Posts Tagged ‘world war II’

13 Rue Madeleine

Monday, November 12th, 2012

13 Rue Madeleine

Tagline – The Most Sinister Address in History!

Starring – James Cagney (Robert Emmett “Bob” Sharkey), Richard Conte (Wilhelm Kuncel/William H. “Bill” O’Connell), Annabella (Suzanne de Beaumont), Frank Latimore (Jeff Lassiter).

Released – January, 1947

Directed By – Henry Hathaway

Produced By – Twentieth Century Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Film Corporation

Description – Bob Sharkey is the chief instructor in charge of training espionage agents to infiltrate Nazi occupied Europe during World War II, and he has a big problem.

There is a rotten apple in his barrel of agents. Intelligence has informed Bob that a German agent is part of his latest group of trainees and Bob must find out just who it is. Identifying the German agent is not difficult as one particular agent, Bill O’Connell, easily succeeds in a field problem that is designed to cause mistakes by novice agents.

Further investigation into O’Connell’s background confirms that he is actually top German agent Wilhelm Kuncel. It is the intention of Kuncel to learn the date and location of the planned Allied invasion of Europe.

Bob is instructed to pass the German along with the other new agents, but to provide him with false information regarding the planned invasion to pass along to his superiors.

The plan is to send Kuncel along with two other agents, Suzanne de Beaumont and Jeff Lassiter, into Europe. Kuncel is given a false mission while de Beaumont and Lassiter will be searching for the factory depot for V-2 Rockets that will be used against the Allied forces during the invasion.

Lassiter’s orders are to kill Kuncel if he follows him and de Beaumont rather than work to complete his own mission. This responsibility makes Lassiter nervous and his uneasiness is easily picked up on by Kuncel who is now suspicious that his idendity may be known.

When the three are parachuted over Holland to sneak behind enemy lines, Lassiter’s chute fails to open and he falls to his death. The planes jumpmaster discovers that Lassiter’s chute was deliberately cut and his death was no accident.

It is now obvious that Kuncel is aware of the plan to deceive him and can identify every agent that he trained with. He must be stopped before endangering the entire planned invasion. Feeling responsible for the dire situation, Bob Sharkey volunteers to replace Lassiter.

With the aid of the local French Resistance force, Sharkey is able to capture and return to Great Britain the Nazi collaborator who designed the V-2 Rocket depot.

While attempting to stop Kuncel from returning to Germany with the espionage information he is captured and their seemingly is no way to stop Kuncel from identifying all of the Allied agents and guaranteeing their death.

NOTABLE: James Cagney’s character, Robert Emmett ‘Bob’ Sharkey, was originally based on the World War II director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), William Donovan (i.e. Major General William Joseph Donovan, USA, GCSS, KBE) as well as the spy agency being based on the O.S.S. Donovan objected to this, particularly the story element that the OSS had been infiltrated by a German Nazi agent spy. Alas, the spy agency became the “077” and any of Cagney’s character similarities with Donovan were removed.

Actor Rex Harrison was the first offered the lead role in 13 Rue Madeleine this motion picture, but turned it down.

Director Henry Hathaway and Producer Louis De Rochemont had previously worked together on the 20th Century Fox spy film titled The House on 92nd Street. Coincidentally, both films used street addresses in their titles.



Monday, May 7th, 2012


Tagline – Not Every Gun is Pointed at the Enemy!

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.



William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives

Monday, February 6th, 2012

November, 1946 – Director William Wyler exposes the sometimes bitter realities of returning war veterans. The Best Years of Our Lives examines the readjustment period facing those returning servicemen from World War II.

Too often overlooked are the stresses and strains faced by those re-entering a civilian world that has moved on and, in many cases, may have been completely lost to those serving during wartime. These challenges have been brilliantly brought to the screen by Wyler.

The Best Years of Our Lives showcases three returning veteran’s, all with problems unique to their own lives. Fredric March was a former bank executive, Dana Andrews an ex-soda jerk, and Harold Russell a former high-school quarterback who enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. It is Russell who faces the greatest challenges of all having lost both hands during the war.

