The Tanks Are Coming (1951)

89-90 mins | Drama | 17 November 1951

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Producer:

Bryan Foy

Cinematographer:

Edwin DuPar

Production Designer:

Leo Kuter

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film. An acknowledgment at the end of the film thanks the Department of Defense and the United States Army for permitting actual combat film to be used, and for aid and cooperation which made the production of the picture possible. According to a Nov 1950 LAT news item, after producer Bryan Foy's success with the 1950 Warner Bros. film Breakthrough , which was based on a story by Joseph Breen, Jr. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), Foy was assigned The Tanks Are Coming , another story by Breen. Although Breakthrough cast members David Brian, John Agar and Frank Lovejoy were reportedly reuniting for The Tanks Are Coming , none of those actors were cast.
       A Dec 1950 DV news item announced that Steve Cochran would play the lead and stated that Samuel Fuller had adapted Breen's story. However, Breen is not credited onscreen and the extent of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to May and Jun 1951 HR news items, Eve Miller was cast as the female lead, but she did not appear in the final film. A Jul 1951 HR news item adds John Bradford to the cast, although his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Most of the film was shot on location at Fort Knox, KY, according to reviews and HR news items. According to the Var review, actual war footage was included in the battle ... More Less

Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film. An acknowledgment at the end of the film thanks the Department of Defense and the United States Army for permitting actual combat film to be used, and for aid and cooperation which made the production of the picture possible. According to a Nov 1950 LAT news item, after producer Bryan Foy's success with the 1950 Warner Bros. film Breakthrough , which was based on a story by Joseph Breen, Jr. (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), Foy was assigned The Tanks Are Coming , another story by Breen. Although Breakthrough cast members David Brian, John Agar and Frank Lovejoy were reportedly reuniting for The Tanks Are Coming , none of those actors were cast.
       A Dec 1950 DV news item announced that Steve Cochran would play the lead and stated that Samuel Fuller had adapted Breen's story. However, Breen is not credited onscreen and the extent of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. According to May and Jun 1951 HR news items, Eve Miller was cast as the female lead, but she did not appear in the final film. A Jul 1951 HR news item adds John Bradford to the cast, although his appearance in the film has not been confirmed. Most of the film was shot on location at Fort Knox, KY, according to reviews and HR news items. According to the Var review, actual war footage was included in the battle scenes. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Nov 1951.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1950.
---
Daily Variety
1 Nov 51
p. 3.
Film Daily
31 Oct 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
17 May 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 51
p. 6, 11.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 51
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Nov 51
p. 1094.
New York Times
6 Dec 51
p. 42.
Variety
7 Nov 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
From a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 November 1951
Production Date:
June 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
6 November 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1264
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
89-90
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15328
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Near St. Lo, France, in 1944, the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division set out on their mission to pierce the Siegfried line. Lt. Rawson's platoon of five tanks, the best in Capt. Horner's Company C, ride at the head, leading off with the tank California Jane , commanded by Master Sgt. Joe Davis. Although the mission begins successfully, a German Panzer ambushes them, and in the battle, Joe is seriously injured and his driver killed. That evening a replacement for Joe arrives, cocky staff sergeant Francis Aloysius "Sully" Sullivan, who immediately alienates both superiors and subordinates with his tactlessness. Claiming to need a driver with whom he is familiar, Sully gets Horner's reluctant permission to assign the intemperate Sgt. Tucker to be his driver, passing over the platoon's assistant driver, Danny Kolowicz. Before reporting to Rawson as Horner orders, Sully abruptly introduces himself to the men and begins a heartless lecture meant to kick them into shape. He taunts the German-born gunner, Heinrich "Heinie" Weinburger, but is interrupted by Rawson, who dresses him down for disobeying protocol, calling him "a glory-chasing showoff who will get his men killed." Unmoved by the rebuke, Sully claims that ninety-eight percent of deaths are the result of mistakes, which he never makes. The next day, as Horner keeps a distrustful eye on Sully, the company continues its push through France, with Sully in the lead. The men reach Belgium after traveling ninety miles a day, with little rest or praise from the exacting Sully. Germans attack them with a superior tank while they are fording a river, but the men are victorious under Sully's leadership. However, Rawson reprimands Sully for ... +


