Hell Is for Heroes (1962)

90 mins | Drama | 30 May 1962

Director:

Don Siegel

Producer:

Henry Blanke

Cinematographer:

Harold Lipstein

Editor:

Howard Smith

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Howard Richmond

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The 12 May 1960 DV announced film editor Stanley Frazen’s acquisition of motion picture rights for Soft Touch, the 1959 novel by John D. MacDonald. Seven months later, the 7 Dec 1960 LAT and DV reported that actor Edmond O’Brien planned to produce, direct, and star in the film. Stanley Frazen, partnered with O’Brien as Tiger Productions, would act as co-producer. On 21 Dec 1960, Var noted that O’Brien had decided not to appear in the film. The following week, the 28 Dec 1960 Var reported that Columbia Pictures Corporation lodged a protest over the title, and the film was re-named Hell Is for Heroes, as stated in the 16 Jan 1961 NYT.
       On 22 Mar 1961, DV revealed that the property was acquired by Paramount Pictures, to be produced, directed, and written by Robert Pirosh, with James E. Newcom as associate producer. Based on Pirosh’s World War II drama, Separation Hill, the screenplay bore no resemblance to MacDonald’s novel. The cast at that time included Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, and comedian Bob Newhart in his motion picture debut. A news brief in the 7 Apr 1961 DV stated that Darin was threatening to leave the project because Paramount did not hire the “all-star cast” he had been promised. The studio advised Darin to read the screenplay before making his decision. The 11 May 1961 DV announced that the U.S. Army agreed to have the cast undergo “abbreviated basic training” at Fort Ord in ... More Less

