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Synopsis: The Lee Platoon of the Texas Division of the Army is landing on the beach near Salerno, Italy, with the objective of blowing up a bridge and capturing a farmhouse six miles inland. When the lieutenant is injured by a shell fragment on the landing barge, the sergeants must figure out how to accomplish the objective on their own. Threatened by German airplanes and tanks, the men struggle to keep their courage.
In his New York Times review of A Walk in the Sun (1945), Bosley Crowther singled out Dana Andrews for praise among what he characterized as a "generally superlative cast." (Today one might argue that Andrews is upstaged by the colorful performance of Richard Conte, the Jersey-born, Italian-American actor who plays a Jersey-born, Italian-American soldier.) A Walk in the Sun was actually the third picture Andrews made with director Lewis Milestone. The previous two were The North Star (1943), about a Russian village's struggle against German soldiers, and The Purple Heart (1944), about the capture and trial of a group of American flyers by the Japanese. At the time, the actor was under joint contract with Samuel Goldwyn Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox. Other notable roles for Andrews during this period include The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), the Otto Preminger films Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). His tense demeanor was well suited both for war films and for film noir.
Lewis Milestone (1895-1980) was born as Lev Milstein in Kishinev, Russia, which is presently Chisinau, Moldova. He emigrated to the US in 1917 and fought in France during World War I. His direct experience with combat no doubt provided him with rich material for the war films he would later make, the greatest of them undoubtedly being All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). A 1962 article in Films and Filming characterized his work as typically concerning "the reactions of men in difficult or dangerous circumstances," a pattern which holds true for his war films and the comedies The Front Page (1931) and Ocean's Eleven (1960), though one would be hard pressed to apply that formula to the musical Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933) or the melodrama The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).
Milestone's predilection for camera movements made All Quiet on the Western Front among the most stylistically advanced films of the early sound era, and there is also ample dynamism in A Walk in the Sun. The opening sequence on the landing barge is set entirely in darkness; while this is realistically motivated, the cinematographer Russell Harlan handles it with great skill. Also striking is Milestone's frequent use of lateral tracking shots during the combat scenes, directly recalling All Quiet on the Western Front.
If the film's lively, wisecracking dialogue recalls Warner Brothers classics of the Thirties, it's worth noting that scriptwriter Robert Rossen also worked on key Warner Brothers films such as Marked Woman (1937) and The Roaring Twenties (1939). Rossen collaborated again with Milestone on The Strange Love of Martha Ivers before striking out on his own as the director of films such as Body and Soul (1947), All the King's Men (1949), and The Hustler (1961). However, much of the credit must go to Harry Brown (1917-1986), the author of the well-regarded 1944 source novel. The film's dialogue often follows the novel closely and otherwise remains close in spirit, albeit with some of the coarse language cleaned up for the censors. After the popular success of the novel, Brown went on to write scripts for a number of films, including Milestone's Arch of Triumph (1948) and Ocean's Eleven. Brown received an Academy Award nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and won Best Screenplay for A Place in the Sun (1951).
Producer: Lewis Milestone
Director: Lewis Milestone
Screenplay: Robert Rossen, Harry Brown (novel)
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Film Editing: W. Duncan Mansfield
Art Direction: Max Bertisch
Music: Freddie Rich
Cast: Dana Andrews (Sgt. Bill Tyne), Richard Conte (Pvt. Rivera), George Tyne (Pvt. Friedman), John Ireland (Pvt. Windy Craven), Lloyd Bridges (Sgt. Ward), Sterling Holloway (McWilliams).
by James Steffen