Near St. Lo, France, in 1944, the soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division set out on their mission to pierce the Siegfried line. Lt. Rawson's platoon of five tanks, the best in Capt. Horner's Company C, ride at the head, leading off with the tank California Jane , commanded by Master Sgt. Joe Davis. Although the mission begins successfully, a German Panzer ambushes them, and in the battle, Joe is seriously injured and his driver killed. That evening a replacement for Joe arrives, cocky staff sergeant Francis Aloysius "Sully" Sullivan, who immediately alienates both superiors and subordinates with his tactlessness. Claiming to need a driver with whom he is familiar, Sully gets Horner's reluctant permission to assign the intemperate Sgt. Tucker to be his driver, passing over the platoon's assistant driver, Danny Kolowicz. Before reporting to Rawson as Horner orders, Sully abruptly introduces himself to the men and begins a heartless lecture meant to kick them into shape. He taunts the German-born gunner, Heinrich "Heinie" Weinburger, but is interrupted by Rawson, who dresses him down for disobeying protocol, calling him "a glory-chasing showoff who will get his men killed." Unmoved by the rebuke, Sully claims that ninety-eight percent of deaths are the result of mistakes, which he never makes. The next day, as Horner keeps a distrustful eye on Sully, the company continues its push through France, with Sully in the lead. The men reach Belgium after traveling ninety miles a day, with little rest or praise from the exacting Sully. Germans attack them with a superior tank while they are fording a river, but the men are victorious under Sully's leadership. However, Rawson reprimands Sully for ignoring his orders for information during the battle until Col. Matthews rides up and praises Sully for thinking on his feet. After witnessing the near invincibility of the German tank's armor and cannon, a sensitive mechanic's assistant, George "Ike" Eisenhower, runs away after the battle and shows up at the general's camp wanting to discuss the American tanks' shortcomings. The amiable general of the 3rd Armored Division, who shares Ike's frustration, intimates that a newer tank is expected soon and promises to send the first one he gets to Ike. Satisfied that his concerns were heard, Ike returns to his platoon, where no one believes his story. During the night, the men capture a German general, Von Kolber, who has in his possession the Germans' strategic plans, which Heinie is able to translate. To keep the Germans in the dark about his capture, Sully personally escorts Von Kolber to the general, who, after seeing the papers, reroutes every available man and vehicle to intercept the Germans and thwart their impending attack. When Sully returns to his men, they have scattered to the nearby village, frustrated with his unrelenting harshness. Ordered by Rawson to round them up, Sully rescues Tucker from a bottle of whiskey, finds Heinie on a mysterious personal mission and interrupts Kolowicz and radio man Jerry "Marconi" Whitehouse as they spend time with Belgium village girls. Of the men, Kolowicz is the most resentful and fights Sully, but he makes little impression on the sergeant, who sends them back to their duties. As ordered, Rawson's platoon races to set up a roadblock, and Marconi is assigned to an observation post to report the location of the Germans' approach. However, when the Germans slip through the tankers' cannon fire, Marconi suggests that they shoot closer to his location, risking his own demise from friendly fire. During the shooting, Sully saves Kolowicz, then rescues Marconi, and coincidentally captures several Germans. Impressed by Sully's selflessness and their own growth as combat soldiers under his training, the men find their resentment turning to respect. Later, they are surprised to learn that Sully has recommended Marconi for a medal and then a second surprise arrives in the form of a new tank, which is sent to Ike by the general, as promised. The tankers drive on to liberate several Belgian cities until they reach the "dragon's teeth," where German artillery awaits them. Sully takes the new tank and, while under fire, heroically drives over the line. With the help of Rawson and the other men, the opposing tanks and machine gun artillery are shot down, and the Germans are forced to retreat. Although Sully is now showing signs of warmth and humor, he is suspicious when Heinie goes off alone. Following him to a village, Sully discovers that Heinie has been searching, successfully, for his grandparents. He and Heinie then return to camp with a dog Sully has befriended. As Sully and his men celebrate with a bottle of whiskey, Rawson and Horner show up with news that they have recommended Sully for a promotion. Sully turns it down after considering that the promotion would mean reassignment. Hiding his feelings for the men with his customary bluster, he orders them to load the tank for their next move, but the men no longer resent his gruffness, knowing that Sully takes care of them in his own way. +

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.