This film script created by Joel Sayre and William Faulkner with Nunnally Johnson, written because Darryl F. Zanuck had acquired the rights to a French film, Les Croix de Bois (1932), in order to use its battle sequences as stock footage, is as much prophetic truth as it is accurate history.
Indeed, as George Garrett points out, The Road to Glory became “an allegory for our times.” Aided by Howard Hawks’s direction (in his first of many collaborations with Faulkner) and a superb cast: Warner Baxter as the Captain, Lionel Barrymore as the Old Man, Fredric March as the Lieutenant, and June Lang as Monique, this script was made into an outstanding motion picture, one of the finest on the subject of men at war, and one that has influenced many subsequent films. The script is all the more remarkable because at the same time he was writing The Road to Glory, Faulkner managed to finish a complete draft of Absalom, Absalom!
Even in this early collaboration Faulkner displays a craftsman’s skill in employing in the script cinematic moments and devices he was to employ in later scripts, such as The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not, and Air Force. The arrival of Pierre Delaage at Fifth Company headquarters in a hearse provides an excellent example. Pierre is immediately established as a lively and sympathetic character and his arrival visually and dramatically makes the point that the differences between the living and the dead are less clearly defined and more a matter of accident than anyone might wish to allow
There is much of Faulkner himself in this script, for as Garrett writes, “Something of him was the Old Man with his bugle and his dream of old glories. Something of him was as weary, as battered, and as dutiful as the Captain. Something was still young, at that time, as lively and sardonic, as fond of whiskey and love and the quixotic gesture as the Lieutenant. And something in him deeply understood Bouffiou; for here he was, making commerce of his art, selling his time in an effort to earn more free time for himself, trying to survive at all costs.”