The Gallant Men is a 1962-1963 ABC Warner Bros. Television series which depicted an infantry company of American soldiers fighting their way through Italy in World War II.
The Gallant Men dramatised the experiences of the fictional Able Company within the 36th Infantry Division, Fifth Army, beginning with the division’s amphibious landing at Salerno, Italy, on 09 September 1943. The pilot episode was directed by Robert Altman.
The company’s commander was Capt. Jim Benedict, played by William Reynolds, who later appeared in the long-running series, The F.B.I. Their exploits were narrated by a newspaper correspondent – Conley Wright, played by Robert McQueeney – who accompanied them on their missions. The show lasted only one season. It succumbed to tough competition from the other networks and tepid responses from critics and audiences. The show also faced unfavourable comparisons with ABC’s other World War II series launched the same year, Combat!.
The Gallant Men tended to be formulaic in plotting and characterisation, with such stereotypes as ladies’ man Private First Class Pete D’Angelo (played by Eddie Fontaine), hard-as-nails Sergeant John McKenna (Richard X. Slattery), and inseparable buddies Private’s Ernie Lucavich (Roland La Starza) and Sam Hanson (Robert Gothie). The regular cast would unrealistically dispatch large numbers of German troops while experiencing minimal or no injuries themselves in the Italian campaign, where historically the Allies suffered heavy casualties from determined German resistance that lasted until the end of World War II in Europe. Although promotional materials for the series promised a dramatisation of the Italian campaign from Salerno to Rome, the series played out nearly in real time. Its 26 episodes take place between September 1943 and early spring 1944.
The series blended original footage with shots from wartime newsreels and stock footage from Warner Bros. war films such as Force of Arms (1951), Darby’s Rangers (1958) and A Walk in the Sun (1945).
- William Reynolds … Captain Jim Benedict.
- Robert McQueeney … Conley Wright.
- Robert Ridgely … Lieutenant Frank Kimbro.
- Richard X. Slattery … First Sergeant John McKenna.
- Eddie Fontaine … Private First Class Pete D’Angelo.
- Roland La Starza … Private Ernie Lucavich.
- Roger Davis … Private Roger Gibson.
- Robert Gothie … Private Sam Hanson.
Warner Bros. television producer William T. Orr tried as early as 1960 to generate interest in a weekly dramatic series set in World War II. The early concept was called Battle Zone. The reception he found from the three major TV networks was lukewarm at best. “It wasn’t that the networks were hostile to the idea,” Orr told The New York Times in 1962. “They seemed to be in a kind of morass of indecision about it.” Orr also predicted that, if Gallant Men were successful, networks would warm to more series set during the war. Looking for more original programming in its 1962-63 TV season, ABC gave the green light to Battle Zone, which was re-titled The Gallant Men.
The pilot episode was budgeted at $170,000 ($1.46 million in 2020 dollars). In preparation for shooting, director Robert Altman and story editor Richard Bluel screened John Huston’s 1945 documentary The Battle of San Pietro. Eight days were spent on production, broken down into one day each for tests and post-production, and six shooting days. Primary filming took place in December 1961 and January 1962. Warner Bros. offered Altman a contract to continue directing the series, but the director found himself dissatisfied with Warner’s production style and accepted an offer from Combat! executive producer Selig J. Seligman instead.
Members of the principal cast received basic military training on the Warner backlot over the spring of 1962, led by two veterans of the Italian campaign, Maj. Richard Lauer and SFC Robert McClintic. The cast familiarised themselves with action sequences using trenches and bomb craters dug by studio special effects personnel.
In May 1962, Army Lieutenant Colonel David Sisco was tapped to be the series’ military adviser. By coincidence, Sisco was friends with. Major Homer Jones, the technical adviser for Combat! Sisco served in the 36th Infantry Division in Italy, the group depicted in The Gallant Men. His job was not just limited to teaching the actors how to properly shoot; at times, Sisco and his Army superiors nixed or altered storylines so as not to cast soldiers or the Army itself in a negative light. At least one television critic said such changes weakened the show.
Cancellation and Syndication
In December 1962, ABC pulled the plug on The Roy Rogers Show, opening an hour-long gap (7:30-8:30 pm ET) in the network’s Saturday primetime schedule. Gallant Men was moved into that timeslot. By February 1963, doubtful reports began to circulate about The Gallant Men’s future. Late that month, ABC announced it would not order a second season, and the same week William T. Orr was removed as head of Warner’s television division. Warner Bros. then tried to sell commissioned but unproduced episode scripts to Combat! That effort may have borne fruit, as three episodes from the second season of Combat! are credited to Gallant Men writers.
Before the year was out, Warner Bros. was selling the series’ 26 episodes to local stations across the country as part of its syndicated programme offerings. A magazine ad in February 1964 claimed Gallant Men reruns beat first-run network programming in the New York City television market, and that the series was running in 20 markets across the US. The series remained part of Warner Bros.’ television syndication package until at least 1968.