Their joy of returning home to resume their lives but, in reality, turns out to be an attempt to just pick up the shattered pieces and threads that remain.

Equally impressive in this post-war masterpiece are Myrna Loy as the wife who’s life seems to have moved away from returning husband Fredric March, along with Virginia Mayo who had married Dana Andrews with the two having known each other only 20 days before he shipped out, and Cathy O’Donnell as Harold Russell’s young fiancee who he fears can no longer offer him love, only pity.

William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives is an unforgettable film that should be seen by everyone as it presents a powerful package of laughter, tears, romance, and social commentary.

To Hell and Back

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

To Hell and Back

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.”

Mister Roberts

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Mister Roberts

Tagline – All the Uproarious Fun of the Smash Broadway Play!

Starring – Henry Fonda (Lt. JG Douglas A. ‘Doug’ Roberts), James Cagney (Capt. Morton), William Powell (Lt. ‘Doc’), Jack Lemmon (Ens. Frank Thurlowe Pulver), Betsy Palmer (Lt. Ann Girard).

Released – July, 1955

Directed By – John Ford, Mervyn LeRoy

Produced By – Warner Brothers, Orange

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Cargo officer Lt. JG Roberts is serving aboard the re-supply ship the USS Reluctant, in the Pacific, near the end of World War II. While the Germans have surrendered, and the war in Europe has ended, there is still a great deal of fighting in the Pacific.

Lt. Roberts has repeatedly requested a transfer in order to join the action, but Capt. Morton knows he has the best supply officer in the service and refuses to sign Robert’s transfer orders. While Roberts relationship with the captain is testy, he has an excellent relationship with the zany crew of the Reluctant.

Capt. Morgan has refused, for the past year, to allow his crew any shore leave, and Roberts in order to get some leave for the crew, agrees to never again request a transfer. It seems that Lt. Roberts excellent performance just may play a role in a promotion for the Captain.

While Roberts is all about hard-work and efficiency, there is another side to this crew. Take Ensign Pulver for example, who avoids work at every opportunity and runs a very successful black-market buying and selling operation.

The shore leave for the men looks like it may be a big mistake. Once on shore the men are off and running, getting drunk, starting fights, crashing an embassy party, and more often than not, having to be returned to the ship by the Army’s military police.

This is only the beginning as the theft of a motorcycle, the ship’s secretary, and even a goat belonging to the Admiral come into play. Why all the bad behavior by the crew? They think Lt. Roberts has been a little too friendly to their tyrant of a captain and this is a betrayal of their trust.

After Capt. Morgan is given a good tongue-lashing by the Admiral for the trouble and embarrassment to the Navy caused by the crews behavior, the Capt. is furious at Roberts and has him sent to the captains quarters.

While there Capt. Morgan angrily berates Roberts without realizing that a microphone is on and the entire crew can hear the conversation. The crew now realize that Lt. Roberts acted in their behalf in order to get them some shore leave…and comic revenge on the captain is now the order of the day.

NOTABLE: Mister Roberts won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Lemmon), and was also nominated for Best Picture, and Best Sound, Recording.

Henry Fonda was the choice of director John Ford for the role of Lt. JG ‘Doug’ Roberts. Warner Brothers originally wanted William Holden or Marlon Brando for the role believing Fonda to have been on stage and off the screen for too long to provide much box office appeal. But, it was Fonda who won a Tony Award for playing the role on stage.

John Ford, who could be a very difficult director, was replaced with Mervyn LeRoy after reportedly clashing with Henry Fonda and punching him in the jaw.

The filming of Mister Roberts was the beginning of a long-time friendship between James Cagney and Jack Lemmon which lasted until Cagney’s death.

Mister Roberts was the final film for popular actor William Powell who had begun to develop health issues that caused him great difficulty remembering his lines. The part of Doc was originally offered to Spencer Tracy who declined the role.

Personal Note: This is a very entertaining comedy-drama  with a sparkling performance by Jack Lemmon. One which would lead him on the road to stardom.