Cast & Crew
Jesse Royce Landis
In California, college athlete Andy Sheaffer is pampered by his parents, especially his mother Madeline. Lacking ambition, he shows barely a passing interest in his studies and brags to friends that he stays in school only to avoid the draft. His attitude is in direct contrast to that of his hard-working girl friend, Susan Daniels, who is working her way through college. After Andy causes her to miss a class when he wrecks her car in an accident, Susan wonders if he will ever be mature enough to get married, as they plan, and returns his fraternity pin. Troubled by their breakup, Andy flunks one of his final examinations and loses his Army deferred status. Soon after, he is drafted. While settling into his barracks at Fort Ord, he pointedly refuses to conform to regulations, talks back to his superiors and maintains a constant attitude of sulky rebellion. Capt. Genaro and Sgts. Clyde and Hanna, his superior officers who embrace the ideals of the "new" Army, are strict and gruffly addresses the recruits, believing that discipline instills responsibility. Recognizing Andy's problem as "acute motheritis," Genaro has faith that the Army will help him grow up. However, Andy continues to behave disrespectfully and is lax in his duties. With the help of fellow recruit Maguire, Andy searches through little-known Army regulations in order to catch Clyde in violation and embarrass him in front of the men. Andy also fails to lock the rifle rack before inspection, which results in the entire barracks being demerited. Despite his bad attitude, Andy surprises everyone when he kicks a live grenade into a pit, thus saving the life of Maguire, who fumbled it during grenade practice. Although the other men praise Andy for his courage and quick thinking, he sullenly rejects all friendly overtures, saying he was thinking only of himself. Later, when trophies are given to the top riflemen in the unit, Andy receives first prize, but no one claps for him. During a special inspection for visiting VIPs, the rifle rack is again found unlocked and afterward the men in his barracks gang up on Andy. Hanson, a divorced, World War II veteran who rejoined the Army out of loneliness, breaks up the resulting fight. Sentenced to K.P. duty, Andy is given the odious task of cleaning out the kitchen's grease trap, when Madeline decides to visit the base. Her bossy, difficult behavior causes a backup at the entrance to the camp. To avoid a scene in front of politicians and other non-military visitors, a general orders the guard to escort Madeline. When the guard and Madeline find Andy doing menial labor, she makes a fuss and complains to Congressman Hardison, who is being given a tour high-ranking officers. Fearing bad publicity, superior officers order Genaro to give Andy a weekend pass to get him out of the way until the visitors are gone. Embarrassed by the special treatment given him, Andy refuses to go home with Madeline for his furlough. Instead, he convinces Susan to meet him at the beach, ignoring her concerns that she has final examinations on Monday. There she stops him from kissing her and accuses him of wanting her without accepting responsibility for their relationship. When he admits that he does not understand her, she suggests that he must first understand himself. Later, during war maneuvers, Andy is assigned to stand guard in a tower, where he is to survey a dangerous target practice area that civilians sometimes mistake for a peaceful and secluded picnic area. Troubled by his quarrel with Susan, he fails to see two boys and a dog enter the field, just as heavy artillery is fired. Although the boys are unharmed, Genaro, feeling unable to "rehabilitate" Andy, offers him a dishonorable discharge. Despite warnings that his career opportunities will be ruined, the delighted Andy agrees to it. When Clyde later suggests that he reconsider, for the sake of his future, Andy dismisses him. Angry, Clyde offers to meet him privately to settle their differences with a fistfight and then easily beats the undisciplined Andy with a few punches. Later, finding Andy alone in the barracks, Hanson tells him about his failed marriage and recovery from alcoholism, and suggests that Andy stop being a loner. Meanwhile, high-ranking Army officials at the Pentagon, who are planning a major "exercise," choose Andy's regiment as the first outfit in basic training to participate in a full-scale Army-wide maneuver. In a last attempt to teach Andy responsibility, Genaro, Clyde and Hanna risk assigning him to lead a squad. Andy is ordered to have his squad choose sites for command and observation posts and then lay wires for communications. After choosing a command post site, Andy sends four of his men to the observation post on the other side of a valley. Because live shells will be dropped in the valley, Andy orders the men to walk around that area to get to the post. However, Preston, an uncooperative and belligerent private, disobeys and leads the men through the target area. When shells start dropping, the panicked men take cover in an old tank, unaware that it is the bombs' target. Andy realizes his men are in peril and runs through the dangerous area to order them out of the tank, which a bomb hits seconds after the men clear it. Realizing that Andy saved their lives, a contrite Preston thanks him. Months later, the next influx of recruits coincides with Fort Ord's open house day, which the Sheaffers and Susan attend. In the barracks, as Clyde looks on with amusement, Andy, now a corporal, addresses the new men with the same gruff manner used by his mentor. Watching her son shout orders during a parade, Madeline says proudly, "I knew the Army would just love Andy!"
