The Rack


1h 40m 1956
The Rack

Brief Synopsis

A Korean War veteran is accused of cracking under enemy torture.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 2, 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 24 May 1956
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Fairfield--Travis Air Force Base, California, United States; San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "The Rack" by Rod Serling on The U.S. Steel Hour (CBS, 12 Apr 55).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8,993ft

Synopsis

After two years in a Korean prisoner of war camp, decorated war hero Capt. Edward Worthington Hall, Jr. returns to the Travis Air Force Base hospital in San Francisco, where psychiatrist Maj. Byron Phillips interviews him about his experience. Still in shock from suffering at the hands of his Chinese interrogators, Ed can only admit to being scared of returning home. Later at the hospital, Ed's brother's widow, Aggie, attempts to show the returning hero affection, although an uncomfortable Col. Edward Hall, Sr. is distant towards his only remaining son. Days later, attorney Maj. Sam Moulton reluctantly agrees to prosecute Ed, one of a number of prisoners of war accused of treason. The night before Ed is expected to return home, Aggie admits to neighbor Caroline that Ed's homecoming is a painful reminder of losing her husband Pete to the war. The next day, after he learns from Moulton that he is being brought before the Court Martial Board, Ed arrives home to a surprise party. Overwhelmed by the crowd, Ed retires to the kitchen, where Aggie comments on his vulnerability. Ed admits that during the war he began to exhibit some of his mother's sensitivity and laments that he, not Pete, returned from the war. After the party, Col. Dudley Smith finds Ed, Sr. happy about his son's return and, realizing that his friend is unaware of the court martial, informs him that his son is being accused of collaborating with the enemy. Outraged, Ed, Sr. confronts Ed, who admits to the charges, but bitterly defends his actions. The next morning, defense council Lt. Col. Frank Wasnick finds Ed in a hotel room ready to plead guilty, but Wasnick assures Ed that most men would have crumbled under the duress he experienced in Korea. Weeks later on the first day of the trial, Aggie arrives at the courthouse to support Ed, but his father, refusing to believe in Ed's innocence, does not. After Ed pleads not guilty to the charges, enlisted man Millard Chilson Cassidy, who was imprisoned with Ed at Camp Five in Pyoktong, North Korea in the winter of 1951, testifies that Ed threatened an injured soldier and claimed that it gave him "most honorable happiness and joy" to lecture the soldiers on "being nice to the Chinese." Second witness Sgt. Otto Pahnke testifies that Ed attempted to get soldiers to sign surrender papers, which Ed had signed. During Wasnick's questioning, however, Pahnke elaborates that Ed disappeared for over four months after his happiness and joy lecture and then returned to the camp in such an altered state that Pahnke, a World War II veteran, could only relate Ed's condition to those of prisoners he saw at the Dachau death camp. Upon questioning, witness Capt. John R. Miller, who was also held at Camp Five, accuses Ed of informing their captors about his escape plan and then recounts the hours of torture he endured in which he revealed nothing to the Chinese. After Miller lifts his shirt to show the courtroom the scars from the brutal interrogation, court is adjourned until the following day. Later that night, a drunken Ed returns to his hotel to find Aggie, who orders him to fight for his freedom. The next day, with Ed, Sr. now in attendance at the trial, Wasnick explains to the court that the Chinese have broken the rules of morality in their interrogation methods and no allowance has been made for soldiers who have suffered under the torture of the mind. Once on the stand, Ed describes his and his men's imprisonment: On the march to the camp, the Chinese ordered prisoners to bury anyone, dead or only wounded, who was being dragged on the slow-moving sledges. When the American soldiers who resisted were shot, Ed carried a wounded soldier four days so he would not be killed. Ed then explains that officers and enlisted men were kept in separate quarters. Despite having the same rations, the enlisted men were dying from despair. Frantic to save his men, he threatened the young soldier as Millard described, to provoke a fight among the enlisted men and rally them from their apathy. When he was then taken to Chinese headquarters, he agreed to give a propaganda lecture only to be able to return to his men. Writing it himself, Ed created a disingenuous version in hopes that the men would recognize his insincerity. Punishing him for the lecture, the Chinese sentenced him to solitary confinement in a dark, wet cellar room and tried to coerce him to sign surrender leaflets. After refusing, Ed was forced to lie in his own waste in the cell for weeks in the dark. Soon after, Ed was given a letter from his father announcing Pete's death, prompting Ed to collapse and agree to all the Chinese's demands. After testifying that the enemy forced him to write autobiographical notes to help the torturers weaken his sanity, Ed reluctantly agrees to read a passage: After his mother dies at an early age, Ed remembers that his father's ardent militarism kept him far from home and unable to kiss or embrace his sons. During his childhood, Ed often wishes that the painful loneliness caused by his father's detachment will end his own life. Wasnick then explains that the Chinese had a plan: They removed the soldier's leaders, worsened conditions and spread rumors of informers among them, thus causing the men to become lonely and distrustful. They would target the loneliest among the men to collaborate with them. Later that night in his car with his son, Ed, Sr. admits that through Ed's testimony he has been awakened to his own failures, embraces and then kisses Ed, Jr., asking if this is the affection he wanted and begging his son to come home. The next day in court, Moulton asks Ed if he indeed reached the "breaking point" of endurable anguish or if he merely feared it. Ed can only reply that he did not reach that point. In his closing arguments, Wasnick presents evidence that the Communists believe the prisoners underestimate their ability to survive because they underestimate themselves. Wasnick suggests that Ed was broken on the "rack" of his own loneliness because the United States leaders have left their men uninspired about democracy, uninformed about Communist tactics and unprepared for the limits of mental anguish. However, after the prosecution insists Ed ignored the simple rule of repeating "name, rank and serial number" to his captors, the court finds Ed guilty of treason with the exception of hitting the sick enlisted man. Inviting him to submit an extenuation, Ed tells the courtroom that he regrets not knowing the "magnificence" of holding out against the odds.

