The Sad Sack (1957)

96 or 98 mins | Comedy | December 1957

Full page view
HISTORY

The film begins with the following written statement: "Acknowledgment is hereby gratefully made to the United States Army and Air Force without whose cooperation, deep understanding, and sense of humor this picture could never been made." The "Sad Sack" comic strip was created by George Baker, then a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and made its debut in a May 1942 issue of the military weekly Yank , where it quickly became a permanent feature. It was so popular with servicemen and civilians alike that Simon and Schuster published two hardback collections of the strip. Following the end of World War II, the strip was picked up by the Bell Syndicate, which carried it in newspapers throughtout the U.S. until 1958.
       In 1949, Baker signed an agreement with Harvey Comics to publish comic books featuring the "Sad Sack" character, who had been transformed into a civilian for his syndicated Sunday strip form. When the Korean War broke out, "Sad Sack" re-enlisted in the Army and gained even greater popularity, becoming one of the first comics to be published monthly. The "Sad Sack Comics" series continued until 1982, appearing in 287 issues. During World War II, "Sad Sack" had also been the basis for a short-lived radio show, which featured the voice of Mel Blanc.
       According to a Sep 1950 HR news item, producer Robert L. Lippert was planning a series of "Sad Sack" films, featuring actor Mickey Rooney. In Jan 1951, LAT reported that Lippert was still negotiating for the film rights to "Sad Sack," and was considering actor Sterling Holloway for the lead role. By Mar 1951, however, DV ... More Less

The film begins with the following written statement: "Acknowledgment is hereby gratefully made to the United States Army and Air Force without whose cooperation, deep understanding, and sense of humor this picture could never been made." The "Sad Sack" comic strip was created by George Baker, then a sergeant in the U.S. Army, and made its debut in a May 1942 issue of the military weekly Yank , where it quickly became a permanent feature. It was so popular with servicemen and civilians alike that Simon and Schuster published two hardback collections of the strip. Following the end of World War II, the strip was picked up by the Bell Syndicate, which carried it in newspapers throughtout the U.S. until 1958.
       In 1949, Baker signed an agreement with Harvey Comics to publish comic books featuring the "Sad Sack" character, who had been transformed into a civilian for his syndicated Sunday strip form. When the Korean War broke out, "Sad Sack" re-enlisted in the Army and gained even greater popularity, becoming one of the first comics to be published monthly. The "Sad Sack Comics" series continued until 1982, appearing in 287 issues. During World War II, "Sad Sack" had also been the basis for a short-lived radio show, which featured the voice of Mel Blanc.
       According to a Sep 1950 HR news item, producer Robert L. Lippert was planning a series of "Sad Sack" films, featuring actor Mickey Rooney. In Jan 1951, LAT reported that Lippert was still negotiating for the film rights to "Sad Sack," and was considering actor Sterling Holloway for the lead role. By Mar 1951, however, DV announced that Paramount had purchased the film rights to Baker's character as a vehicle for Alan Young. Paramount press releases state that the planned Young picture was to be produced by Paul Jones.
       According to modern sources, producer Hal Wallis acquired the film rights to Baker's comic character in hopes of making it into a Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis picture. Following the breakup of the comedy team, a 7 Jan 1957 HR news item reported that Paramount, Hal Wallis Productions and York Productions (the production company owned by Martin and Lewis) had concluded an agreement in which Lewis was to appear in The Sad Sack for Wallis, with Martin agreeing to star in another film for the producer and studio later in 1957, as part of a settlement upon the unfulfilled portion of an earlier contract. Still hoping to reunite the duo, Wallis told LAEx at the time: "My arrangement still retains Martin and Lewis as a team for future Hal Wallis pictures." According to modern sources, The Sad Sack was one of two films--the 1965 picture Boeing, Boeing being the other--in which Lewis appeared to finish off his commitments to Wallis under the Martin-Lewis agreement with the producer.
       According to HR news items, portions of The Sad Sack were shot on location at Vincent Air Force Base near Yuma, AZ. Paramount press releases alos state that scenes were also shot at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, CA. Technical advisor Lt. Doris Schmerling was the commander of the WAC troops stationed at Fort MacArthur, according to HR . In 1962, Paramount re-released The Sad Sack , along with another 1957 Lewis film, The Delicate Delinquent , garnering $1,500,000 in North American rentals, according to NYT . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Oct 1957.
---
Daily Variety
29 Mar 1951.
---
Daily Variety
21 Oct 57
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Oct 57
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
26 Oct 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1950.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jan 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 57
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 57
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 57
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 57
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 57
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Oct 57
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
6 Jan 1957.
---
Motion Picture Daily
21 Oct 1957.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Oct 57
p. 577.
New York Times
28 Nov 57
p. 57.
New York Times
23 Mar 1963.
---
Variety
23 Oct 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Best boy
Stills
Pub stills
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Standby painter
Props
COSTUMES
Cost
Ladies' ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus scored and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Mus numbers staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hair style supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Casting dir
Secy to casting dir
Scr supv
Tech and liaison officer
STAND INS
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the comic strip "The Sad Sack" by George Baker in Yank (May 1942--Oct 1945) and distributed by Bell Syndicate (5 May 1946--1958).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"The Sad Sack," music by Burt F. Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David
"It's the Same," music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forest
"Why You Pay," music and lyrics by F. E. Miller, Charles O'Curran and Dudley Brooks.
DETAILS
Release Date:
December 1957
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 27 November 1957
Production Date:
18 March--3 May 1957
addl scenes 31 May 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp., Hal B. Wallis and Jospeh H. Hazen
Copyright Date:
5 December 1957
Copyright Number:
LP9494
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Sound Recording
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
96 or 98
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18612
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

