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Starring – Robert Ryan (Lieutenant Benson), Aldo Ray (Sgt. Joseph R. “Montana” Willomet), Robert Keith (The Colonel), Phillip Pine (Sgt. Riordan), Nehemiah Persoff (Sgt. First Class Nate Lewis), Vic Morrow (Corp. James Zwickley).
Released– March, 1957
Directed By – Anthony Mann
Produced By – Security Pictures
Distributed By– United Artists
Description – Korea, September 1950, a platoon from the 24th Infantry Division finds itself isolated and cut off in enemy territory. Radio contact is lost and the men find themselves being killed, almost one-by-one, by enemy snipers.
Lieutenant Benson commands the platoon and is following very vague instructions to get to Hill 465 where he hopes the rest of the Division are located. The men are on foot when a lone jeep approaches being driven by Sgt. Joe ‘Montana’ Willomet. His passenger is a shell-shocked Colonel.
Sgt. Willomet and the Colonel are fleeing the battle of Nakdong River where the Colonel’s men were virtually wiped out. Sgt. Willomet thinks of the Colonel as he would his own father and has no intentions of turning over his jeep to Lt. Benson.
However, Lt. Benson and his men force Sgt. Willomet to turn over the jeep and continue on with them to Hill 465. Battle-hardened Sgt. Willomet proves invaluable to Lt. Benson as he saves them from a captured Korean soldier with a hidden weapon.
The rest of the trip proves to be a long, treacherous journey. When the men finally arrive at Hill 465 they find that it has been captured by Korean soldiers and must try to get it back. The hill will run red with blood before this day is over.
NOTABLE: The Pentagon refused to cooperate with the production of Men in War due to its depiction of a US Army unit without discipline.
Director Anthony Mann made his mark with 1940’s Film’s Noir and early 1950’s Westerns. He used elements of both types of film in the making of Men In War.
Starring – Jack Palance (Lt. Joe Costa), Eddie Albert (Capt. Erskine Cooney), Lee Marvin (Lt. Col. Clyde Bartlett), Robert Strauss (Pfc. Bernstein), Richard Jaeckel (Pvt. Snowden), Buddy Ebsen (Sfc. Tolliver).
Released– October, 1956
Directed By – Robert Aldrich
Produced By – The Associates and Aldrich Company
Distributed By – United Artists
Description – Fragile Fox Company is stationed in Belgium during the close of World War II. They are commanded by Capt. Erskine Cooney, an officer better suited to stateside duty than the front lines.
His men are suffering increasing casualties, due in large part to Capt. Cooney’s lack of leadership and fear of combat. His inability to make crucial decisions regarding the support of his own troops is proving fatal.
Battle weary Lt. Joe Costa knows Cooney was given command of the unit because of his “connections,” and owes his position to Lt. Col. Clyde Bartlett. Costa’s patience is running thin. The men believe in and respect Costa, but are at the mercy of Cooney’s command. As Pfc. Bernstein once put it, regarding Cooney and Bartlett, “When you salute them two, you have to apologize to your arm.”
The Battle of the Bulge is beginning and the familiar and deadly circumstances faced in the past are shaping up all over again. Lt. Col. Clyde Bartlett orders Capt. Cooney to take the town of La Nelle and hold it.
Without knowing if the town is occupied by the German’s or not, Capt. Cooney balks at the suggestion of a full attack, and orders Lt. Costa to undertake a reconnaissance mission. Lt. Costa has no choice but to accept the mission, and reminds Cooney that, if needed, he had better send in reinforcements and not leave them to die.
As Lt. Costa, and a handful of his men, approach the town they come under heavy fire by the Germans. Most are killed or wounded and the remaining men take cover in a farmhouse. Costa calls Cooney for help, but the help never comes as Capt. Cooney has snapped under the pressure and started drinking.
A smart and deceptive move allows Lt. Costa and his men to escape from the farmhouse and make their way back to the base. However, things are going from bad to worse as a squad of German Panzer Tanks are enabling the German’s to slowly overrun the base.
Capt. Cooney is under fire from his superiors regarding his gutless actions as the situation becomes worse with every passing minute. As the men of Fragile Fox Company fight for their lives, the man in the most danger of all is cowardly Capt. Cooney, as Lt. Costa has come back to kill him.