Photo Collections

The Rack - Paul Newman Publicity Photos
Here are a few photos taken to help publicize Paul Newman in MGM's The Rack (1956). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Rack, The (1956) - Traitor We don’t know what’s up with just-returned Korean War POW Ed (Paul Newman), except that he’s afraid of his family, and doesn’t want to leave the hospital, as he takes in the entertainment (Debbie Reynolds in MGM’s The Affairs Of Dobie Gillis), and fellow patient Lee Marvin gives us a clue, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - He Made A Strategic Withdrawal Now in a San Francisco hotel after a big fight with his career-military father, who found out he’s being court-martialed for cooperating with the enemy, just-returned Korean War POW Ed (Paul Newman), who considers himself guilty, gets a first visit from his defense attorney, Edmond O’Brien, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - I Didn't Want You To See Me Like This First direct meeting between Anne Francis as widowed sister-in-law Aggie, Walter Pidgeon as career-military dad Col. Hall Sr. and Paul Newman as Korean War POW Capt. Hall, on the day of his return to California, so traumatized he forgets his brother was Killed In Action, in The Rack, 1956, from a Rod Serling teleplay.
Rack, The (1956) - Where Are Your Ribbons? Reluctant JAG prosecutor (Wendell Corey as Maj. Moulton) conducts his first conference with his defendant, Paul Newman as highly decorated returning Korean War POW Capt. Hall, charged with collaborating with the enemy, his guilt or innocence not yet revealed, shooting on location at The Presidio, in MGM’s The Rack, 1956.
Rack, The (1956) - He Was Killed Over There Opening, with Walter Pidgeon and Anne Francis, not long after they appeared as father and daughter in Forbidden Planet, also for MGM, they’re war-widow and father-in-law, not quite greeting POW Paul Newman, returning from Korea, in The Rack, 1956, from a Rod Serling teleplay.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 2, 1956
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: week of 24 May 1956
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Fairfield--Travis Air Force Base, California, United States; San Francisco, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "The Rack" by Rod Serling on The U.S. Steel Hour (CBS, 12 Apr 55).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Film Length
8,993ft

Articles

The Rack


The wildfire success of The Caine Mutiny (1954) sent the studios scouring their script departments for other military courtroom dramas to bring to the big screen. Before you could say "unfit for active duty," Warners had The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955) before the cameras; MGM soon followed suit with The Rack (1956), a taut psychological drama about a Korean War traitor. The huge difference here was that, unlike Warner's big budget color and Cinemascope production, Metro lensed their movie in black and white, primarily choosing cast and crew from their former enemy - that dreaded little video box, television. The modestly budgeted result proved a smart move for reasons beyond economics. MGM had a lot banking on rising star Paul Newman, who was already signed to portray fighter Rocky Graziano in their upcoming biopic, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). The Rack would provide an excellent showcase for the actor, allowing him a wide range of emotions from self-assurance to complete breakdown. Originally the part was offered to Glenn Ford, who turned the role down for fear of typecasting; he had previously appeared in another courtroom drama for MGM - Trial (1955) - but, in actuality, he harbored severe reservations about portraying such an overwrought, conflicted character.

