Here's what I wrote in March 2009 when I saw both:
"Les Croix de Bois" (Wooden Crosses) (1932). Simply one of the most harrowing Anti-War films I have ever seen. I have read it was made to rival with "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930). The film has a different style though because I almost felt I was watching a documentary and the real WWI was going on onscreen -which does not detract from AQWOTWF which is still my favorite War film. Everything is so real, so truthfully depicted. The battle scenes are among the best ever made. Stunning! Some scenes were so hard to take; so harsh, grim and tough! When all the soldiers were moaning and dying after a tremendous battle, I was in awe and completely moved. One of the main assets of this film is that it achieves to depict War as an absolute stupidity; as something so senseless and useless, in terms of suffering and loss of valuable human life. Human life is above all richness, territory or power and if Man does not understand it we will never be able to improve and move on to the next stage of evolution. Some of the featured players were actually veterans of WWI and the two of the leads were among the finest actors of the French Cinema: Pierre Blanchar, whom I recently saw in the excellent Silent "Le Capitaine Fracasse" (1929) and Charles Vanel, a very prolific actor who played, among many other roles, "Javert" In Raymond Bernard's "Les Misérables" (1934). This film is very different to any Hollywood picture that was being made in those days, especially since more than focusing in one particular character or developing specific relationship between the characters, it focuses on the situation as a whole, like a slice of real life. Impressive and very unique.
After watching the former film I had to see Hawk's take on the story: "The Road to Glory" (1936) and I knew it was going to be totally different: more Hollywoodized. Well it was, but it's not bad. It's better not to compare it with the 1932 masterful film and take it for what it is: a good drama. There's a romantic subplot that's thrown in to the story and one of the main characters -Warner Baxter, who plays the tortured captain- is reunited with his father (Lionel Barrymore) who's too old for War, but still wants to fight near his heroic son. Some portions of the story do not ring true and the situations are more overly dramatic and sentimental, but this does not mean that the film does not have its merits and entertainment value. June Lang, who plays the love interest is very beautiful and has a contemporary look; I mean, not only does she not look like a lady from 1916 -when the picture is set-, but not even a girl from 1936! She's so slim and slender that she looks like a model from the 1990s. Her hairstyle was made -I guess- to make her look more "French" & sophisticated, which is a little bit out of place, since she's supposed to be a small-town girl, not a Parisian. Also, to make her look more attractive, she wears a suit that does not look like a nurse's outfit. On the other hand, she performs quite well, except in her first scene with Warner Baxter, where she plays a dramatic scene a bit artificially. Warner Baxter and Fredric March (who plays a Lieutenant under Baxter's orders) are very good in their roles and Lionel Barrymore and Gregory Ratoff ditto. What is a real shame is that all the action scenes and some scenes shot in the church were completely borrowed from the 1932 French film. And since I had just seen it I noticed it very much. In all, a good dramatic film in Hollywood's terms, but very different and inferior than the 1932 French original. As an anti-war film it pales in comparison to "Les Croix de Bois" and most certainly in comparison with AQOTWF.