Carry On Sergeant!
Format: 35mm Black & White
Runtime: 98 min
Canadian International Films Ltd.
Released at the end of the silent era and made with an eye to the British market, Carry On Sergeant! was shot at the Trenton studios in Ontario on a budget of $500,000, making it the most expensive film in the history of Canadian silent cinema.
Carry On Sergeant! is the story of four labourers from Hamilton who join the army to fight in World War I. After years of trench warfare (including the gas attack at Ypres), one of the men, Bob MacKay (Hugh Buckler), meets a French woman who waits tables in a tavern. He sleeps with her, then is overcome with guilt and later killed in battle. His wife Ruth (Ann Hargreaves) believes he died a hero and remembers him with love.
Promoted as the first Canadian film epic, this war drama is superbly shot – the battlefield scenes are especially impressive. However, the film was often labelled as Canadian cinema's most expensive flop. The film was certainly less powerful than the best contemporaneous Hollywood war films, such as The Big Parade.
Director Bruce Bairnsfather’s sentimental story doesn’t shy away from more unpleasant elements – as a result, the film was heavily criticized for portraying an affair between a married Canadian soldier and a “prostitute.” After a brief theatrical run, Carry On Sergeant! vanished into obscurity. A new print was struck in the seventies by the Ontario Film Institute.