The 12 May 1960 DV announced film editor Stanley Frazen’s acquisition of motion picture rights for Soft Touch, the 1959 novel by John D. MacDonald. Seven months later, the 7 Dec 1960 LAT and DV reported that actor Edmond O’Brien planned to produce, direct, and star in the film. Stanley Frazen, partnered with O’Brien as Tiger Productions, would act as co-producer. On 21 Dec 1960, Var noted that O’Brien had decided not to appear in the film. The following week, the 28 Dec 1960 Var reported that Columbia Pictures Corporation lodged a protest over the title, and the film was re-named Hell Is for Heroes, as stated in the 16 Jan 1961 NYT.
       On 22 Mar 1961, DV revealed that the property was acquired by Paramount Pictures, to be produced, directed, and written by Robert Pirosh, with James E. Newcom as associate producer. Based on Pirosh’s World War II drama, Separation Hill, the screenplay bore no resemblance to MacDonald’s novel. The cast at that time included Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, and comedian Bob Newhart in his motion picture debut. A news brief in the 7 Apr 1961 DV stated that Darin was threatening to leave the project because Paramount did not hire the “all-star cast” he had been promised. The studio advised Darin to read the screenplay before making his decision. The 11 May 1961 DV announced that the U.S. Army agreed to have the cast undergo “abbreviated basic training” at Fort Ord in Monterey County, CA. Actor Steve McQueen had since joined the project. News items in the 12 May 1961 and the 19 May 1961 DV noted that Bobby Darin spent at least one week vacationing in HI before reporting to Fort Ord on 21 May 1961. Meanwhile, the 22 May 1961 DV revealed that Pirosh was currently making “considerable” revisions to the screenplay, and having serious disagreements with the studio over other proposed changes. Pirosh quit the project the next day, as reported in the 23 May 1961 DV. Don Siegel was assigned to direct, but the studio had no intention of hiring another producer. Four weeks later, however, the 21 Jun 1961 DV announced Henry Blanke as the new producer.
       The 25 May 1961 DV noted that Paramount provided charter buses to transport the cast and crew to Los Angeles, CA, enabling them to register absentee ballots, as the 31 May 1961 mayoral election coincided with the start of production in Redding, CA. Principal photography was delayed until 12 Jun 1961, as revealed by 23 Jun 1961 DV production charts.
       The 29 May 1961 DV stated that Darin’s manager, Steve Blauner, would appear on screen as one of the Nazi soldiers killed by his client’s character. Steve McQueen told the 20 Jun 1961 DV that he was preparing for his role by refusing to speak to Darin. The latter said he would “be oblivious.” A news brief in the 11 Jul 1961 issue reported that Darin hoped to complete his role by late Jul 1961, as he was scheduled to begin an engagement at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, on 3 Aug 1961. On 31 Jul 1961, DV stated that Mitzi Gaynor would substitute in Las Vegas for the next two weeks, allowing Darin to postpone until 17 Aug 1961.
       According to the 28 Jun 1961 DV, severely hot weather forced Don Siegel to schedule filming between 4:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., particularly because cast members were required to wear heavy uniforms for a winter scene. On the first day of the heat wave, Darin and McQueen reportedly delayed shooting, each waiting for the other to go on set first. On 5 Jul 1961, DV stated that Bob Newhart was threatening to quit the production, saying that his character had little to do in the revised screenplay. Writer Richard Carr was dispatched to Redding to write additional material for Newhart. The actor’s salary was estimated at $25,000. By 14 Jul 1961, DV noted that filming was halted in response to alerts of “extreme fire danger,” but resumed following two consecutive rainstorms. According to the 21 Jul 1961 issue, Bob Newhart took a five-day hiatus to collaborate with writers in San Francisco, CA, for his weekly television program, scheduled to air later that year on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). His role was completed 16 Aug 1961, as noted in that day’s DV. Newhart later complained to the 20 Dec 1963 LAT about his character’s sparse presence in the film. He added that the story simply stopped rather than having a proper ending.
       On 28 Jul 1961, DV announced the 110-member company’s return to Los Angeles to film interior scenes. The 23 Aug 1961 LAT stated that Steve McQueen required three days sick leave to nurse an impacted wisdom tooth. Bobby Darin reportedly sent his co-star five pounds of peanut brittle to ease the pain. The 14 Oct 1961 LAT listed Hell Is for Heroes among upcoming releases that were either completed or in the editing process. A sneak preview in Encino, CA, was reported in the 27 Nov 1961 DV.
       The picture opened 30 May 1962 in Los Angeles, and 11 Jul 1962 in New York City to positive reviews. Months later, an article in the 29 Nov 1962 DV stated that Hell Is for Heroes and another recent Paramount release, Escape from Zahrain (1962, see entry) were not well received by the public, resulting in “third-quarter losses” for the studio.
       Casting announcements included Sy Prescott (15 Jun 1961 DV); Louis Gasnier (26 Jun 1961 DV); Seymour Cassel (3 Jul 1961 DV); Tipp McClure and Chuck Hicks (20 Jul 1961 DV); and Dabbs Greer (1 Aug 1961 DV). Robert Pirosh told the 6 Apr 1961 DV that Patsy Award-winner “Samantha, the Goose” would be cast in an important role.
       A novelization of the screenplay was published by Bantam Books, according to the 13 Jun 1961 DV. The book was officially titled Robert Pirosh’s Hell Is for Heroes.
       Selections from a speech by President John F. Kennedy appear on the screen as a prologue. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
12 May 1960
p. 14.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1960
p. 3.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1961
p. 8.
Daily Variety
22 Mar 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
12 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 May 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
23 May 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
26 May 1961
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 May 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1961
p. 1.
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
26 Jun 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
28 Jun 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Jul 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
5 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1961
p. 27.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
31 Jul 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1961
p. 4.
Daily Variety
16 Aug 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
27 Nov 1961
p. 2.
Daily Variety
23 May 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
29 Nov 1962
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
7 Dec 1960
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
23 Aug 1961
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
14 Oct 1961
Section A, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1962
Section A, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
30 May 1962
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1963
Section D, p. 12.
New York Times
16 Jan 1961
p. 22.
New York Times
11 Jul 1962
p. 28.
New York Times
12 Jul 1962
p. 19.
Variety
14 Dec 1960
p. 11.
Variety
21 Dec 1960
p. 4.
Variety
28 Dec 1960
p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Men's ward
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod supv
Scr supv
Stills
Title backgrounds photography
Title backgrounds photography
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Separation Hill
Release Date:
30 May 1962
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 30 May 1962; New York opening: 11 Jul 1962
Production Date:
12 Jun--late Aug 1961
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures
Copyright Date:
31 December 1961
Copyright Number:
LP22223
Duration(in mins):
90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In autumn 1944, Reese, a sullen and rebellious American soldier, is demoted for drunkenness and sent back to his outfit, a small, battle-weary, infantry squad stationed near Germany's formidable Siegfried Line in Belgium. Reese's open resentment at being replaced as staff sergeant alienates him from his fellow GI's, despite his decoration for courage during previous combat missions. When the squad is ordered to defend a thinly wooded area facing a German pillbox, they use various ruses to convince the enemy that they are a much larger force. Although their instructions are merely to hold their position until replacements arrive, Reese realizes that they cannot long continue to fool the Germans, and he leads an unauthorized charge against the pillbox. The raid is unsuccessful and Reese is slated for court martial. But, with the coming of dawn, he unleashes a one-man assault against the stronghold and blows himself up along with the German gun crew, enabling the Allied forces to breach the hitherto impregnable Siegfried ... +


In autumn 1944, Reese, a sullen and rebellious American soldier, is demoted for drunkenness and sent back to his outfit, a small, battle-weary, infantry squad stationed near Germany's formidable Siegfried Line in Belgium. Reese's open resentment at being replaced as staff sergeant alienates him from his fellow GI's, despite his decoration for courage during previous combat missions. When the squad is ordered to defend a thinly wooded area facing a German pillbox, they use various ruses to convince the enemy that they are a much larger force. Although their instructions are merely to hold their position until replacements arrive, Reese realizes that they cannot long continue to fool the Germans, and he leads an unauthorized charge against the pillbox. The raid is unsuccessful and Reese is slated for court martial. But, with the coming of dawn, he unleashes a one-man assault against the stronghold and blows himself up along with the German gun crew, enabling the Allied forces to breach the hitherto impregnable Siegfried Line. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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