One Minute to Zero
Cast & Crew
In Seoul, as invasion from the Communist north appears imminent, experienced American military men like Army colonel Steve Janowski and Col. John Parker of the Air Force, work together to help South Korea prepare for war. Dedicated United Nations nurse Linda Day, however, opposes using military force and freely voices her opinion to Steve. Despite their political differences, Steve is attracted to Linda, and when an airborne sniper starts shooting at them outside their hotel, he shields her body with his. Unnerved by the intimate contact, Linda informs Steve that her name is "Mrs. Day." Soon after, while conferring with John at an airfield, Steve spots Linda, who intends to accompany the American military, and carries her against her will to a Japan-bound evacuation plane. Moments after the plane takes off, the airfield is bombed by North Koreans in Russian-made airplanes. Later, in Japan, John learns that he and other Air Force pilots are to fly missions in Korea and bids his supportive wife Mary goodbye. The first days of the war do not go well for the South, and Steve feels compelled to take over a platoon that has lost its commander. Working with John, Steve and his men succeed in destroying North Korean tanks and are pleasantly surprised when Australian pilots join the effort. During another enemy encounter, Steve is wounded and flown to a hospital in Japan. On the day of his release, Linda visits and thanks him for saving her life at the airfield. Steve and Linda make a dinner date, and when he arrives at her apartment, Linda admits she is a widow. After enjoying Linda's home cooked food, Steve tells her that she is the first honest woman he has ever met and kisses her. Later, Steve presents Linda with an engagement ring, but she turns him down, revealing the grief she suffered when her husband was killed in battle during World War II. Although Steve understands Linda's reluctance to marry a soldier, he returns to Korea broken-hearted. At the North Korean border, Steve reunites with his platoon, while Linda and other United Nations workers struggle to help refugees who are streaming in from the north. When Steve realizes that disguised North Korean soldiers have hidden themselves among the refugees, he orders a person-by-person inspection, which causes a significant back-up. While John drops leaflets on the refugees from his plane, asking them not to cross, armed Communist soldiers force the crowd to push forward. Hoping to scare the refugees, Steve directs his men to fire rounds over them, and when that tactic fails, orders a full-scale assault. Linda witnesses the attack, during which many refugees as well as Communists lose their lives, and angrily condemns Steve. Later, in Seoul, Linda runs into John, who tells her that Steve had no choice and shows her photographs of captured Americans tortured and killed by Communists. Filled with remorse, Linda asks John to convey her apologies to Steve, then goes to a church to pray for forgiveness. Back at the front, Steve presents a plan to stop the Communists' supply route by launching a raid in North Korean territory. Despite the risks, the commanding generals approve Steve's idea, and during the night, Steve's platoon sneaks across the border and attacks the first supply truck that comes along. The disabled truck is left in the road, blocking the next truck, which Steve's men also attack. By morning, the entire supply convoy is jammed up on the road, and John and his men begin an aerial assault. Soon, however, Steve's platoon is surrounded by North Korean soldiers, and a fierce battle ensues. That night, when word comes that ammunition for the now-defenseless platoon will not be flown in until daylight, John volunteers to drop the load in the dark. John completes the delivery, but his plane is hit, and he is killed when his parachute catches on fire. Despite John's death, the mission is a success, and Steve learns he is to be promoted to general. As a combat-weary Steve is leaving the battlefield, Linda finds him and begs his forgiveness. Steve calmly informs Linda that someday soon she will be his wife, then heads off for his next mission.
Johnny Louie Jee
Dr. Henry De Young
Pierre Andre Moreau
Cliff P. Broughton
Albert S. D'agostino
William Wister Haines
Capt. Edward R. Harrison Usa
Lt. Col. S. Paul Latiolais Usaf
John R. Murphy
Clarence A. Shoop
Dr. Henry De Young
One Minute to Zero
In the spring of 1950, with forces mobilizing on both sides of the 38th Parallel, Air Force Col. Steve Janowski (Robert Mitchum) is advising South Korean troops on anti-tank maneuvers when the first hostile fire comes from the North. With warfare underway, Janowski and brother-in-arms Col. John Parker (William Talman) are directed to get all American citizens out of the country, a task made exceedingly difficult by Mrs. Landa Day (Ann Blyth), a willful U.N. functionary with no intention of leaving quietly.
With that mission accomplished, Parker heads to Japan, where the brass is determined to remain entrenched in the South. Janowski, hoofing through the battlefields with the grizzled but amiable Sgt. Baker (Charles McGraw), rallies a pinned-down company and bolsters the confidence of their tough but overmatched topkick Capt. Ralston (Richard Egan). An enemy grenade results in Janowski's hospitalization, and he takes the opportunity during his recovery to reunite with Landa. As their relationship grows, he learns why she has reservations about being involved with a military man. It makes it all the more difficult for Steve to return to the front, on a near-impossible mission to close up a critical supply line.
While Blyth is effective as the plucky aid worker/romantic interest, she was recruited for the role at the last minute. With three-quarters of the location shooting in the can, the originally cast Claudette Colbert was stricken with pneumonia, and had to drop out of the production. Garnett had flown in from the Colorado Springs location to Hollywood in order to lobby for Joan Crawford's services, only to have Hughes instruct him to turn around. The script had to be retooled on the fly to make the role age-appropriate for the younger Blyth. She registered well with Mitchum, notably in a dinner sequence where they performed a charming rendition of the Japanese folk song Tell Me Golden Moon.
