Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

92 mins | Drama | December 1951

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Old Soldiers Never Die and Rearguard . Before the picture's opening credits, a written prologue states: "This is the story of American troops in Korea early in 1951. It is dedicated to the Queen of Battles--the United States Infantry. We give our grateful thanks to the Department of the Army for its encouragement, advice and active cooperation in the preparation and production of this picture." According to contemporary sources, the working title Old Soldiers Never Die was inspired by the 1951 speech made by General Douglas MacArthur before a Joint session of Congress upon his retirement. In the speech, he quoted words from the "barracks ballad" asserting that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Several news items noted that a number of film companies were interested in using the title, while a 14 May 1951 HR news item noted that the Twentieth Century-Fox picture would not be directly based on MacArthur's life, despite the use of the title. In Jul 1951, Time reported that Twentieth Century-Fox "dropped" the title Old Soldiers Never Die , which it now claimed was "not suitable."
       Although the onscreen credits state that the picture was "suggested by" John Brophy's novel The Immortal Sergeant , a modern interview with director and writer Samuel Fuller reports that the screenplay was based on Fuller's original story. Fuller asserted that the stories had nothing in common, and that studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck decided to credit the Brophy novel because it also dealt with a timid soldier. [In 1943, Twentieth ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Old Soldiers Never Die and Rearguard . Before the picture's opening credits, a written prologue states: "This is the story of American troops in Korea early in 1951. It is dedicated to the Queen of Battles--the United States Infantry. We give our grateful thanks to the Department of the Army for its encouragement, advice and active cooperation in the preparation and production of this picture." According to contemporary sources, the working title Old Soldiers Never Die was inspired by the 1951 speech made by General Douglas MacArthur before a Joint session of Congress upon his retirement. In the speech, he quoted words from the "barracks ballad" asserting that "old soldiers never die, they just fade away." Several news items noted that a number of film companies were interested in using the title, while a 14 May 1951 HR news item noted that the Twentieth Century-Fox picture would not be directly based on MacArthur's life, despite the use of the title. In Jul 1951, Time reported that Twentieth Century-Fox "dropped" the title Old Soldiers Never Die , which it now claimed was "not suitable."
       Although the onscreen credits state that the picture was "suggested by" John Brophy's novel The Immortal Sergeant , a modern interview with director and writer Samuel Fuller reports that the screenplay was based on Fuller's original story. Fuller asserted that the stories had nothing in common, and that studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck decided to credit the Brophy novel because it also dealt with a timid soldier. [In 1943, Twentieth Century-Fox released Immortal Sergeant , which was based directly on Brophy's novel, directed by John M. Stahl and starring Henry Fonda. For more information, see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 .]
       According to a May 1951 HR news item, the film was originally to star Gary Merrill, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner and Jeffrey Hunter. A 16 Jul 1951 DV news item reported that Merrill was replaced by Gene Evans at the request of Fuller, who had recently worked with Evans in the 1951 film The Steel Helmet (see below). An Aug 1951 NYT article claimed that Fuller "coaxed" technical advisor Capt. Raymond Harvey into taking an acting role in the picture, but Harvey's appearance in the film has not been confirmed. HR news items include the following actors in the cast, but their appearance in the released picture has also not been confirmed: Dudley Ross, Frank Belt, Patrick Holmes, Steve Wayne , Greg Rogers, William Lundmark, Jack Morrow, Tommy Walker, Bill Hickman and Kaine Shaw. An Aug 1951 HR news item noted that Fuller specially wrote a part for actor Patrick Fitzgibbon, who served with him during World War II. Fixed Bayonets marked the screen debut of Paul Richards. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Dec 1951.
---
Daily Variety
24 May 1951.
---
Daily Variety
16 Jul 51
p. 1, 6
Daily Variety
21 Nov 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
26 Nov 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jul 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jul 51
p. 4, 6
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 51
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 51
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 51
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 51
p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
21 Apr 1951.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Apr 1951.
---
Motion Picture Daily
21 Nov 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
24 Nov 51
pp. 1117-18.
New York Times
12 Aug 1951.
---
New York Times
21 Nov 51
p. 20.
Newsweek
3 Dec 1951.
---
Time
30 Apr 1951.
---
Time
30 Jul 1951.
---
Variety
21 Nov 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Ward dir
MUSIC
Mus
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Special photog eff
Head of special eff dept
Explosives expert
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
STAND INS
Stunts
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the novel The Immortal Sergeant by John Brophy (New York, 1942).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Old Soldiers Never Die
Rearguard
Release Date:
December 1951
Premiere Information:
World premiere in New York: 20 November 1951
Los Angeles opening: 5 December 1951
Production Date:
19 July--mid August 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
20 November 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1474
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in feet):
8,255
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15443
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During the Korean War, a beleagured American Army division is forced to retreat, and the general in charge decides to station a 48-man platoon in a strategic mountain pass to prevent the enemy from learning about the move until after it is completed. The "rearguard action" is headed by Lt. Gibbs and sergeants Rock and Lonergan, who march their men toward the pass. During the march, Corp. Denno, a well-trained yet fearful soldier, is unable to kill a single enemy, despite past successes in shooting at a large number of oncoming men. Upon reaching the pass, the soldiers plan their fortifications, including laying a mine field on the pass ground and establishing lookout posts. The men bemoan the lack of dry socks and warm food, while Denno converses with Rock, who cautions him that despite his fear of leadership, there are only three men above him, and he will have to take command of the platoon if they are killed. The enemy attacks but the platoon responds quickly, and discovers a cave large enough for all the men to take cover in. Soon after, Gibbs is killed by a sniper, and Denno is haunted by the thought that now only two men stand between him and command. That night, Denno confesses to Rock that when he was in officers' training school, he twice gave unsafe orders that resulted in serious injuries to his men. Rock reassures Denno that he will be able to cope and advises him that the only thing he should rely on is his gun. In the morning, the men are awakened by the loud bugle calls of the enemy, and ... +


