In 1802, Congress opened the West Point Military Academy in New York, where cadets were trained for four years before entering the army. Henry Hathaway’s film Ten Gentlemen from West Point tells the supposed story of the first ten graduates, one so unremarkable it must be true—a screenwriter taking artistic liberties doubtless would come up with something better.
The film plays out more like a traditional college sports comedy than any kind of historical piece. Two cadets take center stage, Kentucky-born Joe (George Montgomery) and the rich snob he feuds with, Howard (John Sutton). They make up two points of a love triangle with Carolyn (Maureen O’Hara), one so perfunctory it only gets three real scenes. The rest of the film finds the cadets butting heads with their strict major (Laird Cregar), engaging in a brutal lacrosse match with a group of bombardiers, and righteously massacring some “hostile Indians” at its close. If the film had endeared us to the characters at all, that final beat would play out in an especially uncomfortable fashion—so perhaps it’s for the best that the leads are duds and Richard Maibaum’s script gives them nothing more than stock personalities.
Ten Gentlemen from West Point does overflow with patriotism, particularly mired in nostalgia for the founding fathers; one character (Harry Davenport) reminisces about how he used to mend George Washington’s pants. That may have made it more appealing to WWII audiences, but today it plays as nothing more than a waste of time.