While the frigid temperatures on location were very trying, Garnett recalled in his autobiography Light Your Torches and Pull Up Your Tights how circumstances, all in all, could have been worse. "One of the delights of working for Mr. Hughes was that his film companies went platinum-plated First Class," he wrote. "Our cast and crew (about 200 people) were housed in Anderson Company weatherproofed tents having plywood floors covered with heavy linoleum. Each tent had its own heating unit, private shower, and bathroom facilities."
In his heyday, it would be unusual for any shoot of Mitchum's to go off without incident, and One Minute to Zero proved no exception. On an evening where he, Egan, McGraw and other cast members stopped into the hotel bar for refreshment, an argument between McGraw and an army private escalated into a shoving match; Mitchum's efforts to break it up only resulted in a furious fistfight. The soldier got the worst of it, having to be stretchered out when the dust settled. "The incident might have rated only a paragraph," biographer George Eells recounted in Robert Mitchum (Franklin Watts ), "had Mitchum's adversary not turned out to be [a] former light heavyweight professional boxer with a record of twenty-six wins--nineteen of them knockouts--and two losses between 1946 and 1947."
Egan recounted for Eells that "the military authorities were going to withdraw permission for us to continue filming until Howard Hughes stepped in and pulled some strings to get the camera rolling again." The experience bonded Egan with the star; Mitchum would also form a fast and profound friendship with Egan's brother, a priest. "Working with him I learned a lesson of generosity that I have seldom encountered in this business," Egan stated. "To him the better the actors, the better the picture...Many a career has been inhibited because a star didn't want strong competition. Mitchum not only didn't object, he welcomed you."
Producer: Edmund Grainger
Director: Tay Garnett
Screenplay: William Wister Haines, Milton Krims, Andrew Solt
Cinematography: William E. Snyder
Film Editing: Robert Belcher
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino, Jack Okey
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Robert Mitchum (Col/Brig. Gen Steve Janowski), Ann Blyth (Mrs. Landa Day), William Talman (Col. Joe Parker), Charles McGraw (Sfc. Baker), Margaret Sheridan (Mary Parker), Richard Egan (Capt./Maj. Ralston).
by Jay S. Steinberg
One Minute to Zero
The working titles of this film were Operation O and The Korean Story. Voice-over narration, spoken by Ann Blyth as her character, "Linda Day," is heard at the beginning of the picture. The score's love theme, written by Victor Young, was adapted into a song entitled "When I Fall in Love." Edward Heyman wrote lyrics for the tune, which became a hit for Nat King Cole.
Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times and Daily Variety news items add the following information about the production: In November 1950, Sam Bischoff was announced as the film's producer and Ted Tetzlaff, the director. Bischoff conferred with military authorities in Washington, D.C., and hired Lt. Col. Stanley Paul Latiolais, the director of combat operations for the 5th Air Force in Korea, as technical advisor. Tetzlaff scouted locations in Tokyo and Korea as well as Hawaii and Texas, and met with Army officials in San Francisco. According to Hollywood Reporter, the U.S. Army and Air Force requested that production on the film be "expedited." In late January 1951, however, the picture was postponed because events in Korea made shooting there untenable and no American location was deemed suitable. Jayne Meadows tested for the female lead in early 1951.
Edmund Grainger replaced Bischoff as producer in early May 1951, and in late May, sent a second unit to Lake Success, Long Island, NY, where shots of United Nations sessions were reportedly taken. In mid-June 1951, Tay Garnett signed on as director. Following conferences with the Department of Defense, Camp Carson and Peterson Field near Colorado Springs, CO, were chosen as location sites for the ground and aerial sequences. Formations of Mustang fighter planes from Buckley Field in Denver and F-80 jets from Peterson Field were used in the aerial sequences. In late August 1951, a second unit crew was sent to Korea to shoot "preliminary sequences." Robert Young was announced as Robert Mitchum's possible co-star in late August 1951, just before the start of principal photography. Claudette Colbert was first cast as Linda, but was replaced by Ann Blyth two months into filming after Colbert contracted pneumonia. Following Colbert's departure, Andrew Solt was hired to rewrite the script's "feminine" scenes.
In addition to Latiolais and Capt. Edward R. Harrison of the Army, Dr. Henry de Young, a former Korean Minister to General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters, was hired as technical advisor. De Young also appeared in the picture as "General Chin." One hundred seventy-five Korean War veterans performed as extras in the film. Added scenes were shot at Nellis Airport in Las Vegas, NV. Dale Van Sickle, Bud Wolfe, John Daheim, Jimmie Dundee, Joy Dixon and Ronnie Patterson were announced as cast members, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. John Mallory, who plays a soldier in the picture, was Mitchum's real-life brother, and One Minute to Zero marked the first time that the two appeared together onscreen.
Although RKO publicized the picture as the first Korean War film made with full, "official cooperation" from the Army and Air Force, the Pentagon notified all Army Public Relations offices in July 1952 not to endorse the film in any way. According to a Daily Variety news item, during pre-production, the Army and Department of Defense had objected to a particular sequence in the script, which RKO refused to remove. The item speculates that the offending sequence was the one in which Mitchum orders an assault on a crowd of Korean refugees. According to the item, One Minute to Zero marked the first time that any major studio received military cooperation during production, then lost it upon release. Modern sources list the production budget at $2,181,000 and note that actual Korean War footage is included in the picture.