Cast & Crew
In January 1942, as many young men respond to the call for Marine Corp recruits, All-American athlete Danny Forrester boards a train in Baltimore, Maryland, after saying goodbye to his family and girl friend Kathy. The train picks up other recruits en route to the Marine training camp near San Diego, including womanizing lumberjack Andy Hookans, bookish Marion Hodgkiss, Navajo Indian Shining Lighttower, troublemaking "Spanish" Joe Gomez, L. Q. Jones of Arkansas, Speedy of Texas, and the Philadelphian Ski, who is eager to escape the slums, but upset to leave his girl friend Susan. Several weeks later, after the arduous training of boot camp, the men are accepted into radio school and assigned to the battalion commanded by Maj. Sam "High Pockets" Huxley. The Marines continue their military training and receive rigorous communication instruction from Sgt. Mac, but on weekends they get passes to San Diego. In a sleazy bar there, Ski drowns his sorrows in alcohol and women to forget that Susan has married another man. Concerned about him, Mac and his fellow Marines go to the bar, believing they are coming to his rescue, and get in a brawl with others there. Danny is saved from excessive drinking by the married USO worker Elaine Yarborough, and begins a relationship with her, until Mac, noticing a change in his performance, arranges for him to call Kathy long-distance. Recognizing the young man's loneliness, Mac and Huxley grant him a furlough to Baltimore, during which Danny elopes with Kathy. Meanwhile, the meditative Marion, who hopes to write about his wartime experiences, meets the beautiful and mysterious Rae on the Coronado ferryboat. Although she meets him there frequently and seems to admire him greatly, she will not share with him details about her life. Marion learns why she has been evasive, when she shows up with other B-girls ordered by Joe, at a party celebrating the regiment's orders to ship out. The men are sent to Wellington, New Zealand, where they are warmly received. Andy, who respects no woman, tries to woo the married Pat Rogers by suggesting that he fill the void left by her husband, whom he believes is fighting in Africa. After the offended Pat tells him her husband died in action, Andy apologizes for the first time ever. Pat later invites the reformed Andy to visit her parents' farm, where, despite their attraction, they agree to remain friends only. After Christmas, the Sixth Regiment, now known as "Huxley's Harlots," is sent to Guadalcanal after the invasion to "mop up" a resistant band of Japanese soldiers. Afterward, the battle-weary men, minus Ski, who was killed by a sniper, return to New Zealand, where Pat nurses the malaria-stricken Andy and decides to risk a short-term romance with him. To restore the men's stamina, Huxley, newly promoted to lieutenant colonel, orders them to compete in a brutal 60-mile hike, and while other companies are trucked back to camp, Huxley has his men hike the whole way, blistered and near collapse, but in record-breaking time. Aware that his men are special, Huxley is frustrated when they are not ordered to Tarawa with the main invasion, but held back to clear out remaining Japanese resistance afterward. Pat is afraid of losing another love to the war and tells Andy that she wants to break up, but Andy refuses and asks her to marry him. Although frightened, she accepts and only then admits that she is pregnant. With Huxley's assistance in cutting through red tape, Andy and Pat marry, but two days later, when the men are to ship out, Andy considers deserting to stay with Pat. Instead of arresting him, Huxley asks Pat to convince Andy to return voluntarily. At Tarawa, Huxley's men fulfill their mission, but Marion and many others are killed. Afterward, while standing by on reserve on a Hawaiian island, Huxley receives word that other battalions are being moved out for combat. Sensing the restlessness of his men, Huxley risks court-martial to convince Gen. Snipes that the talents of his battalion are being wasted. Although at first offended by Huxley's "impudence," Snipes assigns the battalion to the invasion of Red Beach, the most dangerous mission in the Saipan campaign. The men are isolated from the rest of the division, and suffer heavy casualties from artillery fired from the hills above them. Huxley is killed, and Danny and Andy are seriously injured. However, the battalion holds out until a Navy destroyer pins down the Japanese, freeing the Marines to complete their mission. Later, at a rest camp, while recuperating from the loss of a leg, Andy becomes too demoralized to communicate with Pat or his concerned friends, but tough words from Mac make him realize that Pat still loves him. Andy returns to her and his baby son after completing rehabilitation. Danny is also given a medical discharge and returns by train to Baltimore, accompanied by Mac, who is visiting the families of men killed in action. In Baltimore, they say goodbye and Danny reunites with the waiting Kathy, as fresh recruits board the train.
Justus E. Mcqueen
Col. H. P. "jim" Crowe U.s.m.c.
