She Goes to War is an interesting film in many ways. Obviously it is about a woman who fights on the battlefields on World War I. This was an odd subject for a film even in 1929 having a woman go into war. The really interesting part is that the film was cut down to put in sound in some parts and the parts that were cut out were the intertitles or the title cards with what the characters were saying and an explanation of what was happening. Without the intertitles you are left to figure what is playing out in front of you. So here is how I perceived and was able to follow the story.
Joan (Eleanor Boardman) is near the fighting in a small (I guess) French town. She sees men from the Front come and go. They are usually wounded and in urgent care. Joan watches as a nurse comforts a dying young soldier by singing to him. After she witnesses this touching and sad scene Joan walks away back to her home. Before she enters her house she takes a moment to compose herself.
Alarms sound throughout the village. The men from the village have been called to the front. Joan’s boyfriend cannot get himself together to he go he has gotten himself so drunk. He passes out. Joan can hear the one in charge asking about her boyfriend. She has his uniform on and puts his mask on like all the other men are doing and takes his place. When the gas masks are ordered off Joan rubs dirt on her face to hide her features.
Unfortunately two men figure out Joan is a woman. One of them keeps whistling at her and the other tries to go after her. When the call to move sounds, Joan follows the two men out of their foxhole and is yelled at by one of them to stay behind. There is no way Joan would stay behind with the earth getting blown to bits all around her.
As the regiment goes over a hill the enemy rolls down barrels fills with a flammable substance and sets the field and hill on fire. Joan is horrified seeing men being burned alive and shot at. She follows the men into a small crowded tank. The tank goes slowly through the scorching fires in the field. The tank becomes unbearably hot. One man cannot take the heat he gets out and jumps into the fire. The tank makes it through the fire and blasts the enemy.
Joan, when out of the tank, makes it to a foxhole only to be stuck with the same men she was stuck with before. She manages to get away from them only to be stuck in barrage of bullets. She winds up killing an enemy soldier who was the machine gunner. Joan is horrified by what she has done. She screams and faints. Luckily a soldier comes and carries her away from her trauma.
Now the three write ups about the film on IMDB say that Joan followed her boyfriend into war. To me it looked as if the boyfriend was too drunk and passed out to go to the regiment so she took his place. Eh, who knows who is right.
She Goes to War was good. As I mentioned at the beginning I thought it was interesting to see a film where a woman actually goes to the frontlines that was made in 1929. Things in the teens and even in the twenties were still prim and proper I am surprised this topic did not create a big stink when the film was released. I think it was a great idea it is different. But at the same time I feel this was a moral story about why women are unfit for war because they would kill someone and not be able to properly handle it like a man. She Goes to War I will only suggest watching if one, you like films about war or two, only if you like silent films. You can view She Goes to War in its full fifty minute version on Youtube.
A better review and write up of the plot can be found at this blog: I Thank You Arthur