Never So Few (1959)

123-124 or 126 mins | Drama | December 1959

Director:

John Sturges

Writer:

Dalton Trumbo

Producer:

Edmund Grainger

Cinematographer:

William H. Daniels

Editor:

Ferris Webster

Production Designers:

Hans Peters, Addison Hehr

Production Companies:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., Canterbury Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title for the film was Sacred and Profane . With the exception of Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida, the onscreen cast were presented in the opening credits with brief clips from the film. According to a HR Nov 1956 news item, M-G-M purchased Tom Chamales' novel Never So Few before its publication. A HR item from that same month and year noted that Sam Zimbalist would produce the film. A Dec 1958 DV item stated that screenwriter Millard Kaufman was being considered to direct. Other news items indicated that John Sturges was in long-pending negotiations to direct. An Oct 1958 HR casting note stated that Roger Moore was being considered for the role of "Maj. Danny De Mortimer." A modern source claims that Sinatra initially had a role rewritten to accommodate Sammy Davis, Jr., but after the two quarreled, Sinatra had the part reworked for Steve McQueen.
       HR items from Sep and Dec 1958 revealed that shooting had been approved in Burma (now known as Myanmar) by the local government, but by Apr 1959 a LAT item indicated the film was to be shot in Hawaii. The Var review noted, however, that the bulk of the film was shot on the M-G-M Culver City, CA lot and other domestic sites, highlighted by location footage in Burma, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India. The HR review stated that Chamales was a member of the famed "Merrill's Marauders," a unit that served with distinction in Burma during World War II. According to ... More Less

The working title for the film was Sacred and Profane . With the exception of Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida, the onscreen cast were presented in the opening credits with brief clips from the film. According to a HR Nov 1956 news item, M-G-M purchased Tom Chamales' novel Never So Few before its publication. A HR item from that same month and year noted that Sam Zimbalist would produce the film. A Dec 1958 DV item stated that screenwriter Millard Kaufman was being considered to direct. Other news items indicated that John Sturges was in long-pending negotiations to direct. An Oct 1958 HR casting note stated that Roger Moore was being considered for the role of "Maj. Danny De Mortimer." A modern source claims that Sinatra initially had a role rewritten to accommodate Sammy Davis, Jr., but after the two quarreled, Sinatra had the part reworked for Steve McQueen.
       HR items from Sep and Dec 1958 revealed that shooting had been approved in Burma (now known as Myanmar) by the local government, but by Apr 1959 a LAT item indicated the film was to be shot in Hawaii. The Var review noted, however, that the bulk of the film was shot on the M-G-M Culver City, CA lot and other domestic sites, highlighted by location footage in Burma, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India. The HR review stated that Chamales was a member of the famed "Merrill's Marauders," a unit that served with distinction in Burma during World War II. According to the HR review, the plot point within Never So Few which shows the anti-Communist Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek providing authorization for warlords to cross borders and kill indiscriminately during World War II was based on fact. Chamales had made the same accusation in a non-fiction article, "Betrayal in China," published in True Magazine in Jan 1958. The review related that the Los Angeles Consul General for the Republic of China vehemently denied the accusation, and the reviewer was unable to substantiate it in his own research. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Dec 1959.
---
Daily Variety
18 Sep 1958.
---
Daily Variety
23 Sep 1958.
---
Daily Variety
5 Dec 1958.
---
Daily Variety
8 Dec 59
p. 3.
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1958.
---
Film Daily
7 Dec 59
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 1958
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Apr 1959.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1959
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1959
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 59
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
3 Apr 1959.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Dec 59
p. 517.
New York Times
22 Jan 60
p. 15.
Time
25 Jan 1960
p. 93.
Variety
9 Dec 59
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns for Gina Lollobrigida by
MUSIC
Orch cond
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstyles
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Never So Few by Tom T. Chamales (New York, 1957).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Sacred and Profane
Release Date:
December 1959
Production Date:
mid May--mid July 1959
Copyright Claimant:
Canterbury Productions, Inc. & Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
16 November 1959
Copyright Number:
LP15066
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Photographic lenses by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
123-124 or 126
Length(in feet):
11,186
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19299
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1943 Burma, a unit of American and British forces under the Office of Strategic Services joins with the native Kachin to hold back the Japanese army. The unit, under the joint command of American captain Tom C. Reynolds and British captain Danny De Mortimer with guidance from Kachin leader Nautaung, remains frustrated by their lengthy, grueling duty, limited supplies and lack of medical care. After an ambush mission during which the unit wipes out a Japanese squad, Tom’s aid, Bye Ya, is severely wounded. Knowing that because they have no morphine Bye Ya will die a lingering, painful death, Tom shoots him, dismaying Danny. Tom then angrily contacts army headquarters in Calcutta and demands to meet with his commanding officer. A few days later in Calcutta, Tom and Danny are met by Corp. Bill Ringa, who has been assigned as their driver. That evening at dinner, the men run into the O.S.S. regional commanding officer Col. Fred Parkson, who introduces them to wealthy merchant Nikko Regas and his girl friend, Carla Vesari. Tom is immediately attracted to Carla and asks her to dance, but she mocks his provincial American background. As he departs, Nikko invites the men to his country place at the base of the Himalayan mountains. The next day at headquarters, Tom demands a doctor for the unit but Parkson informs him that medical officers are in short supply and it will be their responsibility to secure a doctor. After Parkson then unexpectedly orders the men to take two weeks leave, Tom refuses unless the Kachin are also officially provided leave. When Parkson agrees, Tom ... +