On 24 July 2012, Warner Bros. released The Gallant Men: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 via their Warner Archive Collection. This is a Manufacture-on-Demand (MOD) release, available exclusively in the US and only through Warner’s online store.
- Eddie Fontaine sang lyrics to Sy Miller’s end title song My Heart Belongs to You on one episode with Warner Bros. Records releasing the song of 45rpm.
- The Louis Marx and Company released a 1963 military playset with character figures from the show joining the usual American toy soldiers.
- In 1966, Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen recorded the song “Gallant Men.” It became a hit in the US, reaching #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the winter of 1967. It also reached #100 in Canada.
- In 1963, Dell Publishing produced one issue of a comic book based on the show. The comic book contained two original standalone stories not drawn from the broadcast episodes.
The Gallant Men Series
- Episode 01: Battle Zone (Pilot).
- Episode 02: Retreat to Concord.
- Episode 03: And Cain Cried Out.
- Episode 04: The Ninety-Eight Cent Man.
- Episode 05: One Moderately Peaceful Sunday.
- Episode 06: Lesson for a Lover.
- Episode 07: And the End of Evil Things.
- Episode 08: Some Tears Fall Dry.
- Episode 09: Fury in a Quiet Village.
- Episode 10: Signals for an End Run.
- Episode 11: Robertino.
- Episode 12: A Place to Die.
- Episode 13: Advance and Be Recognised.
- Episode 14: To Hold Up a Mirror.
- Episode 15: Boast Not of Tomorrow.
- Episode 16: The Dogs of War.
- Episode 17: The Bridge.
- Episode 18: The Leathernecks.
- Episode 19: Next of Kin.
- Episode 20: Operation Secret.
- Episode 21: The Warriors.
- Episode 22: One Puka Puka.
- Episode 23: Ol’ Buddy.
- Episode 24: A Taste of Peace.
- Episode 25: The Crucible.
- Episode 26: Tommy.
Production & Filming Details
- Charles R. Rondeau … (11 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Richard C. Sarafian … (9 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Robert Sparr … (2 episodes, 1963).
- Robert Altman … (1 episode, 1962).
- Robert Totten … (1 episode, 1962).
- Richard L. Bare … (1 episode, 1963).
- Leslie H. Martinson … (1 episode, 1963).
- Richard M. Bluel … producer (26 episodes, 1962-1963).
- William T. Orr … executive producer (26 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Richard DeLong Adams … (1 episode, 1962).
- Richard M. Bluel … (story) (1 episode, 1962).
- Leonard Brown … (story) (1 episode, 1962).
- William Bruckner … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1962).
- William P. D’Angelo … (story) (1 episode, 1962).
- Jerry Davis … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1962).
- Arthur Fitz-Richard … (story) (1 episode, 1962).
- Elton Floring … (story) (1 episode, 1963).
- Berne Giler … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1962).
- David Giler … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1962).
- Herman Groves … (writer) (3 episodes, 1962-1963).
- William Koenig … (writer) (1 episode, 1963).
- Richard H. Landau … (teleplay) (3 episodes, 1962-1963).
- David Lang … (2 episodes, 1962-1963).
- David Lang … (writer) (1 episode, 1963).
- Stephen Lord … (1 episode, 1962).
- Richard Macaulay … (magazine article) (1 episode, 1963).
- James Merriam Moore … (story) (1 episode, 1962).
- George O’Hanlon … (writer) (1 episode, 1963).
- George O’Hanlon … (written by) (1 episode, 1962).
- James O’Hanlon … (writer) (1 episode, 1963).
- James O’Hanlon … (written by) (1 episode, 1962).
- Ken Pettus … (writer) (3 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Ken Pettus … (teleplay) (2 episodes, 1963).
- Montgomery Pittman … (1 episode, 1962).
- Andrew Rosenthal … (play) (1 episode, 1963).
- Charles Smith … (writer) (1 episode, 1963).
- William L. Stuart … (story) (1 episode, 1963).
- Don Tait … (2 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Don Tait … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1963).
- Halsted Welles … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1962).
- Jason Wingreen … (story) (1 episode, 1963).
- Jason Wingreen … (teleplay) (1 episode, 1963).
- Howard Jackson … (7 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Jacques R. Marquette … (5 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Carl E. Guthrie … (3 episodes, 1962).
- Harold E. Stine … (1 episode, 1962).
- Ray Fernstrom … (1 episode, 1963).
- Noel L. Scott … (2 episodes, 1962-1963).
- Byron Chudnow … (1 episode, 1962).
- Elbert K. Hollingsworth … (1 episode, 1962).
- Milt Kleinberg … (1 episode, 1962).
- Leo H. Shreve … (1 episode, 1962).
- David Wages … (1 episode, 1962).
- Warner Bros. Television.
- American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1962-1963) (USA) (TV) (original airing).
- Warner Bros. Television (1963) (World-wide) (TV) (syndication).
- Warner Home Video (2012) (USA) (DVD) (dvdr) (complete series).
- Release Date: 05 October 1962 to 30 March 1963.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Running Time: 60 minutes (per episode).
- Country: US.
- Language: English.