Cast & Crew
In 1943, the diverse group of fifty-three soldiers comprising the Lee Platoon of the Texas Division anxiously await their upcoming landing on a beach near Salerno, Italy. A landing barge carries them to their objective during the pre-dawn hours, and the increasing danger of their situation is demonstrated when their young lieutenant, Rand, is wounded by a shell fragment that destroys half of his face. Platoon Sgt. Pete Halverson takes over command and orders Sgt. Eddie Porter to lead the men to the beach while he tries to find the captain and confirm their orders. First aid man McWilliams remains with Rand, and the rest of the men hit the beach and dig in while trying to elude the shelling and machine-gun fire. Sgt. Bill Tyne wonders what they will do if Halverson does not return, and after the sun rises, the sergeants send the men into the woods to protect them from enemy aircraft. Tyne remains on the beach to wait for Halverson, but learns from McWilliams that both Rand and Halverson are dead. Soon after, McWilliams is shot by an enemy airplane. Tyne walks to the woods, and there discovers that three other men have been hit, including Sgt. Hoskins. Hoskins stays behind and Porter, Tyne and Sgt. Ward then lead the men in three squads along a road toward their objective, a farmhouse with a nearby bridge that they are to blow up. Porter knows that the six-mile journey will be a dangerous one, and warns the men to watch out for enemy tanks and aircraft. As they walk, the men shoot the breeze and discuss their likes and dislikes, the nature of war and the food they wish they were eating. Porter grows increasingly agitated, but is distracted when two retreating Italian soldiers surrender to the platoon and confirm that they are on the right road. The Italians warn them that the area is controlled by German troops, and soon after, the platoon meets a small reconnaisance patrol of American soldiers. After the patrol's motorcycle driver offers to ride to the farmhouse and report back, Porter becomes even more edgy as minutes pass without the driver's return. Finally Tyne tells the men to take a break while he sits with Porter. As machine gunner Rivera and his pal, Jake Friedman, razz each other, Porter begins to break down and tells Ward that he is putting Tyne in charge. Porter has a complete breakdown when a German armored car approaches, but Tyne's quick thinking prevails and the men blast the car with grenades and machine-gun fire. The bazooka men, who Tyne had sent ahead to search for tanks, blow up two tanks and another armored car, but expend all of their bazooka ammunition. Leaving a man to guard the still-crying Porter, Tyne pushes on, and as the men march, Friedman tells Rivera that he is a traveling salesman who is "selling democracy to the natives." The men finally reach the farmhouse, but when a small patrol attempts to crawl through the field in front of the house, they are shot at by the Germans, and two men are killed. Tyne and Ward are baffled about what to do next when Windy, a calm, introspective soldier suggests circling around the farm via the river and blowing up the bridge without first taking the house. Tyne sends two patrols, headed by Ward and Windy, to accomplish the mission, then orders Rivera to strafe the house while he leads a column of men in an attack on the house, which he hopes will distract the Germans. The remaining men nervously wait for their comrades to reach the bridge, until finally Rivera opens fire and Tyne and his men go over the stone wall and into the field. Tyne's sight blurs as he crawls toward the house, and when he comes across the body of Rankin, one of the fallen men, the platoon's constant refrain, "Nobody dies," resounds through his head. The bridge is blown up, and despite heavy losses, the platoon captures the house. Then, at exactly noon, Windy, Ward and the remaining men wander through the house as Tyne adds another notch to the butt of Rankin's gun.
George Offerman Jr.
Colonel Thomas D. Drake
Edmund L. Gruber
Joseph H. Nadel
Fredric Efrem Rich
A Walk in the Sun
In his New York Times review of A Walk in the Sun (1945), Bosley Crowther singled out Dana Andrews for praise among what he characterized as a "generally superlative cast." (Today one might argue that Andrews is upstaged by the colorful performance of Richard Conte, the Jersey-born, Italian-American actor who plays a Jersey-born, Italian-American soldier.) A Walk in the Sun was actually the third picture Andrews made with director Lewis Milestone. The previous two were The North Star (1943), about a Russian village's struggle against German soldiers, and The Purple Heart (1944), about the capture and trial of a group of American flyers by the Japanese. At the time, the actor was under joint contract with Samuel Goldwyn Pictures and Twentieth Century-Fox. Other notable roles for Andrews during this period include The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), the Otto Preminger films Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). His tense demeanor was well suited both for war films and for film noir.
