What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? is a 1966 comedy DeLuxe Colour film written by William Peter Blatty and directed by Blake Edwards for the Mirisch Company in Panavision. It stars James Coburn and Dick Shawn.
During the Allied invasion of Sicily, an outfit of US soldiers is assigned to capture the small town of “Valerno”, but upon arrival, they discover that the townsfolk have been expecting them and will willingly turn themselves over to the Americans’ rule, provided they are permitted to complete a soccer match and a wine festival.
Romance and frivolity ensue, as a reluctant, by-the-book Capt. Cash (Dick Shawn) is persuaded by easy-going Lieutenant Christian (James Coburn) to go along with the locals’ wishes. The Germans mistaking the festival for an attack, after an aerial reconnaissance of the town, a nearby German Panzer unit is ordered come to the Italians’ aid, but the Americans accidentally end up conquering all.
- James Coburn as Lieutenant Jody Christian.
- Dick Shawn as Captain Lionel Cash.
- Sergio Fantoni as Captain Fausto Oppo.
- Giovanna Ralli as Gina Romano.
- Aldo Ray as Sergeant Rizzo.
- Harry Morgan as Major Pott.
- Carroll O’Connor as General Max Bolt.
- Leon Askin as Colonel Kastorp.
- Rico Cattani as Benedetto (as Henry Rico Cattani).
- Jay Novello as Mayor Giuseppe Romano.
- Ralph Manza as Waiter.
- Vito Scotti as Frederico.
- Johnny Seven as Vittorio.
- Art Lewis as Needleman.
- William Bryant as Minow.
- Kurt Kreuger as German Captain.
The title of the film came to Edwards when he was asked the question by his son Geoffrey. As Edwards was having marital problems at the time, he did not want to leave the United States, so Mirisch Productions agreed to film the movie in Lake Sherwood, California, for $5 million that included the construction of a large Italian village set. In his study of Edwards, Myron Meisel stated that Coburn imitated Blake Edwards’ mannerisms throughout the film.
The film was the first of what was originally intended to be six Mirisch-Geoffrey Productions between Edwards and the Mirisch Company. Only one other film, The Party, was completed.
William Peter Blatty recalled that Edwards and he originally agreed to make the film grim and without comedy for the first 20 minutes. This idea was shelved when, during the scene where Captain Cash visits Charlie Company at their chow line, he holds out his hand and one of the GI mess orderlies ladles beans into the captain’s hand.
The score is by Henry Mancini. It includes “The Swing March” and “In the Arms of Love”.
The film grossed $2,650,000 at the box office.
- In what had been a cow pasture, designer Fernando Carrere fabricated a storybook Sicilian village which added $800,000 to the production’s already elevated $5.5 million budget.
- Harry Morgan played Major Potts who becomes comically nonsensical in this movie.
- In the third season of the TV series MASH, he played essentially the same character as Major General Bartford Hamilton Steele.
- The episode was “The General Flipped at Dawn“, which first aired on 10 September 1974.
- When McLean Stevenson as Colonel Henry Blake, left the show at the end of the 3rd season, the producers hired Morgan and created a new character, Colonel Potter.
- Interestingly, Potter is similar to the name of role he played here; Major Pott, sometimes referred to as “Potty”.
- The film makes fun of the historically and notoriously accurate behaviour of the Italian troops who, in the absence of any German support, capitulated almost immediately upon any interaction with allied forces.
Production & Filming Details
- Blake Edwards.
- Dick Crockett … associate producer.
- Owen Crump … executive producer.
- Blake Edwards … producer.
- William Peter Blatty … (screenplay).
- Blake Edwards … (story).
- Maurice Richlin … (story).
- Henry Mancini.
- Philip H. Lathrop … director of photography (as Philip Lathrop).
- Ralph E. Winters.
- The Mirisch Corporation (as Mirisch-Geoffrey Productions).
- United Artists (1966) (USA) (theatrical).
- United Artists (1966) (UK) (theatrical).
- United Artists (1967) (Japan) (theatrical).
- United Artists (1967) (Sweden) (theatrical).
- United Artists (1967) (West Germany) (theatrical).
- Kommunenes Filmcentral (KF) (1967) (Norway) (theatrical).
- United Artists (1967) (France) (theatrical).
- Nova Film (Netherlands) (theatrical).
- National Broadcasting Company (NBC) (1972) (USA) (TV).
- United Artists (1985) (World-wide) (all media).
- MGM/UA Home Entertainment (1993) (USA) (VHS).
- MGM/UA Home Entertainment (2008) (USA) (DVD).
- Optimum Home Entertainment (2008) (UK) (DVD).
- Divisa Home Video (2009) (Spain) (DVD).
- EuroVideo (2011) (Germany) (DVD).
- Release Date: 31 August 1966 (New York City, US).
- Rating: A.
- Running Time: 116 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.