During the Korean War, a beleagured American Army division is forced to retreat, and the general in charge decides to station a 48-man platoon in a strategic mountain pass to prevent the enemy from learning about the move until after it is completed. The "rearguard action" is headed by Lt. Gibbs and sergeants Rock and Lonergan, who march their men toward the pass. During the march, Corp. Denno, a well-trained yet fearful soldier, is unable to kill a single enemy, despite past successes in shooting at a large number of oncoming men. Upon reaching the pass, the soldiers plan their fortifications, including laying a mine field on the pass ground and establishing lookout posts. The men bemoan the lack of dry socks and warm food, while Denno converses with Rock, who cautions him that despite his fear of leadership, there are only three men above him, and he will have to take command of the platoon if they are killed. The enemy attacks but the platoon responds quickly, and discovers a cave large enough for all the men to take cover in. Soon after, Gibbs is killed by a sniper, and Denno is haunted by the thought that now only two men stand between him and command. That night, Denno confesses to Rock that when he was in officers' training school, he twice gave unsafe orders that resulted in serious injuries to his men. Rock reassures Denno that he will be able to cope and advises him that the only thing he should rely on is his gun. In the morning, the men are awakened by the loud bugle calls of the enemy, and Whitey, a soldier christened "Mr. Belvedere" by his comrades because of his know-it-all attitude, explains that the Chinese are attempting to cause the Americans psychological distress. Rock sends Whitey and another soldier to steal one of the bugles, and although they succeed, Whitey's companion is injured. As the medic tends to the wounded man, Lonergan searches for soldier Bigmouth, who was not at his post. Lonergan soon finds Bigmouth, who has slipped into unconsciousness due to the cold, but as he is bringing him back, Lonergan is shot by a sniper. When the medic tries to cross the minefield to rescue Lonergan, he steps on a mine and is killed. Desperate to save Lonergan and avoid coming closer to command, Denno risks his life to traverse the minefield and retrieve the sergeant, but Lonergan is dead by the time Denno carries him back. The next day, the Chinese ambush one of the lookout posts and force the rest of the Americans into hiding in the cave. With only an hour to go before they can follow the main company and retreat, the men grow edgy and worry about ricochets within the cave. Their fear is realized when Rock is hit and killed by a sniper's ricocheting bullet, and Denno must face his worst fears and assume command of the platoon. Denno orders the men to wait until the appointed hour, but as they are about to decamp, they hear an approaching tank. Realizing that the enemy has figured out the rearguard strategy, Denno decides to blow up the tank in the pass so that the Chinese cannot follow the retreating troops. The men succeed in blowing up the tank with a bazooka, but are soon embroiled in a major battle with the enemy. Meanwhile, the main division succeeds in their retreat and blows up the bridge leading to their new position. As the soldiers set up camp, they see some men swimming across the river. Holding their fire, they recognize the battle-tested Denno and his remaining men, who have triumphed over their opponents. With his confidence restored, Denno remembers Rock telling him, "You ain't a corporal for nothing, corporal." +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.