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Advance to the Rear (1964) is sure to entertain anyone who enjoys comedies that poke fun at Army life. The plot has a Union Cavalry unit of misfits sent on a top-secret mission to the Western territory during the Civil War. What they don't know is that that their "mission" is really to avoid where the real fighting is so they can't inadvertently sabotage a victory for the Union side.
Distinguished veteran actor Melvyn Douglas plays the sourpuss Colonel whose clumsy attempts to lead his inept men are undermined by his underling, Captain Jared Heath (Glenn Ford), the only competent soldier amidst a band of fools. When a beautiful Rebel spy (played by Stella Stevens) joins up with the Yankees and falls for Heath, things get even more complicated and amusing.
Based on the 1957 novel The Company of Cowards by Jack Schaefer, Advance to the Rear showcases the comedic talents of Glenn Ford and Melvyn Douglas, two actors usually associated with serious dramas. Some of the best character actors in Hollywood are also featured in funny supporting roles such as Jim Backus, Joan Blondell, Jesse Pearson and Alan Hale, Jr. Chuck Roberson, the long time stunt double for John Wayne, performs many of the film's stunts. Also serving as stunt coordinator is Hal Needham who would later graduate to directing Burt Reynolds comedies like Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Hooper (1978), a semi-autobiographical comedy that depicted the life of a Hollywood stunt man.
Director George Marshall had worked with star Glenn Ford in six films before Advance to the Rear including It Started With a Kiss and The Gazebo (both 1959) and enjoyed a mutually collaborative relationship with the actor. And Ford later insisted on having Marshall as his director when he did his 1971-72 television series Cade's County.
Producer: Ted Richmond
Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: William Bowers, Samuel A. Peeples
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Eddie Imazu
Cinematography: Milton R. Krasner
Stunts: Hal Needham, Chuck Roberson
Film Editing: Archie Marshek
Original Music: Randy Sparks
Cast: Glenn Ford (Capt. Jared Heath), Stella Stevens (Martha Lou Williams), Melvyn Douglas (Col. Claude Brackenbury), Jim Backus (General Willoughby), Joan Blondell (Easy Jenny), Andrew Prine (Private Owen Selous), Jesse Pearson (Corp. Silas Geary), Alan Hale, Jr. (Sgt. Beauregard Davis).
by Andrea Passafiume