankrupt moral commitments.

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