Lewis Milestone (1895-1980) was born as Lev Milstein in Kishinev, Russia, which is presently Chisinau, Moldova. He emigrated to the US in 1917 and fought in France during World War I. His direct experience with combat no doubt provided him with rich material for the war films he would later make, the greatest of them undoubtedly being All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). A 1962 article in Films and Filming characterized his work as typically concerning "the reactions of men in difficult or dangerous circumstances," a pattern which holds true for his war films and the comedies The Front Page (1931) and Ocean's Eleven (1960), though one would be hard pressed to apply that formula to the musical Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933) or the melodrama The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).
Milestone's predilection for camera movements made All Quiet on the Western Front among the most stylistically advanced films of the early sound era, and there is also ample dynamism in A Walk in the Sun. The opening sequence on the landing barge is set entirely in darkness; while this is realistically motivated, the cinematographer Russell Harlan handles it with great skill. Also striking is Milestone's frequent use of lateral tracking shots during the combat scenes, directly recalling All Quiet on the Western Front.
If the film's lively, wisecracking dialogue recalls Warner Brothers classics of the Thirties, it's worth noting that scriptwriter Robert Rossen also worked on key Warner Brothers films such as Marked Woman (1937) and The Roaring Twenties (1939). Rossen collaborated again with Milestone on The Strange Love of Martha Ivers before striking out on his own as the director of films such as Body and Soul (1947), All the King's Men (1949), and The Hustler (1961). However, much of the credit must go to Harry Brown (1917-1986), the author of the well-regarded 1944 source novel. The film's dialogue often follows the novel closely and otherwise remains close in spirit, albeit with some of the coarse language cleaned up for the censors. After the popular success of the novel, Brown went on to write scripts for a number of films, including Milestone's Arch of Triumph (1948) and Ocean's Eleven. Brown received an Academy Award nomination for Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) and won Best Screenplay for A Place in the Sun (1951).
Producer: Lewis Milestone
Director: Lewis Milestone
Screenplay: Robert Rossen, Harry Brown (novel)
Cinematography: Russell Harlan
Film Editing: W. Duncan Mansfield
Art Direction: Max Bertisch
Music: Freddie Rich
Cast: Dana Andrews (Sgt. Bill Tyne), Richard Conte (Pvt. Rivera), George Tyne (Pvt. Friedman), John Ireland (Pvt. Windy Craven), Lloyd Bridges (Sgt. Ward), Sterling Holloway (McWilliams).
by James Steffen
A Walk in the Sun
You ever think you'll live to make corporal?- Friedman
Baby, I just want to live long enough to make civilian.- Rivera
It's a funny thing, how many people you meet in an army that cross your path for a few seconds and you never see 'em again.- Sergeant Tyne
Nobody dies.- Rivera
Nothing slower than crawling. Nothing in the world. How long would it take to crawl around the world? A hundred years? A thousand years?- Sergeant Tyne
Wonder what it'll be like when we hit France, Mac.- Sergeant Tyne
I don't know. I never seen France.- McWilliams
I bet its just a long concrete wall with a gun every yard. Maybe they'll set the water on fire with oil, too. Boy, when that day comes I wanna be somewhere else.- Sergeant Tyne
Although the opening credits of this film indicate that Lewis Milestone Productions copyrighted the picture in 1945, the title is not included in the Catalog of Copyright Entries. After the picture's title card, which is the cover of Harry Brown's novel, the soldiers are shown marching, and the camera individually focuses on Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, George Tyne, John Ireland, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Herbert Rudley and Richard Benedict as Burgess Meredith's narration mentions each actor's character name and gives a brief description of the character. An onscreen acknowledgment extends appreciation to the United States Armed Forces for assistance and participation in the film's production and to Colonel Thomas D. Drake for his technical advice. Throughout the film, the offscreen narrator and a balladeer comment on the action. Although the onscreen credits list "The Ballads" by Millard Lampell and Earl Robinson, "The Ballad of the First Platoon" is one song. An abridgement of Brown's novel appeared in Liberty magazine on 16 September 1944.
