Take the High Ground! (1953)

101 mins | Drama | 30 October 1953

Director:

Richard Brooks

Writer:

Dalton Trumbo

Producer:

Dore Schary

Cinematographer:

John Alton

Editor:

John Dunning

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Making of a Marine . The opening credits were preceded by a title reading "Korea May, 1951" and a brief scene depicting the character "Sgt. Thorne Ryan" in combat. The opening credits also acknowledge the "thousands of fighting men at Fort Bliss" and contain the following written prologue: "An Infantryman once said, 'There was a time I wanted to kill my drill sergeant, but later in combat I thanked God for what he taught me. I found out that a drill sergeant, tough as he was, wasn't as tough as the enemy.'" The closing credits, which differ in order from the opening credits, appear over footage of each of the principal actors. The order of cast members in the opening credits is as follows: Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, Elaine Stewart, Carleton Carpenter and Russ Tamblyn.
       According to a 7 Dec 1953 article in Life , producer Dore Schary was first inspired to make a film about military training after reading a photo essay in the 8 Oct 1951 issue of Life titled "How to Make Marines." The article, which featured eight pages of photographs shot by Mark Kauffman, documented boat Platoon 268 throughout eight weeks of training at Parris Island. (Mark Kauffman's relationship to Take the High Ground screenwriter Millard Kaufman is undetermined.)
       The film was originally to be shot at the U.S. Marine boot camp in San Diego, CA, according to an 8 May 1952 HR news item. The Dec 1953 Life article asserts that "the Marines refused to cooperate because they did not want to stir up old controversies ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Making of a Marine . The opening credits were preceded by a title reading "Korea May, 1951" and a brief scene depicting the character "Sgt. Thorne Ryan" in combat. The opening credits also acknowledge the "thousands of fighting men at Fort Bliss" and contain the following written prologue: "An Infantryman once said, 'There was a time I wanted to kill my drill sergeant, but later in combat I thanked God for what he taught me. I found out that a drill sergeant, tough as he was, wasn't as tough as the enemy.'" The closing credits, which differ in order from the opening credits, appear over footage of each of the principal actors. The order of cast members in the opening credits is as follows: Richard Widmark, Karl Malden, Elaine Stewart, Carleton Carpenter and Russ Tamblyn.
       According to a 7 Dec 1953 article in Life , producer Dore Schary was first inspired to make a film about military training after reading a photo essay in the 8 Oct 1951 issue of Life titled "How to Make Marines." The article, which featured eight pages of photographs shot by Mark Kauffman, documented boat Platoon 268 throughout eight weeks of training at Parris Island. (Mark Kauffman's relationship to Take the High Ground screenwriter Millard Kaufman is undetermined.)
       The film was originally to be shot at the U.S. Marine boot camp in San Diego, CA, according to an 8 May 1952 HR news item. The Dec 1953 Life article asserts that "the Marines refused to cooperate because they did not want to stir up old controversies over the toughness of their training program." The Army, however, cooperated fully with the studio, and location filming took place at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. According to pre-production HR news items, James Arness, Ralph Meeker, James Whitmore, Keefe Brasselle, William Campbell, Richard Anderson, Horace McMahon , Russ Saunders and Dick Morris were cast, but they were not in the film. HR news items include Dean Miller, Fritz Apking, William Coughlin, Guy Way, Ray Saunders, Fred Shellack and George Rubotham in the cast, but their appearance in the final film cannot be confirmed. Take the High Ground! was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Sep 1953.
---
Daily Variety
23 Sep 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
2 Oct 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 May 52
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 52
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 53
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 53
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jan 53
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 53
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 53
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 53
p. 3.
Life
8 Oct 51
pp. 141-50.
Life
7 Dec 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Sep 53
p. 2006.
New York Times
20 Nov 53
p. 19.
Newsweek
16 Nov 1953.
---
Time
9 Nov 1953.
---
Variety
2 Sep 1953.
---
Variety
23 Sep 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Special instructor
Unit mgr
Dialect tech adv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"Take the High Ground!" music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Ned Washington
"Julie," music and lyrics by Dimitri Tiomkin and Charles Wolcott.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Making of a Marine
Release Date:
30 October 1953
Premiere Information:
World premiere in El Paso, TX: 21 September 1953
Production Date:
27 January--26 March 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 September 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3763
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Color
Ansco Color
Duration(in mins):
101
Length(in feet):
9,091
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16412
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In May 1953, a new group of Army recruits at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas encounter their drill instructors, Sgt. Laverne Holt and the tough young Sgt. Thorne Ryan. After Ryan's caustic appraisal of the recruits, Holt vows to make soldiers out of them during the sixteen weeks of basic training. Ryan, a combat veteran who resents his stateside duty, repeatedly applies for a transfer back to the Korean front. One night, the men cross the border to Mexico for recreation. In a bar, Ryan and Holt see a beautiful woman, Julie Mollison, buying drinks for a group of soldiers. Later that evening, the two sergeants escort the inebriated Julie to her apartment, and Ryan finds himself drawn to her. Training resumes, and Ryan exposes his men to tear gas to prepare them for the harsh conditions of battle. Ryan and Holt return to the bar one night, and find Julie sitting alone. When the crude Sgt. Vince Opperman insults Julie, she runs out of the bar in tears, and Holt comforts her. Ryan and Opperman fight, and Opperman reveals that Julie was married to a soldier who was killed in Korea shortly after she left him. One day, recruit Lobo Naglaski visits the camp chaplain to confess his murderous feelings toward Ryan, but comes to see that the sergeant has very little time in which to do a tough job. Tensions arise between Ryan and Holt, both over Ryan's callous treatment of the men and Holt's relationship with Julie. Ryan puts his men through increasingly tough drills, and during a bitter confrontation one day, Holt slugs Ryan and walks away. Later, Ryan calls on Julie at her ... +


