This is a fine and honest film with excellent performances by its youthful cast. George Breakston plays a frail youngster who idolizes gang leader Jimmy Butler. The gang is modeled after an army, complete with uniforms and a flag. Breakston's ill health makes him something of an outcast,
but he is allowed to join up as a private, the only enlisted soldier in an army otherwise composed of officers. Butler despises him for his weakness, but Breakston cannot see this, so great is his admiration and his need to belong. When their flag is stolen by a rival gang of older boys called
"The Red Shirts," Breakston takes it upon himself to retrieve the banner. He invades the enemy camp in a driving rain and confronts their leader Frankie Darro, who repeatedly shoves the younger boy's head under water. Darro cannot break the boy's spirit and gradually comes to respect his pluck.
Breakston catches pneumonia and is forced to remain in bed but, when he learns that Butler's gang is taking on the Red Shirts, he sneaks off to join the battle. The excitement is too much for him and he dies fighting for his cause. Butler, realizing the true meaning of strength and courage,
tearfully watches as Breakston's mother carries away the limp body of her son.
Breakston is all heart and innocent emotion, the epitome of admiring, loyal youth. Butler, whose career was tragically cut short by his death in World War II, is equally fine. His portrayal of the handsome, serious-minded idol is believable and moving. This film also serves as an allegory of the
futility of war and what it does to the best of men. The film is based on an autobiographical novel by noted Hungarian playwright Ferenc Molnar. Sensitive adaptation and direction bring out the honesty and spirit of the book.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: This is a fine and honest film with excellent performances by its youthful cast. George Breakston plays a frail youngster who idolizes gang leader Jimmy Butler. The gang is modeled after an army, complete with uniforms and a flag. Breakston's ill health ma… (more)