According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, and Hollywood Reporter news items, the film's tangled production history began in September 1944, when independent producer Samuel Bronston purchased the rights to Brown's novel. Bronston, who had a distribution agreement with United Artists, intended to make the picture under his newly formed company Comstock Productions, Inc. with Lewis Milestone as co-producer and director. The film began shooting in October 1944, and in November 1944, Bronston obtained a $500,000 mortgage loan from Walter Heller & Co. and Ideal Factoring Corp. When the lending corporations discovered that the film could not be completed on the budget allocated by Bronston, according to the legal records, they foreclosed on the loan in early January 1945 and took over the project. The rights were transferred to Superior Productions, Inc., which was headed by Milestone, David Hersh and John J. Fisher, and the picture was completed. Superior Productions negotiated with several major studios for distribution rights, according to a July 10, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, and the picture was purchased for distibution by Twentieth Century-Fox in July 1945.
In late January 1945, Bronston filed suit against Superior Productions, Walter Heller & Co. and Ideal Factoring Corp., claiming that the foreclosure was illegal. In February 1945, Bronston's suit was settled out of court and dismissed, with Bronston assigned to receive 21.25 percent of the profits from the picture's sale and distribution. Other lawsuits filed over the film included one by publicist Frank Smith and attorney Herman H. Levy, who argued that they were not adequately compensated for their services. The dispositions of their suits have not been determined.
The legal records note that Buddy Yarus was originally scheduled to play "Jake Friedman." Although Hollywood Reporter production charts include Barton Hepburn in the cast, his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Dana Andrews was borrowed from Sam Goldwyn for the production. The legal files indicate that Goldwyn's studio facilities and recording equipment were used in production for the picture, which, according to Hollywood Reporter news items, was shot on location at Malibu Lake, CA. A October 29, 1944 New York Times article reported that some sequences were shot on location at a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, CA, which modern sources note was the Agoura Ranch in Agoura, CA.
Several contemporary news items noted that the production received full cooperation from the War Department and Army officials, which in turn requested several rewrites of the script. According to a April 19, 1945 Hollywood Citizen-News article, Milestone added the sequence in which the platoon expends all of its bazooka ammunition during an attack on a German armored car and two tanks in order to satisfy the Army's complaint that bazookas would have been used when the platoon stormed the farmhouse. A Hollywood Reporter news item reported on January 15, 1945 that Milestone was shooting added scenes "to provide a prologue requested by the War Department that would show all officers being properly briefed before the invasion." Carl O'Bryan was added to the cast to play the briefing captain, according to Hollywood Reporter, but that sequence does not appear in the finished film. According to an October 11, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, Milestone had requested permission from the War Department to film "one extra, complete, unexpurgated print to distribute to Allied forces only." Milestone felt that the use of authentic dialogue spoken by soldiers would "considerably strengthen the powerful drama for boys who have become accustomed to life 'as is,'" but the uncensored version was not produced.
Many reviews praised the film and favorably compared it to All Quiet on the Western Front, the influential World War I picture directed by Milestone in 1930. According to a June 27, 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture, which had opened two days previously in Los Angeles, was "playing to bigger business than anywhere else in the country," because of "the elimination from newspaper advertising of any mention of the war theme." A Walk in the Sun was named one of the year's ten best films by the National Board of Review. The film marked actor Robert Horton's motion picture debut. The film was re-issued in the 1950s under the title Salerno Beachhead.