Immortal Sergeant

Immortal Sergeant is a 1943 American war film directed by John M. Stahl for 20th Century Fox.[3] Set in the North African desert during World War II, it stars Henry Fonda as a corporal lacking in confidence in both love and war, Maureen O'Hara as his girlfriend, and Thomas Mitchell as the title character. The film was based on the novel of the same name by John Brophy.

Immortal Sergeant
Directed byJohn M. Stahl
Produced byLamar Trotti
Written byLamar Trotti
Based onthe novel
by John Brophy
StarringHenry Fonda
Maureen O'Hara
Thomas Mitchell
Music byDavid Buttolph
CinematographyArthur Miller
Edited byJames B. Clark
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • January 29, 1943 (1943-01-29) (United States)[1]
Running time
91 mins.
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.2 million (US rentals)[2]


In North Africa, experienced Sergeant Kelly (Thomas Mitchell) leads out a British patrol, accompanied by Corporal Colin Spence (Henry Fonda), an unassertive Canadian. When they are attacked by Italian airplanes, they manage to shoot one down, but it crashes on one of their vehicles, killing eight men. Later, Kelly leads the six survivors on an attack of an Italian armored car, but is seriously wounded. He orders Spence to leave him behind; when Spence refuses to obey, he shoots himself.

Spence leads the remaining three men towards an oasis. Before they can reach it though, a transport plane lands and disgorges German soldiers who set up a base. After sneaking in to steal badly needed food and water, Spence has to assert his leadership when one of his men advocates surrendering. Instead, Spence leads them in a surprise attack under the cover of a sandstorm. The British emerge victorious, though one man is killed and Spence is wounded.

The corporal comes to in a Cairo hospital and finds he is to be given a medal and promoted to lieutenant. His newfound assertiveness extends to his personal life. He proposes to his girlfriend Valentine (Maureen O'Hara), whom he had thought of (in flashbacks) throughout his ordeal.


  • Henry Fonda as Corporal Colin Spence
  • Thomas Mitchell as Sergeant Kelly
  • Maureen O'Hara as Valentine
  • Allyn Joslyn as Cassity
  • Reginald Gardiner as Benedict
  • Melville Cooper as Pilcher
  • Morton Lowry as Cottrell
  • Bramwell Fletcher as Symes
  • John Banner as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Wilson Benge as Waiter (uncredited)
  • Lane Bradford as Returning Soldier (uncredited)
  • Gordon B. Clarke as Soldier (uncredited)
  • James Craven as NCO (uncredited)
  • Italia DeNubila as Dance Specialty (uncredited)
  • Bess Flowers as Nightclub Patron (uncredited)
  • Bud Geary as Driver (uncredited)
  • Frederick Giermann as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Henry Guttman as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Sam Harris as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Charles Irwin as NCO (uncredited)
  • Peter Lawford as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Anthony Marsh as Assistant Post Corporal (uncredited)
  • Bob Mascagno as Dance Specialty (uncredited)
  • John Meredith as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Edmund Mortimer as Party Guest (uncredited)
  • Jean Prescott as Minor Role (uncredited)
  • Cyril Ring as Man at Train Depot as Soldiers Depart (uncredited)
  • Donald Stuart as Post Corporal (uncredited)
  • David Thursby as Bren Carrier Driver (uncredited)
  • Leslie Vincent as Runner (uncredited)
  • Hans von Morhart as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Sam Waagenaar as German (uncredited)
  • John Whitney as Soldier (uncredited)
  • Eric Wilton as Headwaiter (uncredited)


Theodore Strauss of The New York Times called the film "disappointing", writing that while it was "occasionally a warm and human study of a man's triumph over his own fears," the romance was "vapid" and O'Hara's character was "very dull".[4] Variety called the film "a compact drama, interestingly told."[5] Harrison's Reports wrote, "Although it does not reach great dramatic heights, and it is somewhat long drawn out, the production and the performances are so good that one's interest is held consistently."[6] David Lardner of The New Yorker wrote that the desert peril scenes were the "most solid aspects of the picture and, since they are fairly well handled, succeed in putting it on its feet." Lardner was distracted, however, by "the strange difficulty O'Hara seems to have in pronouncing polysyllabic words."[7]


  1. "Immortal Sergeant". American Film Institute. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  2. "Top Grossers of the Season", Variety, 5 January 1944 p 54
  3. Turim, Maureen (17 December 2013). Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-317-91667-3.
  4. Strauss, Theodore (February 4, 1943). "Movie Review - The Immortal Sergeant". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2016.
  5. "Film Reviews". Variety. New York: Variety, Inc.: 8 January 13, 1943.
  6. "'The Immortal Sergeant' with Henry Fonda, Thomas Mitchell and Maureen O'Hara". Harrison's Reports: 7. January 9, 1943.
  7. Lardner, David (February 6, 1943). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker. New York: F-R Publishing Corp.: 52.
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