The Best of Everything
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MGM. 80 minutes.
US release: 1/2/28 (premiere), 1/8/28 (general).
Cast: William Haines, Joan Crawford (as "Betty Channing"), William Bakewell, Neil Neely, Ralph Emerson, Edward Richardson, Baury Bradford Richardson, Leon Kellar; Major Raymond G. Moses, Corps of Engineers USA; Major Philip B. Fleming, Corps of Engineers USA.
Credits: From the story by Raymond L. Schrock. Director: Edward Sedgwick. Camera: Ira H. Morgan. Titles: Joe Farnham. Editor: Frank Sullivan. Costumes: Gilbert Clark.
Notes: Filmed on location at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Plot Summary: Reteamed with his favorite director Edward Sedgwick, William Haines once again plays the braggart-who-makes-good in West Point. Upon his arrival at the fabled military academy, Brice Wayne (Haines) alienates everyone with his wise-guy attitude and disregard for the rules. Only heroine Betty Channing (Joan Crawford) sees any good in the boy, but even she gives up on him when his egotistical antics cause the West Point football team to lose a crucial game. Quitting the team in disgrace, Wayne ingests a few heaping helpings of humble pie before he returns to the playing field to lead the Army team to victory in their annual game against Navy. Filmed on location at the West Point campus, the film proved to be another box-office bonanza for William Haines. Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times (January 2, 1928)
One might search the highways and byways of the United States and never find quite as preposterous a youth as Brice Wayne, the insufferable bounder in a picture glorying in the title "West Point." And if by chance one should happen to light upon such a character it is highly improbable that he would be honored by an appointment to the United States Military Academy.
William Haines, who figured in "Slide, Kelly, Slide" and "Brown of Harvard," acts the part of Wayne in about the same fashion as he attacked the previous r๔les. He makes Wayne more of a clown than a person, for it seems as though this smart young man has never learned anything about social amenities or the niceties of life in his schools. Judging by his actions on the boat, just before his arrival at West Point, Wayne is hardly mentally qualified to become a cadet.
There are, it is true, some impressive scenes of the United States Military Academy, notably those, depicting the dress parade of the budding officers. Edward Sedgwick does some nice work in showing the shadows of the past as the present-day drill is performed. The narrative, however, is a jumbled affair, with an attempt to stir up excitement filmed) and having Wayne make the necessary touchdown and then realize what an objectionable scamp he has been.
There is one incident in this picture that is in especially bad taste. It is where Wayne pretends to be blind and tries to enlist a girl's sympathy. To carry out the effect, Mr. Haines half closes his eyes so that only the whites are visible. It is anything but funny.
A story dealing with the fine young men at the United States Military Academy should be plausible and dignified, and these qualities would not make it any the less entertaining. The present offering is tedious and often annoying.
Joan Crawford is quite charming as Betty Channing, the girl who for some unexplained reason finally learns to love Wayne.
Following closely upon DeMille's Dress Parade, we are compelled to note the similarity between the two pictures. Both make desperate efforts to correctly portray "the spirit of the Corps," and both succeed. Bill Haines' starring vehicle is a comedy drama and treats everything in a humorous vein in the beginning, getting many laughs....Joan Crawford is Bill's sweetheart.
Film Daily (1928):
Bright and breezy comedy skit involving the cadet maneuvers at West Point and in particular the affairs of a wisecracking "plebe." William Haines the chesty "Mr. Dumbjohn" who gets some of the starch taken out of him before the end. Joan Crawford the girl. William Bakewell in a first-rate bit as hero's buddy.
If you've seen West Point and would like to share your review here, please e-mail me. Feel free to include a photo of yourself and a star-rating (with 5 stars the best), as well as any of your favorite lines from the film.
Rating: -1/2 of 5
West Point is first and foremost a vehicle for William Haines, then at the peak of his career as a comedic-romantic leading man at MGM. Joan, as Haines' love interest "Betty Channing," disappears from the story for long stretches and is given little to do other than wear the latest collegiate fashions and alternately crack up and look annoyed at Haines' character's antics. She's pretty much eye-candy here; the point of her being onhand is to react to Haines and look stylish while doing so; this she does do with eye-catching verve.
Despite its entertaining start, the film (shot on location at West Point and with Army officials on board the project as advisers), quickly becomes a propaganda piece for the West Point Army academy and its "Spirit of the Corps" credo. (Though Joan, offscreen, managed to throw a spanner in the official works when, according to TCM, she got a cadet expelled for sneaking off-campus to party with her.)
Haines plays cheeky, hot-headed cadet Brice Wayne, who's initially quick with the wisecracks and unwilling to take school traditions and spirit very seriously. Haines' sassy first scenes aboard ship with Joan are the highlight of the picture: His "inspection of the troops" and pretending to be blind to get Betty's attention are cleverly written and slyly goofily acted.
Equally funny hijinx ensue when the ship docks and Brice follows Betty to her mother's hotel: Betty's there with a strait-laced beau and Brice proceeds to stir up the joint with some crazily manic banjo playing and risque songs, punctuated by nonsensical shrieks of "MAMMY!" (In one funny bit, Brice's friend looks on, admiring Brice's success at charming Betty. The friend then picks up a banjo himself and tries to similarly woo another young lady on the porch of the hotel---only, his own outbursts of "MOTHER!" somehow fail to impress. Sidenote: This friend was played somewhat old-fashionedly but with beautifully luminous eyes by William Bakewell, whose later primary claim to fame was in Gone With the Wind---he's the soldier on horseback who warns Scarlett that she better get out of Atlanta because the Yankees are coming.)
Haines' initial scenes of training as a cadet are also irreverently amusing: His spoiled rich-boy character asks for a room with a Southern exposure, lazily lolls about when reveille is played, shows up for inspection wearing golf togs and carrying his clubs. Unfortunately, this halfway point of the film is where, for the most part, the fun ends and the more boring "morality tale" begins, to the detriment of the overall story. Brice must, of course, learn to conform to the strict standards of the military school, where wisecracking and spouting off "To Hell with the Corps!" when you're benched during football practice are decidedly frowned upon. (Brice has also transgressed by manhandling Betty; this, too, must be atoned for.)
Haines is a very skillful actor---not only a fine physical (and facial) comedian, but also very adept and believable in his more serious scenes. It's just that the second half of the film lays all of the "What it means to be an officer and a gentleman" stuff on pretty thick and predictably, complete with the "Best Friend"'s sickbed exhortations to success as well as a final (here, pretty long and boring) Big Game, in which Brice shows what a hero and team player he can be.
While the first half of the film is very entertaining because of Haines' offbeat and clever antics (as well as the acting rapport between Haines and Joan---she's obviously very in tune with what he's doing and genuinely amused by his shenanigans), the second half loses a lot of steam when it starts reining Haines in and focusing instead on the "by-the-book" storytelling and morality lesson.
The Best of Everything