NOTABLE: The U. S. Defense Department refused to provide technical assistance, tanks, troops, or uniforms for the film due to the portrayal of U. S. Military officers as being cowardly, or political manipulators.
Attack was produced without the benefit of a big budget. The entire film was shot on the RKO lot in only 35 days with a modest budget of $750,000 – 850,000.
In Attack, Eddie Albert plays the role of cowardly Capt. Cooney. In real life, this could not be further from the truth. Albert served heroically in World War II and is credited with braving heavy enemy fire to rescue 70 wounded Marines. Jack Palance and Lee Marvin are also veterans of the war.
Tagline – The Exciting True-Life Story of America’s Most Decorated Hero!
Starring– Audie Murphy (as himself), Marshall Thompson (Johnson), Charles Drake (Brandon), Jack Kelly (Kerrigan), Greg Palmer (Lt. Manning).
Released – August, 1955
Directed By – Jessie Hibbs
Produced By – Universal International Pictures
Distributed By – Universal Pictures
Description – This is an exciting autobiographical account of Audie Murphy’s World War II experiences in the U.S. Army.
Audy Murphy grew up in a large sharecropper family in Texas. The father abandoned the family leaving their mother to provide for her nine children. Murphy, being the oldest son, worked to help support the family, and after his mother’s death in 1941, his brothers and sisters were sent to live with his elder sister Corrine, to whom he would later send his military allotment checks.
With the outbreak of World War II, Murphy is anxious to enlist, but is rejected by the Navy, the Marines, and the Army Paratroopers. His rejections are due to his small size and youthful appearance. His repeated attempts are finally rewarded by the Army accepting him as an ordinary infantryman.
This is no ordinary infantryman.
After training, Murphy is assigned, as a replacement soldier, to the Third Infantry Division in North Africa where he soon proves himself in battle. His courage and valor gain him quick promotions, initially against his will, and he receives a battlefield commission as a second lieutenant.
He will participate in many battles in Sicily, Italy, and France, which earned him the universal respect of his men as well as some life-long friendships. However, it was his action in January, 1945 near Holzwihr, France that would earn Audie Murphy our highest military honor.
While his company is forced to retreat in the face of a fierce German attack, Murphy remains behind directing artillery fire on the approaching enemy armor and infantrymen. As the advancing Germans close in on his position, Murphy jumps on board an abandoned tank and uses its 50-caliber machine gun to hold off the enemy. He accomplishes this with the tank on fire and threatening to explode at any second.
Wounded, and openly exposed to enemy fire, Murphy manages to hold off the Germans and saves his company. After a period of time in the hospital, recovering from his injuries, Murphy returns to duty.
Shortly after the conclusion of the war, Audie Murphy is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in addition to two dozen of our nations highest military honors.
NOTABLE: Prior to the making of this film, Audie Murphy had already begun his successful Hollywood career having played in a few westerns. Initially, he refused to play the part of himself feeling that the public might think he was trying to cash in on his military record and suggested Tony Curtis for the role. It was director Jesse Hibbs and producer Aaron Rosenberg who convinced Murphy to play himself.
In an effort to look as authentic as possible, during a combat scene to capture a German position in an Italian farmhouse, real ammunition was used in the German machine gun being fired at the advancing American soldiers. This was done to get the impressive muzzle flash that was wanted.
To Hell and Back was a box office smash for Universal Studios and its record was not broken until the release of the film Jaws.
Audie Murphy’s impressive list of military honors include five decorations awarded by France and Belgium.
In all, the military’s most decorated soldier received a Bronze Star, another Bronze Star with a Bronze Service arrowhead, three Purple Heart’s, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Croix de Guerre medals with Palms, and the Legion of Honour Chevalier from France as well as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Personal Note: A true American hero! Here’s a quote from ‘Variety Movie Guide’, Audie Murphy ” . . . gets into the army in 1942 at 18. In 1943, Murphy became a replacement in Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, Third Division, 7th Army, in North Africa, and served with the unit throughout the war in Tunisia, Italy, France, Germany and Austria. During that time he rose from PFC to company commander, was wounded three times, personally killed 240 Germans, and was one of the only two soldiers left in the original company at the end of the war. His decorations total 24, from the Congressional Medal of Honor on down.”