By the mid-50s TV was swiftly becoming the movies' major testing ground for new talent such as Paul Newman, and The Rack (1956) is virtually a textbook example of this practice. It mirrors George Sanders sardonic (and prophetic) reply to Marilyn Monroe as she considers a TV audition in All About Eve: "That's all television is - auditions." Aside from Newman, the stellar cast contains a number of stage and screen luminaries, who were currently making themselves familiar to television audiences: Edmond O'Brien, Wendell Corey, and character actors Robert Simon, Adam Williams and Barry Atwater. Furthermore, The Rack was peppered with an unusually select group of thespians who would eventually become familiar to future moviegoers: Cloris Leachman, Robert Blake, Dean Jones, James Best, Lee Marvin and Rod Taylor. As for the director, the prolific Arnold Laven, he would make his name in 60s television - being one of the prime forces behind the popular Western series, The Big Valley (1965-1969). Most prominently, however, was the source material for The Rack, a teleplay by Rod Serling, who, along with contemporaries Paddy Chayefsky and Horton Foote, set incredibly high standards for television drama before moving on to feature films.

Although The Rack finished shooting before the Graziano picture, Metro wisely held up release until Somebody Up There Likes Me opened nationally, thereby confirming Newman's promise as a worthy rival to Brando, Clift and the late James Dean. With the release of The Rack, Newman received more critical acclaim and was able to distance himself a little more from his 1954 appearance in The Silver Chalice, a movie he personally detested. For MGM, The Rack would prove a profitable surprise, particularly later in TV syndication, where it became a perennial favorite during the 1960s and 1970s, mainly due to Newman's presence and the extraordinary supporting players, so many of whom came into their own during the subsequent two decades.

Producer: Arthur M. Loew, Jr.
Director: Arnold Laven
Screenplay: Stewart Stern
Cinematography: Nicolas Vogel, Paul Vogel
Film Editing: Harold Kress, Marshall Neilan, Jr.
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch
Cast: Paul Newman (Capt. Edward W. Hall, Jr.), Wendell Corey (Maj. Sam Moulton), Walter Pidgeon (Col. Edward W. Hall, Sr.), Edmond O'Brien (Lt. Col. Frank Wasnick), Anne Francis (Aggie Hall).
BW-101m. Closed Captioning.

