Battle Cry (1955)


Introduction

Battle Cry is a 1955 Warner Color film, starring Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, James Whitmore, Tab Hunter, Anne Francis, Dorothy Malone, Raymond Massey, and Mona Freeman in CinemaScope.

The film is based on the 1953 novel by former Marine Leon Uris, who also wrote the screenplay, and was produced and directed by Raoul Walsh.

Outline

In January 1942, as many young men respond to the call for Marine Corps recruits, All-American athlete Danny Forrester boards a train in Baltimore, Maryland, after saying goodbye to his family and girl friend Kathy. The train picks up other recruits en-route to the Marine training camp near San Diego, including womanizing lumberjack Andy Hookans, bookish Marion Hodgkiss, Navajo Indian Shining Lighttower, troublemaking “Spanish” Joe Gomez, L.Q. Jones of Arkansas, Speedy of Texas, and the Philadelphian Ski, who is eager to escape the slums, but upset to leave his girl friend Susan.

Several weeks later, after the arduous training of boot camp, the men are accepted into radio school and assigned to the battalion commanded by Major Sam “High Pockets” Huxley. The Marines continue their military training and receive rigorous communication instruction from Sergeant Mac, but on weekends they get passes to San Diego. In a sleazy bar there, Ski drowns his sorrows in alcohol and women to forget that Susan has married another man. Concerned about him, Mac and his fellow Marines go to the bar, believing they are coming to his rescue, and get in a brawl with others there. Danny is saved from excessive drinking by the married USO worker Elaine Yarborough, and begins a relationship with her, until Mac, noticing a change in his performance, arranges for him to call Kathy long-distance. Recognising the young man’s loneliness, Mac and Huxley grant him a furlough to Baltimore, during which Danny elopes with Kathy. Meanwhile, the meditative Marion, who hopes to write about his wartime experiences, meets the beautiful and mysterious Rae on the Coronado ferryboat. Although she meets him there frequently and seems to admire him greatly, she will not share with him details about her life. Marion learns why she has been evasive, when she shows up with other B-girls ordered by Joe, at a party celebrating the regiment’s orders to ship out.

The men are sent to Wellington, New Zealand, where they are warmly received. Andy, who respects no woman, tries to woo the married Pat Rogers by suggesting that he fill the void left by her husband, whom he believes is fighting in Africa. After the offended Pat tells him her husband died in action, Andy apologises for the first time ever. Pat later invites the reformed Andy to visit her parents’ farm, where, despite their attraction, they agree to remain friends only. After Christmas, the Sixth Regiment, now known as “Huxley’s Harlots,” is sent to Guadalcanal after the invasion to “mop up” a resistant band of Japanese soldiers.

Afterward, the battle-weary men, minus Ski, who was killed by a sniper, return to New Zealand, where Pat nurses the malaria-stricken Andy and decides to risk a short-term romance with him. To restore the men’s stamina, Huxley, newly promoted to lieutenant colonel, orders them to compete in a brutal 60-mile hike, and while other companies are trucked back to camp, Huxley has his men hike the whole way, blistered and near collapse, but in record-breaking time. Aware that his men are special, Huxley is frustrated when they are not ordered to Tarawa with the main invasion, but held back to clear out remaining Japanese resistance afterward. Pat is afraid of losing another love to the war and tells Andy that she wants to break up, but Andy refuses and asks her to marry him. Although frightened, she accepts and only then admits that she is pregnant. With Huxley’s assistance in cutting through red tape, Andy and Pat marry, but two days later, when the men are to ship out, Andy considers deserting to stay with Pat. Instead of arresting him, Huxley asks Pat to convince Andy to return voluntarily.

At Tarawa, Huxley’s men fulfil their mission, but Marion and many others are killed. Afterward, while standing by on reserve on a Hawaiian island, Huxley receives word that other battalions are being moved out for combat. Sensing the restlessness of his men, Huxley risks court-martial to convince Gen. Snipes that the talents of his battalion are being wasted. Although at first offended by Huxley’s “impudence,” Snipes assigns the battalion to the invasion of Red Beach, the most dangerous mission in the Saipan campaign. The men are isolated from the rest of the division, and suffer heavy casualties from artillery fired from the hills above them. Huxley is killed, and Danny and Andy are seriously injured. However, the battalion holds out until a Navy destroyer pins down the Japanese, freeing the Marines to complete their mission. Later, at a rest camp, while recuperating from the loss of a leg, Andy becomes too demoralised to communicate with Pat or his concerned friends, but tough words from Mac make him realise that Pat still loves him. Andy returns to her and his baby son after completing rehabilitation. Danny is also given a medical discharge and returns by train to Baltimore, accompanied by Mac, who is visiting the families of men killed in action. In Baltimore, they say goodbye and Danny reunites with the waiting Kathy, as fresh recruits board the train.