In May 1953, a new group of Army recruits at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas encounter their drill instructors, Sgt. Laverne Holt and the tough young Sgt. Thorne Ryan. After Ryan's caustic appraisal of the recruits, Holt vows to make soldiers out of them during the sixteen weeks of basic training. Ryan, a combat veteran who resents his stateside duty, repeatedly applies for a transfer back to the Korean front. One night, the men cross the border to Mexico for recreation. In a bar, Ryan and Holt see a beautiful woman, Julie Mollison, buying drinks for a group of soldiers. Later that evening, the two sergeants escort the inebriated Julie to her apartment, and Ryan finds himself drawn to her. Training resumes, and Ryan exposes his men to tear gas to prepare them for the harsh conditions of battle. Ryan and Holt return to the bar one night, and find Julie sitting alone. When the crude Sgt. Vince Opperman insults Julie, she runs out of the bar in tears, and Holt comforts her. Ryan and Opperman fight, and Opperman reveals that Julie was married to a soldier who was killed in Korea shortly after she left him. One day, recruit Lobo Naglaski visits the camp chaplain to confess his murderous feelings toward Ryan, but comes to see that the sergeant has very little time in which to do a tough job. Tensions arise between Ryan and Holt, both over Ryan's callous treatment of the men and Holt's relationship with Julie. Ryan puts his men through increasingly tough drills, and during a bitter confrontation one day, Holt slugs Ryan and walks away. Later, Ryan calls on Julie at her apartment, and they fall into a passionate embrace. When she resists his further advances, however, Ryan becomes insulting, casting aspersions on Julie's virtue and chiding her for having left her late husband. One day, during a field exercise, recruit Donald Quentin Dover IV runs away. Ryan tracks him down and gives the young man a second chance, confessing that his own father had been a deserter. As the training period draws to a close, Ryan returns to Julie's apartment and discovers she has moved out. He finds Julie and Holt at the train station. After Holt leaves, Ryan apologizes for his earlier behavior and asks Julie to marry him, but she sadly replies that he is married to the Army. Outside the train station, Ryan and Holt silently make their peace. The men finish basic training, and as the new soldiers march by during their graduation exercises, Ryan proudly points them out to a fresh group of recruits. +

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.