War Movie Miscellany

May 2011
New Iberia, La.
TRIVIA - To Hell and Back

1. In the Medal of Honor scene, Murphy was actually on a M10 tank destroyer, not a M4 Sherman.
2. Murphy did not want to play himself because he thought it would come off as too egotistical. He wanted his friend Tony Curtis.
3. The production used 50,000 rounds of ammunition, 300 pounds of TNT, 600 pounds of blasting powder, and 10 cases of dynamite for the battle scenes.
4. The movie was a huge hit and was Universal Pictures top film until “Jaws”.
5. Audie Murphy in “To Hell and Back” was the inspiration for Rambo.
6. The movie popularized the term “dogface”.
7. It is still the only biopic that stars a movie star as himself.

8. Murphy wanted to make a sequel called “The Way Back”, but could not get the financing.

9. It was Murphy’s sixteenth film.
10. Murphy was the technical adviser and was very hands-on in getting everything realistic.
11. Murphy did not like the finished product and referred to it as a “Western in uniform”. He was angry about the battle scenes being filmed in nice weather when the reality was worse. He did not want the film to close with the Medal of Honor ceremony. (He had left it out of the book.) He generally felt the movie was not gritty enough and did not explain why he suffered from PTSD.
12. Murphy was tabbed to be the villain in “Dirty Harry” when he died in the plane crash.
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
San Diego
BACK-STORY - Lawrence of Arabia

“Lawrence of Arabia” is considered one of the great classic movies. It is #7 on AFI’s latest list of the greatest movies. It is #1 on the Epics list. The film is considered to be the best of director David Lean’s awesome resume (which includes “Bridge on the River Kwai”). It is loosely based on T.E. Lawrence’s “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The screenplay was first written by Michael Wilson, then Robert Bolt was brought in and changed virtually all the dialogue and characterizations. Wilson was uncredited partly because he was blacklisted for communist sympathies. His contribution was not credited until 1995. The movie’s desert scenes were filmed in Jordan and Morocco. King Hussein of Jordan provided a brigade of the Arab Legion as extras. Peter O’Toole was not the first choice for Lawrence. Albert Finney was unavailable and Marlon Brando turned the role down. Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were considered. Jose Ferrer agreed to appear in it only after being guaranteed pay that ended up being more than what was paid to O’Toole and Sharif combined! The movie took over two years from start to finish. In one scene the O’Toole that finishes at the bottom of a staircase is two years older than he was at the top of the staircase. The desert shoots were difficult. There was the 130 degree temperatures and the sandstorms and the critters. At one point, O’Toole was thrown from his camel and only was saved from being trampled by the camel standing protectively over him. By the way, O’Toole had to sit on a sponge pad to survive all the riding (the Arab extras called him “Lord of the Sponge”). It was all worth it as the film was universally acclaimed. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction, Cinematography (Freddie Young), Score (Maurice Jarre), Editing, and Sound. It was nominated for Adapted Screenplay, Actor (O’Toole lost to Gregory Peck for “To Kill a Mockingbird”), and Supporting Actor (Sharif).
O'toole also had to get a nose job to land the role. Pictures of him before Lawrence show a nose looking a lot more like the fake one Anthony Quinn wore in the film.
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May 2011
New Iberia, La.
Here is my ranking of movies that cover D-Day in one way or another.

1. "The Longest Day" (1962) – This is the granddaddy of the battle epics. It covers the entire invasion from both the Allied and German perspectives. The cast is all-star and the scope is breathtaking. All of the key facts about Operation Overlord are covered in an educational but entertaining way. The only drawback is the dated special effects and combat, but the lack of graphic violence does not detract from its relevance to a modern audience or its entertainment value. As proof of this, it won my 2013 March Madness Tournament to determine the best WWII combat film. It is the best film ever made about D-Day. Grade = A+

2. Band of Brothers “Day of Days” - Technically not a movie, but certainly belongs on this list. Each episode of BoB was almost like a mini-movie. Although small scale in scope, it does cover actual paratroopers and one of the critical actions on the first day. Grade = A+

3. "Saving Private Ryan" ((1998) - SPR brought D-Day to modern audiences in a big way. It is a fictional tale of a squad of Rangers sent to rescue the last survivor of four brothers. The opening scene on Omaha Beach is the greatest combat scene ever filmed and has spawned the recent hyperrealistic renderings of combat in films like “Band of Brothers”. The rest of the film has come under criticism for its Spielbergian plot devices which brought in huge audiences, but polarized the war movie lovers community. Despite the schmaltzy moments and head scratching implausibilities (and a central character who is a moron tactically), the movie is still outstanding. By the way, although Ryan is a paratrooper, the movie is not about paratroopers. Grade = A

4. “Thirty Six Hours” – This is an espionage thriller with the intriguing premise that the German kidnap an American staff officer who has knowledge of the invasion plans. A German doctor sets up an elaborate scheme to trick him into spilling the beans. Oh, and there’s a babe and an evil Nazi involved. Obviously not based on historical fact, but still a lot of fun until it gets silly towards the end. Grade = B

5. "The Americanization of Emily" (1964) - This farce is set during the lead up to the invasion. The aide to an addled admiral is tabbed with documenting the death of a sailor as the first American to die on the D-Day beaches so the Navy can score a publicity coup. Problem is the aide (who is the stereotyped movie scrounger) is a practicing coward and does not want to be near any flying ordnance. Emily is the British widow of a war hero who falls for him in spite of his avowed survivalism. It’s meant to be scathing satire, but it is not very funny, has a repugnant main character, an implausible romance, and does not have the courage of its convictions. Grade = C

6. "D-Day - the Sixth of June" (1956) - This is a love triangle set in England before the invasion. It does culminate in a Pointe du Hoc type assault, but that is the little action that occurs and it is not worth the wait. The rest of the movie is boring with lots of talking and schmaltzy romancing. Grade = D

7. "Overlord" (1975) - This is a low budget movie about a British soldier from boot camp through landing in Normandy. There is a large quantity of actual footage blended into the story, but much of it is unrelated to the plot (WWII documentary viewers will be very distracted). Some critics were kind to the movie, but in reality it is terrible.
Grade = F

8. "Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers" (2011) - D-Day could use a good movie about the Pathfinders who helped prepare the way for the airborne invasion – this movie is not that movie. It is absolutely terrible. It looks like it was filmed by a third grader with ADHD using an old camcorder he found in the attic. The actors are his grown up classmates playing soldier in the back yard. Grade = F-
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