Tagline – Monsarrat’s brilliant best seller comes surging to life
Starring– Jack Hawkins (Ericson), Donald Sinden (Lockhart), John Stratton (Ferraby), Denholm Elliott (Morell), John Warner (Baker), Stanley Baker (Bennett), Virginia McKenna (Julie Hallam).
Released– August, 1953
Directed By– Charles Frend
Produced By – J. Arthur Rank Organization
Distributed By – Universal Pictures
Description – Based on the bestselling novel by Nicholas Monsarrat, this is an impressively accurate account of the British naval officers and seamen who served on escort ships during World War II.
After completing service in the British Merchant Navy, Lt. Commander George Ericson is called upon by the Royal Navy and given command of the HMS Compass Rose intended for convoy escort duties.
Led by mostly inexperienced and newly-commissioned officers, the first threat they face is bad weather. Initially, German submarines lacked the ability to strike far into the Atlantic, but after the fall of French ports this all changes. With the advantage of new ports to strike from the German U-boats can now reach convoys anywhere in the Atlantic.
Months of dangerous crossings of the Atlantic have taken its toll on the crew of the Compass Rose as has the emotional strain of having lost so many convoy ships along with their crew to the relentless German attacks.
Now, the seemingly inevitable happens; the Compass Rose is torpedoed. Most of the crew are lost. Among the survivors are Commander Ericson and First Lt. Lockhart. With the battle for the Atlantic still raging, the Commander and First Lieutenant are given a new ship to command and the vital, but hazardous escort duties must continue.
The Cruel Sea is a gripping adventure filmed in semi-documentary style.
NOTABLE:The Cruel Sea received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Screenplay.
The Cruel Sea remains true to the novel which was based on the author’s personal experience serving as an escort vessel officer during the war. However, some of Nicholas Monsarrant’s grimmest images were omitted from the film.
Tagline – Hilarious, heart-tugging! You’ll laugh… you’ll cry… you’ll cheer William Holden in his great Academy Award role!
Starring– William Holden (Sgt. J.J. Sefton), Don Taylor (Lt. James Dunbar), Otto Preminger (Col von Scherbach), Robert Strauss (Animal), Harvey Lembeck (Harry Shapiro), Richard Erdman (Sgt. ‘Hoffy’ Hoffman), Peter Graves (Price), Neville Brand (Duke).
Released– July, 1953
Directed By– Billy Wilder
Produced By – Paramount Pictures
Distributed By– Paramount Pictures
Description– Stalag 17, a German POW camp, seems to have a Nazi spy in Barracks Four. Two prisoners have taken a chance on escape only to be killed all too easily. It looks like the German’s were fully aware of the escape attempt.
The shadow of suspicion is beginning to fall on barracks black-marketeer Sgt. J.J. Sefton. Somewhat antisocial, Sefton openly bargains with the enemy to obtain prison luxuries for himself, organizes mouse races and other shady, but profitable enterprises.
But, worst of all, he fraternizes with the enemy and has made bets with other inmates that the escape attempt would prove unsuccessful. Then there’s the confiscation of a radio that was used to secretly get war news for the prisoners.
Now there is the apparent reward, a day in the women’s barracks has been given to Sefton. And if that is not enough, there is a new prisoner, Lt. James Dunbar who has blown up a German ammunition train while being transported to Stalag 17.
Sefton is believed to have told the German’s how Dunbar was able to blow up the train and is accused of being a spy and beaten by his fellow prisoners.
Determined to prove his innocence, Sgt. Sefton sets out to learn who the real spy is and to help Lt. Dunbar escape from the Nazi SS who now want to interrogate him.
NOTABLE: Stalag 17 won one Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role (William Holden), and received nominations for Best Director (Billy Wilder), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robert Strauss).
The story is based on the Broadway play written by Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski who were both prisoners of war in Stalag 17B in Austria.
Actor William Holden was hesitant to accept the role, believing the character to be too selfish and cynical. However, being under contract to Paramount, he was forced to do it.
Stalag 17 along with The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape are considered to be three of the best World War II prisoner-of-war movies.
Personal Note: While the description sure doesn’t sound like it, this film has some very funny moments. It is an excellent balance between drama, suspense, and comedy.