Philip M. Jeffries
Francis J. Scheid
Leon M. Uris
Paul Francis Webster
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
The story begins as a platoon of recently conscripted Marines enter boot camp in January 1942 and the narrative follows their progress from training through romantic entanglements and personal crises and eventually to the battlefield, climaxing with the bloody beach assault of Saipan. Battle Cry invites comparisons to other war pictures such as Battleground (1949) and Air Force (1943) with its multi-ethnic collective of baby-faced recruits who break down into the usual stereotypes of city slickers, country hicks, bookworms, ladies' men, and con artists - all thrown together as fellow soldiers. Typical of the era, unenlightened sexual attitudes and macho posturing abound but the movie was merely reflecting the current '50s culture and was never meant to be a critique of the Marine Corps or an anti-war picture. If anything, Battle Cry is a celebration of the military and Walsh was granted full access by the Marines to shoot portions of the film on location at Fort Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, both near San Diego. In addition, Walsh had literally thousands of Marines at his disposal as extras which accounts for some of the impressive battle scenes and shots of marching columns of men.
Additional scenes were shot at the Warners Ranch in Calabasas, in the Simi Valley and around the Vieques Islands of Puerto Rico. James Whitmore, who plays the gruff Sergeant Mac, also provides intermittent voice-over narration and the rousing music score by Max Steiner was nominated for an Oscar®.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Battle Cry is barely touched on in the film version, according to notes from the American Film Institute web site, which was referring to "the work of the World War II Navajo "code talkers," who sent secret radio messages in their native language, undecipherable by the enemy. Although the recruits depicted in the film were sent to radio school, and several humorous references were made within the story about off-color limericks sent in Morse code, the battle sequences showed those characters fighting as a squad with a battalion of foot soldiers."
While Battle Cry palls in comparison to such classics of the genre as The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) or Story of G.I. Joe (1945), it is often entertaining for its lively ensemble cast alone and the pulpy and often unpredictable story arcs - some characters are simply dropped along the way and we only learn about their fates through overheard conversations or Whitmore's narration. Among the cast Tab Hunter gives one of his better dramatic performances as the All-American boy from Baltimore and, in his film debut, L.Q. Jones (who is billed here as Justus E. McQueen), steals most of his scenes as a wisecracking, fun-loving hayseed. Providing eye candy and sex appeal are Dorothy Malone and Anne Francis, who enjoy brief romantic interludes with Tab Hunter and John Lupton, respectively.
In many ways, Battle Cry was responsible for launching Hunter's popularity among the bobbysocker crowd and catapulted him into leading man status. According to his autobiography, Tab Hunter Confidential, his brother Walt inspired his performance to some degree: "The character of Danny reminded me of Walt, an upright guy eager to serve his country. By this time, my brother had already been in the Navy for five years. Since I'd emulated Walt all through childhood, it wouldn't be a stretch to base my performance on him. There was plenty of me in there, too." Hunter also recalled the movie's filming, noting that "A planeload of Hollywood soldiers stormed Vieques, Puerto Rico, on February 17, 1954. The island was twenty miles long, five miles wide, and had only three towns. The battalion lived in a tent city, nicknamed Camp Hollywood, where we shared cold showers and outdoor latrines. It teemed with scorpions, field mice and billions of mosquitoes. Thankfully, the schedule called for only eighteen days of location work." As for his co-stars, Hunter said that "Aldo [Ray] emerged as the leader of the dogfaces. He formed an ad hoc drinking society called the FEOLOs, which stood for "F*ck Everybody or Lose Out." He'd captain evening forays into Isabel Segunda, a grungy little town at the tip of the island with a two-pronged economy: bars and whores."
From all reports, Battle Cry was well into production before a completed script was ever delivered to the actors, a situation that led professionals like Van Heflin and James Whitmore to voice their concerns to director Walsh, who encouraged the more experienced actors to make up incidental dialogue as they went along. Rainy weather also contributed to delays in the shooting schedule and eventually Battle Cry's original release date was pushed back to allow for the necessary post-production but also because the Marine Corps convinced Warner Bros. if the film was released in April or May, when enlistment was usually down, it would boost recruitment.
Prior to the film's release, the Marine Corps did cite a problem they had with the film, according to Tab Hunter, "specifically the affair between Dorothy Malone and me. An internal studio memo said: "The Corps feels that Danny Forrester represents an idealistic type of boy...the type of youth they hope to appeal to. Showing him as an eighteen-year-old, humping a married woman twice his age, will have many detrimental aftermaths." Hunter was afraid that some of his best scenes would end up on the cutting room floor but, "In the end, the humping stayed in Battle Cry. After it was previewed for the Defense Department, Raoul Walsh received a letter of commendation: "This is the best Marine picture ever made. Your guys look like real fighting men, not Hollywood actors. In the last five or six Hollywood pictures, they've made the Marine Corps look ridiculous."
