Colin Spence (Henry Fonda) is a soft-spoken man who spontaneously joins the army. As a Canadian journalist who is working in England he leads a life full of self-doubt. Just before his decision to enlist, Spence and Valentine meet an old friend of his named Benedict (Reginald Gardiner – Ain't Misbehavin', The Man Who Came to Dinner). Benedict is everything that Spence isn't; he is sociable, rich, successful, and confident. Spence is sent to fight in World War II. His troop gets stranded in the Libyan desert with very little gas or water and a broken compass. During his time wandering through the desert he occupies himself with thoughts of the girl, Valentine (Maureen O'Hara – Gone With The Wind, The Quiet Man), he left behind. The troop initially was composed of Corporal Spence, Sergeant Kelly (Thomas Mitchell – High Noon, It's A Wonderful Life) and 12 men, but they come upon some German soldiers and after the battle there are only 4 men, Spence and Kelly left. The survivors push on forward and decide to attack a German armored car. Unfortunately during the raid the armored car is destroyed along with the water it contained. Worse yet is the fact that two more men die during the raid and unfortunately for Spence Sergeant Kelly is one of the dead. Corporal Spence is now the leader of the troop. Reluctant at first, Spence becomes more and more sure of himself and the men begin to accept his leadership. A final conflict demonstrates how far Spence has come.
As one of the first World War II films made (1943), Immortal Sergeant was really scrutinized by the public and critics. What could have been an ordinary war film, despite the presence of Maureen O'Hara, is brought to a much higher scale due to the acting skill of Henry Fonda. He is equally convincing as the self-effacing Spence as he is as the war hero and a leader. The performance is such a subtle and nuanced one that the viewer is really caught up in the fate of Corporal Spence. Many present day actors should take some tips from Fonda's performance as a soldier in war. The director, John M. Stahl (Imitation of Life), also does his part to make the film a believable one. All the combat scenes are quite realistic and does not make a happy ending which is completely unrealistic.
-Fox Flix: trailers for Back Door to Hell, Decision Before Dawn, Destination Gobi, and You're in the Navy Now.