“This is about two rough necks who love the same girl. They’re shipmates now- but when the war is over, all the patriotic stuff is OUT!”
The quote above perfectly sums up John Ford’s 1926 silent film The Blue Eagle. But there are a few things in between and honestly the girl the “two rough necks” love is in the film very little.
George Darcy (George O’Brien) and Tim Ryan are on the same battleship during World War I. At home they are part of rival gangs and, to make matters worse, they are in love with the same girl named Rose Kelly (Janet Gaynor). Rose sends them both letters. Tim starts a fight with George for having a photograph of Rose in his locker. The chaplain Father Joe stops the fight in the locker room. He has them box each other to get the fight out of their system. In the middle of the fight an enemy ship comes along. All the men quickly get to their places. George and Tim work the boilers. Their ship destroys the enemy but more danger comes when the boilers have been filled too much and a fire starts. Tim tries to save a man named Rohan but he is too late and the poor man dies.
When the men return home from the War they walk through the streets in a parade. Rose finds George and Tim and she walks arm in arm with them. George goes home to his younger brother Limpy. While George was away their mother died and Limpy fell in with a bad crowd selling dope. A dance is thrown for the men. Tim gets to Rose first. George grabs an older larger lady and dances with her and gives her his sailor hat to make Rose jealous. George winds up getting Rose before the dance is over.
George takes Rose out on a date some time later for a walk around the docks. Tim shows up. Rose was supposed to be out on a date with him that night. Tim makes her choose between the two of them. She says she chooses neither and runs away when her father Sergeant Kelly walks by.
George has been working with Father Joe. He follows the priest to a neighborhood which happens to be Tim’s gang’s turf. A woman has died of a dope overdose and has left a note for Father Joe to take care of her young son. Father Joe has George take the baby which turns out to be a good thing for him because a group of Tim’s men were ready to beat him to a pulp! Sergeant Kelly is looking Limpy the kid is in trouble.Father Joe wants to help in the fight against dope especially seeing a young mother die from taking it. He wants George and Tim to work together to help him. He tells the boys they can fight their personal issues out the following week at the gym.
Limpy is seen by an officer and runs away. Rose sees Limpy running away and she manages to get to George to tell him his brother is being chased. Limpy manages to get away to a submarine that carries the town’s dope supply. George gets caught by the police for aiding Limpy in getting away and has to be taken to Federal Island for questioning. On the way to the island they see Limpy on the outside of the dope submarine the people inside are not letting him in. They cowardly submerge and drown Limpy. On land, Tim’s cop friend Dizzy is shot and killed by dope fiends. Now George and Tim are united in helping Father Joe. They push around a dope runner into tell them where the submarine is kept. The runner tells them that the submarine is located at Rock Island. A whole gang of men go to the island to take down the submarine. They all manage to blow up the submarine.
George and Tim are prepared to fight each other at the parish gym. Even before they get into the ring they are ready to beat the other. No one but Father Joe, who is the referee, is allowed to be in the gym. Rose hears about the fight from her father. She says that Tim is going to kill George and rushes out of her house down to the gym. Both of the men are winded and tired. Tim lets George win. When Rose gets to the gym she tells George she chooses him.
The next day Father Joe has Tim come to his office. The widow of the dead sailor Rohan has come to Father Joe’s office as well. He tells the widow that Tim tried to save her husband and that she can take the poor little boy who lost his mother. Tim winds up with the widow.
And yes, Tim and George become friends since they no longer have to fight over Rose.
The Blue Eagle was good even if the middle of the story with the submarine as dope runner was really silly. I can understand the story that in the end George and Tim no matter their differences are Blue Eagles. I liked the cast. I love George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor together, well my love for their pairing comes from Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans not so much this film since they were barely in any scenes together. This was an odd film for John Ford even as a silent film. It was not very manly or of his caliber that I am used to seeing from him. There were a few scenes that were funny and cute. The film is not completely bad. I can only suggest watching The Blue Eagle is you are a fan of Janet Gaynor or George O’Brien or John Ford otherwise skip it. It is available to watch in full on Youtube.