Battle Cry's reception was mixed with some critics calling attention to the fact that the real war footage was not well integrated into the Cinemascope-lensed studio scenes and that the combat sequences lacked realism due to the obvious "unmussed uniforms and unscathed equipment" of the soldiers. The Hollywood Reporter called it "a great women's picture" and Variety noted that, "While overboard in length, this comes from the detailing of several sets of romantics, each interesting in itself, plus the necessary battle action to indicate the basis is rather grim warfare....Of the romantic pairings, the most impression is made by Aldo Ray and Nancy Olson, not only because it occupies the main portion of the film's second half....but also because of the grasp the two stars have on their characters."
Regardless of critical opinion, Battle Cry was a smash hit for Warner Bros. and, for its era, an upbeat, patriotic recruitment vehicle for the Marines.
Producer: Jack L. Warner (uncredited)
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Leon M. Uris (screenplay and novel)
Cinematography: Sid Hickox
Art Direction: John Beckman
Music: Max Steiner
Film Editing: William Ziegler
Cast: Van Heflin (Major Sam Huxley), Aldo Ray (Pvt./Pfc Andy Hookens), Mona Freeman (Kathy, later: Mrs. Danny Forrester), Nancy Olson (Mrs. Pat Rogers), James Whitmore (MSgt. Mac/Narrator), Raymond Massey (Maj. Gen. Snipes), Tab Hunter (Pvt. Cpl. Dan 'Danny' Forrester), Dorothy Malone (Mrs. Elaine Yarborough), Anne Francis (Rae), William Campbell (Pvt. 'Ski' Wronski).
by Jeff Stafford
Tab Hunter Confidential by Tab Hunter with Eddie Muller
Videohound's War Movies by Mike Mayo
The Hollywood Reporter Book of Box Office Hits by Susan Sackett
Voice-over narration by James Whitmore as "Sgt. Mac" is heard throughout the film. A dedication at the end of the film reads: "Our grateful appreciation to the United States Marine Corps without whose assistance this picture could not have been possible." A January 1954 Variety news item reported that the Marines, fearing negative propaganda, had been hesitant to back an earlier production featuring the Corps, the 1954 United Artists film Beachhead . There was therefore some question as to whether they would be interested in supporting Battle Cry, as Leon M. Uris's novel was, according to an October 1953 Los Angeles Daily News article, considered by some people to be an indictment of the Corps. However, Marine authorities were pleased with the positive public reaction generated by Beachhead and assured director Raoul Walsh their full cooperation.
Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add Meg Myles, Capt. Fred Lawton, Sgt. Edgar J. Howard and Mario De Re, the younger brother of Aldo Ray, to the cast. Although a January 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reports that Martha Hyer was cast, she did not appear in the final film. Portions of the film were shot on location in California at Fort Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, both near San Diego, the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, and an area in the Simi Valley, according to Hollywood Reporter news items. A February 1955 American Cinematographer and several Hollywood Reporter news items reported that battle scenes were shot on location near Vieques Islands, Puerto Rico, where the night training maneuvers of the Second Battalion of the Second Marine Division were filmed.
Mentioned briefly in the film was the work of the World War II Navajo "code talkers," who sent secret radio messages in their native language, undecipherable by the enemy. Although the recruits depicted in the film were sent to radio school, and several humorous references were made within the story about off-color limericks sent in Morse code, the battle sequences showed those characters fighting as a squad with a battalion of foot soldiers. The Variety review criticized other technical aspects of the picture, stating that real war footage intermixed in the film did "not blow up well to CinemaScope proportions, nor...match the staged battle." The reviewer also stated that the "unmussed uniforms and unscathed equipment" were "incongruous" to real war. Noting that the film emphasized romantic aspects of the plot, the Hollywood Reporter review and others praised the war film as "a great woman's picture." The running time of the film was erroneously reported as 140 minutes by the Hollywood Reporter review.
Battle Cry marked the film debuts of Perry Lopez, Don Durant, ten-year-old Harold Knudsen and Justus E. McQueen. McQueen changed his name to L. Q. Jones in 1955. Max Steiner was nominated for an Academy Award for Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, but lost to Alfred Newman, who scored the 1955 Twentieth Century-Fox film Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (see below).
Released in United States Spring March 1955
Released in United States Spring March 1955