Cast & Crew
Sammy Davis Jr.
Mike, Chip, and Larry are three lusty, brawling U. S. Cavalry sergeants stationed in Indian Territory in 1870. Mike and Chip are determined to prevent Larry from carrying out his decision to leave the Army at the end of his current hitch and marry beautiful Amelia Parent. One night the three cronies befriend a trumpet-playing former slave, Jonah Williams, who dreams of someday becoming a trooper. A tribe of fanatical Indians begins terrorizing the area, and the headstrong Chip decides to attempt the capture of their leader. Accompanied by Jonah, he sneaks into the Indians' secret meeting place while they are conducting one of their mysterious rites, but he is discovered and taken prisoner. Jonah, however, escapes and races back to tell Mike and Larry. When Larry insists upon going to Chip's rescue, Mike makes him sign a reenlistment paper "just to make his help official" and promises to destroy the paper after the mission. Mike, Larry, and Jonah make their way to the Indian stronghold, but they too end up as prisoners. As the Cavalry rides into a trap where a thousand warriors are waiting to ambush them, Jonah blows the regiment's favorite tune on his trumpet as a warning. The ensuing battle ends in victory for the Cavalry; the three sergeants are decorated, and Jonah is made a trooper. Thinking himself discharged, Larry drives off in a buggy with Amelia, but the crafty Mike shows the post's commanding officer the reenlistment paper he had promised to destroy. Larry, it appears, will be forced to serve another hitch with Mike and Chip.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Eddie Little Sky
W. R. Burnett
Wesley V. Jefferies
Howard W. Koch
At this point in Sinatra's career, the "Rat Pack" collective (with the addition of fellow Clan member Joey Bishop) was a familiar one to movie and television audiences and Sergeants 3, despite its period Western setting, has a lot of the same feel as the Pack's film venture, Ocean's Eleven (1960); it's an entertaining romp that emphasizes personality over character and combines action with humor, a trait shared with the original Gunga Din. The major difference between the two is that, while Sam Jaffe's title character, a loyal Indian water boy, sacrifices his life to save the British troops, the former-slave-turned-bugler and Army hopeful played by Sammy Davis, Jr. is rewarded for his bravery with a promotion to cavalry trooper.
The film is helmed by one of Hollywood's best-known directors of Westerns from this period, John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, 1955; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1957; The Magnificent Seven, 1960). Sturges had directed Sinatra previously in Never So Few (1959), so he was used to the star's insistence on getting the shot in the first take, a practice he continued on this project. To Sinatra's credit, he was well aware that his first take was usually his best and freshest, and he allowed director and crew as much time as they needed to set up a shot so that technical gaffes wouldn't require retakes.
By all accounts, the production of Sergeants 3 maintained a party atmosphere typical of most "Rat Pack" gatherings, although location shooting in remote parts of Utah left them with little to do off the set besides card games, screenings of Laurel and Hardy movies, and late-night visits to the local Dairy Queen. To facilitate socializing, Sinatra reportedly had connecting doors installed in all of the hotel rooms where the cast was staying and billed it to the film's budget. Although most off-hours of the shoot were spent socializing in their hotel rooms, co-star Ruta Lee (in essentially the same role played by Joan Fontaine in the original) noted that the Rat Pack would occasionally be shuttled back and forth to Las Vegas, sometimes showing up on the set after only a few hours of sleep.
This hard-partying lifestyle apparently did little to impede the production or affect how its stars looked on screen, with the exception of Peter Lawford. After a few years of his "Rat Pack" fraternization, a period also marked by less frequent acting work and more socializing and campaigning on behalf of his brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy, the once dashing Lawford looked puffy and unhealthy. To trim up for his role in Sergeants 3, he took diet pills; viewers may notice shifts in his weight from shot to shot.
After this project, which received tepid reviews but decent box office, Sturges and screenwriter Burnett moved on to the blockbuster adventure The Great Escape (1963). Although planned as one of five films to star the Rat Pack, Sergeants 3 turned out to be their last. Sinatra and Martin worked together in films three more times, and with Davis they made Robin and the 7 Hoods in 1964, but the legendary group as a whole would never appear together again on the big screen.
Director: John Sturges
Producers: Howard W. Koch, Frank Sinatra
Screenplay: W.R. Burnett
Cinematography: Winton C. Hoch
Editing: Ferris Webster
Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
Original Music: Billy May
Cast: Frank Sinatra (Sgt. Mike Merry), Dean Martin (Sgt. Chip Deal), Sammy Davis, Jr. (Jonah Williams), Peter Lawford (Sgt. Larry Barrett), Joey Bishop (Sgt.-Major Roger Boswell), Henry Silva (Mountain Hawk).
by Rob Nixon
Exteriors filmed on location near Kanab, Utah, and at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. The film is a comic reworking of Gunga Din, RKO, 1939. Working titles! Badlands and Soldiers 3.
Released in United States 1962
Released in United States 1962