by Mel Neuhaus

The Rack

The Rack

The wildfire success of The Caine Mutiny (1954) sent the studios scouring their script departments for other military courtroom dramas to bring to the big screen. Before you could say "unfit for active duty," Warners had The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955) before the cameras; MGM soon followed suit with The Rack (1956), a taut psychological drama about a Korean War traitor. The huge difference here was that, unlike Warner's big budget color and Cinemascope production, Metro lensed their movie in black and white, primarily choosing cast and crew from their former enemy - that dreaded little video box, television. The modestly budgeted result proved a smart move for reasons beyond economics. MGM had a lot banking on rising star Paul Newman, who was already signed to portray fighter Rocky Graziano in their upcoming biopic, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956). The Rack would provide an excellent showcase for the actor, allowing him a wide range of emotions from self-assurance to complete breakdown. Originally the part was offered to Glenn Ford, who turned the role down for fear of typecasting; he had previously appeared in another courtroom drama for MGM - Trial (1955) - but, in actuality, he harbored severe reservations about portraying such an overwrought, conflicted character. By the mid-50s TV was swiftly becoming the movies' major testing ground for new talent such as Paul Newman, and The Rack (1956) is virtually a textbook example of this practice. It mirrors George Sanders sardonic (and prophetic) reply to Marilyn Monroe as she considers a TV audition in All About Eve: "That's all television is - auditions." Aside from Newman, the stellar cast contains a number of stage and screen luminaries, who were currently making themselves familiar to television audiences: Edmond O'Brien, Wendell Corey, and character actors Robert Simon, Adam Williams and Barry Atwater. Furthermore, The Rack was peppered with an unusually select group of thespians who would eventually become familiar to future moviegoers: Cloris Leachman, Robert Blake, Dean Jones, James Best, Lee Marvin and Rod Taylor. As for the director, the prolific Arnold Laven, he would make his name in 60s television - being one of the prime forces behind the popular Western series, The Big Valley (1965-1969). Most prominently, however, was the source material for The Rack, a teleplay by Rod Serling, who, along with contemporaries Paddy Chayefsky and Horton Foote, set incredibly high standards for television drama before moving on to feature films. Although The Rack finished shooting before the Graziano picture, Metro wisely held up release until Somebody Up There Likes Me opened nationally, thereby confirming Newman's promise as a worthy rival to Brando, Clift and the late James Dean. With the release of The Rack, Newman received more critical acclaim and was able to distance himself a little more from his 1954 appearance in The Silver Chalice, a movie he personally detested. For MGM, The Rack would prove a profitable surprise, particularly later in TV syndication, where it became a perennial favorite during the 1960s and 1970s, mainly due to Newman's presence and the extraordinary supporting players, so many of whom came into their own during the subsequent two decades. Producer: Arthur M. Loew, Jr. Director: Arnold Laven Screenplay: Stewart Stern Cinematography: Nicolas Vogel, Paul Vogel Film Editing: Harold Kress, Marshall Neilan, Jr. Original Music: Adolph Deutsch Cast: Paul Newman (Capt. Edward W. Hall, Jr.), Wendell Corey (Maj. Sam Moulton), Walter Pidgeon (Col. Edward W. Hall, Sr.), Edmond O'Brien (Lt. Col. Frank Wasnick), Anne Francis (Aggie Hall). BW-101m. Closed Captioning. by Mel Neuhaus

TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008) - Important Schedule Change for Paul Newman Tribute
Sunday, October 12


In Honor of Paul Newman, who died on September 26, TCM will air a tribute to the actor on Sunday, October 12th, replacing the current scheduled programming with the following movies:

Sunday, October 12 Program for TCM
6:00 AM The Rack
8:00 AM Until They Sail
10:00 AM Torn Curtain
12:15 PM Exodus
3:45 PM Sweet Bird of Youth
6:00 PM Hud
8:00 PM Somebody Up There Likes Me
10:00 PM Cool Hand Luke
12:15 AM Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
2:15 AM Rachel, Rachel
4:00 AM The Outrage


TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008)
Paul Newman, with his electric blue eyes and gutsy willingness to play anti-heroes, established himself as one of the movies' great leading men before settling into his latter-day career of flinty character acting. Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1925, Newman studied at the Yale Drama School and New York's Actors Studio before making his Broadway debut in Picnic.

Newman's breakthrough in films came in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), in which he played boxer Rocky Graziano. He quickly reinforced his reputation in such vehicles as The Rack (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), for which he won the first of nine Oscar® nominations as an actor.

In 1958, while shooting The Long Hot Summer (1958) - which earned him the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival - in Louisiana, he became re-acquainted with Joanne Woodward, who was the film's female lead. The two soon fell in love, and after divorcing Jackie, Newman and Woodward were married in Las Vegas in 1958. The couple appeared in numerous films together and had three daughters, which they raised far from Hollywood in the affluent neighborhood of Westport, CT.

The 1960s was a fruitful decade for Newman, who starred in such hits as Exodus (1960), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); and scored Oscar® nominations for The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963) and Cool Hand Luke (1967).

Newman's political activism also came to the forefront during the sixties, through tireless campaigning for Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign. His association with McCarthy led to his being named on future President Richard Nixon's infamous "Opponents List;" Newman, who ranked #19 out of 20, later commented that his inclusion was among the proudest achievements of his career.

Newman's superstar status - he was the top-ranking box office star in 1969 and 1970 - allowed him to experiment with film roles during the 1970s, which led to quirky choices like WUSA (1970), Sometimes a Great Notion (1971), Pocket Money (1972), and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) - all of which he also produced through First Artists, a company he established with fellow stars Sidney Poitier and Barbra Streisand.