Cast

  • Van Heflin as Major (later, Lieutenant Colonel) Sam “High Pockets” Huxley (Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment).
  • Aldo Ray as Private First Class (PFC) Andy Hookens.
  • Nancy Olson as Pat Rogers/Mrs. Pat Rogers.
  • James Whitmore as Master Technical Sergeant Mac.
  • Tab Hunter as PFC/Corporal Danny Forrester.
  • Anne Francis as Kathy, Danny’s girl/Mrs. Danny Forrester.
  • Dorothy Malone as Mrs. Elaine Yarborough, USO Manager.
  • Raymond Massey as Major General Snipes.
  • Mona Freeman as Rae/Party girl.
  • William Campbell as PFC ‘Ski’ Wronski.
  • John Lupton as Private/Corporal Marion ‘Sister Mary’ Hotchkiss.
  • Justus E. McQueen as Private L.Q. Jones.
  • Perry Lopez as Private Joe Gomez aka Spanish Joe.
  • Fess Parker as Private Speedy.
  • Willis Bouchey as Mr. Forrester.
  • Jonas Applegarth as Private Lighttower (Navajo phonetalker).
  • Felix Noriego as Private Crazy Horse (Navajo phonetalker).
  • Rhys Williams as Pat Rogers’s father.

Production

The film was shot at Camp Pendleton, California, and featured a large amount of cooperation from the United States Marine Corps.

Release

Battle Cry received an Academy Award nomination for Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture by composer Max Steiner. The film also got critical reception from Bosley Crowther of The New York Times who criticised the film for being too focused on love than war, which was the opposite of what the Marines had experienced in Pacific during World War II.

Music

The film featured the song “Honey-Babe” by Art Mooney which reached number 6 on the US pop chart in 1955.

Trivia

  • Film debut of L.Q. Jones (billed under his real name of “Justus E. McQueen”; he took his character’s name in this film as his real name after this film was released).
  • The transport the green Marines boarding to take them to Guadalcanal is the USS Talladega (APA-208) an attack transport.
  • The transport shown at dock side after Andy’s marriage to Pat on which his battalion is shipping out, is the USS Pickaway (APA-222).
    • It was an attack transport commissioned 12 December 1944.
  • The ship shown in the Saipan landing scene was the USS Pima County (LST-1081).
  • When recruit L.Q. Jones returns to boot camp one evening, he tells his buddies about his distaste for a movie he saw while on leave.
    • He describes the films’s plot, which involves a Marine private who falls in love with a Navy lieutenant and saves the life of his drill instructor.
    • Though the film’s title is never mentioned, this is an exact description of the 20th Century-Fox film To the Shores of Tripoli (1942).
    • Since “Battle Cry” was produced by a different studio (Warner Brothers), this may explain Jones’ omission of the film’s title.
  • Leon Uris, author of the novel on which the film is based, served during World War II as a radio man in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, both the same military occupational specialty and organisation of the novel and film’s characters.
    • Uris was engaged in combat during the Guadalcanal and Tarawa campaigns, being evacuated with malaria before the novel and film’s climactic Saipan campaign.
  • When the men are in their dress uniforms, each are wearing the French Fourragère.
    • The fourragère is braided cord that is looped around the shoulder.
    • The men are in the Second Battalion, 6th Marines.
    • The fourragère is in recognition of the 6th Marines being awarded French Croix de Guerre three times during WWI.
    • Since that time current members of the 6th Marines have worn the fourragère.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Raoul Walsh.
  • Producer(s): Raoul Walsh and jack L. Warner.
  • Writer(s): Leon Uris.
  • Music: Max Steiner.
  • Cinematography: Sidney Hickox.
  • Editor(s): William H. Zeigler.
  • Production: Warner Bros.
  • Distributor(s): Warner Bros.
  • Release Date: 01 February 1955 (Premiere, Baltimore, US).
  • Running time: 159 minutes.
  • Rating: A.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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