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Darby's Rangers

Darby's Rangers(1958)

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The opening title credit reads, "William A. Wellman's Darby's Rangers." The film begins with voice-over narration by Jack Warden, as "M/Sgt. Saul Rosen," explaining that the picture is dedicated to William Orlando Darby and his brave men. Warden's voice-over narration is then heard intermittently throughout the film. The picture ends with the following written statement: "With great appreciation for the cooperation of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense...We dedicate this picture to the Rangers, whose rugged hard-hitting methods of training inspired techniques now employed by all fighting units of the United States Army."
       As shown in the film, the U.S. Army Rangers were an all-volunteer force, commanded by Darby, first formed to spearhead Allied invasions during World War II. While most of the military incidents depicted in the film are true, the personal stories of the soldiers were fictional and some details of real events were changed, including the speed at which Darby is shown to earn his promotion to colonel. James Altieri, one of the original Rangers who trained with the First Battalion in Scotland, wrote the book on which the film is based, also entitled Darby's Rangers.
       Although a February 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that William Bowers would work on the film's script, his contribution, if any, is undetermined. According to Hollywood Reporter production charts and a final script for Darby's Rangers dated April 17, 1957, found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library, the original cast included Charlton Heston as Darby, James Garner as "Hank Bishop," Joanna Barnes as "Wendy Hollister" and Dennis Hopper as "Rollo Burns." In addition, a April 25, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item states that the producers considered Tab Hunter to play Rollo. That article notes that Hunter was unable to participate in the production because of the need to shoot pickup scenes for Lafayette Escadrille (see below), and that Heston had withdrawn from the role and filed a $250,000 suit against Warner Bros. for failing to uphold a verbal agreement under which he would earn five percent of the film's profits.
       In his autobiography, Heston noted that the suit was settled for a higher sum than that he would have earned from his percentage of the profits. On May 1, 1957, Hollywood Reporter reported that Garner, who had, according to Hollywood Reporter charts, been cast in a minor role, had been recast as Darby. Darby's Rangers marked the first starring role in a feature for Garner, who was at the time a popular television star of the series Maverick, and was the first film in a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. The role of Darby is considered to have launched Garner's film career as a leading man.
       According to a June 7, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, some scenes were shot on location at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, CA. Hollywood Reporter news items add Paul Fix, Paul Busch, Tito Vuolo and Forbes Murray to the cast, but they were not identifiable in the viewed print. Although Darby's Rangers was shot after the 1958 Warner Bros. film Lafayette Escadrille (see below), it was released first. Because of the release schedule, Darby's Rangers is not considered William A. Wellman's last film, but it does mark Etchika Choureau's American feature debut.