While returning from their three-day leave in New Orleans, Cpl. Larry Dolan and his friend, Pvt. Stanley Wenaslawsky, meet fellow soldier Meredith Bixby on the train to Camp Calhoun. Though he initially seems quite normal, Bixby proves a walking disaster, as he accidentally pulls the train's emergency brake while trying to unscrew a light bulb. Hoping to make friends with his fellow soldiers, Bixby allows Larry and Stan to oversleep, but the three miss their stop and have to hitchhike ninety miles back to their base from Memphis. At Camp Calhoun, Maj. Shelton, a psychologist in the Women's Army Corps, tells her commander, Gen. Vanderlip, that the well-meaning Bixby has been a constant failure throughout his military career, causing Vanderlip to refer to him as "a sad sack." Arguing that that the Army is filled with "Bixbys," Shelton receives special permission to study the bumbling private. Assigned to the same company as Larry and Stan, Bixby makes a poor first impression on Sgt. Elmer Pulley after he accidentally dumps a load of gravel on his new supervisor. When Shelton asks him to tend to Bixby personally, Larry agrees to take on the assignment, seeing it as a way to avoid any strenuous duty. On the pretext of studying riflery, Larry and Stan then take Bixby to a roadhouse, and the three end up in a brawl with some local thugs. Quickly disguising himself as a military policeman, Bixby gets his new friends out of one mess and into another when he mistakenly returns them to a WAC barracks. Caught by Sgt. Hansen the next morning, the three soldiers are forced to get dressed in front of ... +


While returning from their three-day leave in New Orleans, Cpl. Larry Dolan and his friend, Pvt. Stanley Wenaslawsky, meet fellow soldier Meredith Bixby on the train to Camp Calhoun. Though he initially seems quite normal, Bixby proves a walking disaster, as he accidentally pulls the train's emergency brake while trying to unscrew a light bulb. Hoping to make friends with his fellow soldiers, Bixby allows Larry and Stan to oversleep, but the three miss their stop and have to hitchhike ninety miles back to their base from Memphis. At Camp Calhoun, Maj. Shelton, a psychologist in the Women's Army Corps, tells her commander, Gen. Vanderlip, that the well-meaning Bixby has been a constant failure throughout his military career, causing Vanderlip to refer to him as "a sad sack." Arguing that that the Army is filled with "Bixbys," Shelton receives special permission to study the bumbling private. Assigned to the same company as Larry and Stan, Bixby makes a poor first impression on Sgt. Elmer Pulley after he accidentally dumps a load of gravel on his new supervisor. When Shelton asks him to tend to Bixby personally, Larry agrees to take on the assignment, seeing it as a way to avoid any strenuous duty. On the pretext of studying riflery, Larry and Stan then take Bixby to a roadhouse, and the three end up in a brawl with some local thugs. Quickly disguising himself as a military policeman, Bixby gets his new friends out of one mess and into another when he mistakenly returns them to a WAC barracks. Caught by Sgt. Hansen the next morning, the three soldiers are forced to get dressed in front of their female compatriots. After being returned to Pulley, Larry and Stan are informed by their sergeant that, as punishment, they will not be joining their company on its foreign assignment in Morocco. Shelton overrules Pulley's decision, however, as she wants Larry shipped out of Calhoun as soon as possible because she is falling in love with the conniving corporal. In turn, Larry decides to keep his promise to Shelton and gets Bixby qualified on the rifle range, even though the inept private inadvertently shoots a tire out on Vanderlip's passing car. A proud Bixby then re-enlists and is sent to North Africa with the rest of his squad. While on leave in Morocco, Bixby, Larry and Stan stumble into a nightclub owned by Ali Mustapha, the ringleader of a gang of thieves who have been stealing U.S. military supplies. The club's featured performer Zita soon falls for the innocent Bixby, who, in turn, offers to give the singer his life savings so she can go home to Mexico City. Suspecting the worst of Zita, Larry steps in and lies to Bixby that Zita attempted to romance him as well. The heartbroken Bixby then goes AWOL and mistakenly wanders into Ali's headquarters on his way to join the French Foreign Legion. Told that Ali heads a secret force with the Legion, Bixby agrees to help the thieves assemble a stolen R-2 rapid fire cannon at their secret desert hideout. Two days later, Bixby overhears the thieves plotting his murder, but refuses to leave the camp until he can disarm the R-2, even though Larry, Stan and Zita arrive at the hideout to rescue him. The three soldiers are soon captured by Ali's men, but a still-free Zita helps them escape the Arabs' dungeon. The Americans then capture Ali and his men, marching the thieves across the desert and into the custody of the French government. Bixby, Larry and Stan are awarded the Foreign Legion citation for gallantry, though Bixby disrupts the ceremony when his boot heel melts onto the accelerator of his jeep. Larry is reunited with Shelton, who informs Bixby that the absent Zita has left Morocco for his hometown of Scranton, New Jersey. An excited Bixby then decides to show a new private how to hold a rifle correctly and ends up shooting the champagne glasses out of the hands of Vanderlip, a French general and an Arab chieftain. Realizing only Bixby could have done such a thing, the general assigns the private to the one duty at which he can harm no one but himself: peeling potatoes. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.