After coming close to winning an Oscar® for Absence of Malice (1981), Newman finally won the award itself for The Color of Money (1986). He also received an honorary Oscar® in 1986 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994. A producer and director as well as an actor, Newman has directed his wife (and frequent costar) Joanne Woodward through some of her most effective screen performances [Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)].

He remained active as an actor in his later years, playing the Stage Manager in Our Town on both stage and television, lending his voice to the animated features Cars (2006) and Mater and the Ghostlight (2006). Off-screen, Newman set the standard for celebrity-driven charities with his Newman's Own brand of foods, which brought $200 million to causes, and the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children.

TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008) - Important Schedule Change for Paul Newman Tribute Sunday, October 12

In Honor of Paul Newman, who died on September 26, TCM will air a tribute to the actor on Sunday, October 12th, replacing the current scheduled programming with the following movies: Sunday, October 12 Program for TCM 6:00 AM The Rack 8:00 AM Until They Sail 10:00 AM Torn Curtain 12:15 PM Exodus 3:45 PM Sweet Bird of Youth 6:00 PM Hud 8:00 PM Somebody Up There Likes Me 10:00 PM Cool Hand Luke 12:15 AM Cat on a Hot Tin Roof 2:15 AM Rachel, Rachel 4:00 AM The Outrage TCM Remembers Paul Newman (1925-2008) Paul Newman, with his electric blue eyes and gutsy willingness to play anti-heroes, established himself as one of the movies' great leading men before settling into his latter-day career of flinty character acting. Born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1925, Newman studied at the Yale Drama School and New York's Actors Studio before making his Broadway debut in Picnic. Newman's breakthrough in films came in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), in which he played boxer Rocky Graziano. He quickly reinforced his reputation in such vehicles as The Rack (1956) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), for which he won the first of nine Oscar® nominations as an actor. In 1958, while shooting The Long Hot Summer (1958) - which earned him the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival - in Louisiana, he became re-acquainted with Joanne Woodward, who was the film's female lead. The two soon fell in love, and after divorcing Jackie, Newman and Woodward were married in Las Vegas in 1958. The couple appeared in numerous films together and had three daughters, which they raised far from Hollywood in the affluent neighborhood of Westport, CT. The 1960s was a fruitful decade for Newman, who starred in such hits as Exodus (1960), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); and scored Oscar® nominations for The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963) and Cool Hand Luke (1967). Newman's political activism also came to the forefront during the sixties, through tireless campaigning for Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign. His association with McCarthy led to his being named on future President Richard Nixon's infamous "Opponents List;" Newman, who ranked #19 out of 20, later commented that his inclusion was among the proudest achievements of his career. Newman's superstar status - he was the top-ranking box office star in 1969 and 1970 - allowed him to experiment with film roles during the 1970s, which led to quirky choices like WUSA (1970), Sometimes a Great Notion (1971), Pocket Money (1972), and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) - all of which he also produced through First Artists, a company he established with fellow stars Sidney Poitier and Barbra Streisand. After coming close to winning an Oscar® for Absence of Malice (1981), Newman finally won the award itself for The Color of Money (1986). He also received an honorary Oscar® in 1986 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1994. A producer and director as well as an actor, Newman has directed his wife (and frequent costar) Joanne Woodward through some of her most effective screen performances [Rachel, Rachel (1968), The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)]. He remained active as an actor in his later years, playing the Stage Manager in Our Town on both stage and television, lending his voice to the animated features Cars (2006) and Mater and the Ghostlight (2006). Off-screen, Newman set the standard for celebrity-driven charities with his Newman's Own brand of foods, which brought $200 million to causes, and the Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children.

Quotes

Do you know what's the matter with me?
- Captain Edward W. Hall Jr.
No.
- Aggie Hall
My mother wasn't in the army so I'm a half-breed.
- Captain Edward W. Hall Jr.

Trivia

Notes

As noted in historical sources, during the Korean War (25 June 1950-27 July 1953) North Korean forces captured and/or interned over 7,000 United States soldiers. Although the United Nations had adopted as of August 12, 1949 the "Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (POW)," delineating just treatment for POWs, North Korea was not a signatory on the document. During the conflict, American POWs were routinely underfed, poorly housed and brutally beaten. Over 2,500 American POWs died while in captivity.
       According to a September 12, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, Glenn Ford was considered for the lead role. Portions of the film were shot on location in California at Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield and San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring May 1956

Released in United States Spring May 1956