Jesse Royce Landis
Valentin De Vargas
Frank P. Rosenberg
Paul Francis Webster
The Girl He Left Behind
By the mid-1950s, Warner Bros. had built up a stable of young stars who appealed to the teenage market, and two of its brightest were Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter. Wood, who made her screen debut at the age of four, had made the transition from child actor to teen star quite spectacularly, in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and segued easily to an adult leading lady, although she was still in her teens. She was one of the busiest young actresses on the Warner lot. Hunter had joined the Coast Guard at 15, worked at a horse riding academy and as a competitive figure skater before he was signed by talent agent Henry Willson. At the age of 24, he appeared in his breakthrough film, Battle Cry (1955). That same year, both were at the peak of their popularity, and were frequently seen together on studio-arranged dates and in fan magazine articles. They became close friends, but their romantic interests lay elsewhere. Hunter was a closeted homosexual, and the 17-year old Wood was frequently involved in inappropriate relationships with older men such as Rebel Without a Cause director Nicholas Ray, and her A Cry in the Dark (1956) co-star, Raymond Burr (himself a closeted homosexual). She was also being pursued by Elvis Presley. Wood planned to attend the 1956 Academy Awards with Burr as her date, but the studio forced her to go with Hunter instead, as they were being touted as a new screen team.
Warner Bros. co-starred Wood and Hunter in two 1956 films, The Burning Hills and The Girl He Left Behind (which Wood mockingly referred to as "The Girl with the Left Behind"), and announced plans for three additional co-starring pictures for them. The two films opened within a month of each other and did well at the box office, but were not popular with the critics. A Newsweek review of The Burning Hills noted that "Warner Bros., haunted by the memories of those profitable romantic couples of the '30s, is setting out to make the names of Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter as familiar as Loy and Powell, Rogers and Astaire, and MacDonald and Eddy. Fortunately, both are young enough to recover from their first joint excursion."
In a New Yorker review of The Girl He Left Behind, John McCarten wrote, "Since Mr. Hunter discloses not one redeeming feature as an actor, the picture misses fire when he's around." Other critics had kinder things to say about the script, and the adept supporting cast. "Some of this nonsense is funny, especially when the sergeant involved is a bucko played by Murray Hamilton," wrote Bosley Crowther in the New York Times. "There are other funny people in this plaything, which we desperately trust is a farce. They include Jim Backus as another sergeant (a sort of Mr. Magoo type) and Alan King as an expert scrounger." But Crowther was just as hard on Hunter. " Really it looks as though they labored to make this fellow a pluperfect punk, and Mr. Hunter does nothing to endow him with a wisp of redeeming charm."
Stung by the criticism, Hunter refused the next film Warners had planned for him and Wood, Bombers B-52 (1958), and chose instead to make Lafayette Escadrille (1958) with the great director William Wellman. Sadly, the studio botched that World War I flying epic by insisting on a happy ending. But Hunter's career continued to flourish (for awhile, anyway), with a pop record hit, "Young Love," and the lead in the film version of the musical Damn Yankees (1958).
Wood made Bombers B-52, and was rewarded with her dream project, Marjorie Morningstar (1958). She became one of the top movie stars of the 1960s, starring in West Side Story (1961) and earning Oscar® nominations for Splendor in the Grass (1961) and Love With the Proper Stranger (1963). The "Dream Team" of Wood and Hunter had lasted for only two films and less than one year.
Producer: Frank P. Rosenberg
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Guy Trosper
Cinematography: Ted D. McCord
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Music: Roy Webb
Film Editing: Irene Morra
Cast: Tab Hunter (Andy Sheaffer), Natalie Wood (Susan Daniels), Jessie Royce Landis (Madeline Sheaffer), Jim Backus (Sgt. Hanna), Henry Jones (Hanson), Murray Hamilton (Sgt. Clyde), Alan King (Maguire), James Garner (Preston), David Janssen (Capt. Genaro).
by Margarita Landazuri
The Girl He Left Behind
The title card reads: "Marion Hargrove's The Girl He Left Behind." Following the opening credits, a written acknowledgment reads: "To the United States Army...and its famous Fifth Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California... whose generous and effective cooperation made this motion picture possible...And to the future young soldiers of America...Greetings!" Voice-over narration, which is heard intermittently throughout the film, states, "This is American youth, our hope and our legacy to the future." The narrator then asks, "What are our young people like? .... How are they meeting the challenges of today? Assuming they have challenges in this golden era of prosperity and peace."
According to a February 1956 Los Angeles Examiner and October 1956 Los Angeles Times news items, Warner Bros. studio head Jack Warner suggested an idea for a film about peacetime draftees to Hargrove, whose autobiography, See Here, Private Hargrove, was the source for a 1944 M-G-M film bearing the same title and its sequel, What Next, Corporal Hargrove? (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). After visiting Fort Ord as part of his research, Hargrove decided he wanted to write a novel about it. Although he was able to get permission to use Warner's idea for his novel, the studio's schedule necessitated that a second author write the screenplay. Thus Guy Trosper was hired.
Although a Hollywood Reporter news item adds Wanda Brown to the cast, her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location at Fort Ord, CA and brief footage of the Pentagon was shown.
The Motion Picture Herald review praised the film as "a lively succession of fast-moving events depicting the training of 1956 rookies in the peacetime Army." Taking a different point of view, the New York Times review asked, "what would happen to a draftee if he acted the way Mr. Hunter does?" and, noting the humor, described the film as "a plaything, which we desperately trust is a farce."
Released in United States Fall November 1956
Released in United States Fall November 1956