In 1943 Burma, a unit of American and British forces under the Office of Strategic Services joins with the native Kachin to hold back the Japanese army. The unit, under the joint command of American captain Tom C. Reynolds and British captain Danny De Mortimer with guidance from Kachin leader Nautaung, remains frustrated by their lengthy, grueling duty, limited supplies and lack of medical care. After an ambush mission during which the unit wipes out a Japanese squad, Tom’s aid, Bye Ya, is severely wounded. Knowing that because they have no morphine Bye Ya will die a lingering, painful death, Tom shoots him, dismaying Danny. Tom then angrily contacts army headquarters in Calcutta and demands to meet with his commanding officer. A few days later in Calcutta, Tom and Danny are met by Corp. Bill Ringa, who has been assigned as their driver. That evening at dinner, the men run into the O.S.S. regional commanding officer Col. Fred Parkson, who introduces them to wealthy merchant Nikko Regas and his girl friend, Carla Vesari. Tom is immediately attracted to Carla and asks her to dance, but she mocks his provincial American background. As he departs, Nikko invites the men to his country place at the base of the Himalayan mountains. The next day at headquarters, Tom demands a doctor for the unit but Parkson informs him that medical officers are in short supply and it will be their responsibility to secure a doctor. After Parkson then unexpectedly orders the men to take two weeks leave, Tom refuses unless the Kachin are also officially provided leave. When Parkson agrees, Tom asks to have Ringa reassigned as his new aide, as he has grown fond of the corporal’s ingenuity and fearlessness. Tom, Danny and Ringa drive to Cowaga and upon arriving at their hotel receive a note from Nikko, inviting them to a party. At the party, Tom seeks out Carla and despite her cool attitude, asks to see her the next day. The following morning after horseback riding, Tom and Carla are joined by Danny for a tour of the Himalayan villages. During the tour, Danny falls ill and, upon returning to Nikko’s house, is misdiagnosed as having typhus by military doctor Capt. Grey Travis. Danny insists that he is having a reoccurrence of malaria and after several tests, Travis reluctantly agrees. Nikko offers to put the men up until Danny recovers and, eager to be near Carla, Tom accepts. Noting Carla’s attraction to Tom, Nikko cautions her of the unreliability of Americans. After Nikko departs for China, Carla spends more time with Tom, but continues to refuse his romantic overtures. Upon Danny’s recovery, Tom informs Travis that he has had the doctor assigned to their unit as medical officer. Tom then surprises Carla by insisting that she leave Nikko because Tom intends to marry her. Tom and the others return to the Kachin hills in time to spend Christmas with the troops, but their celebration is interrupted when the Japanese unexpectedly attack and wound Tom. Ringa learns from a captured Japanese soldier that the strike was planned with inside information. Nautaung is dismayed when he discovers that one of his men, Billingsley, and a native Shan girl have betrayed them. When Tom orders the two executed, Travis protests vigorously, but Tom insists that the dangers of jungle warfare demand harsh measures. Travis then sends Tom and the other soldiers wounded in the attack to the air base hospital in Calcutta to recover. There, Parkson gives Tom new orders to destroy an airfield in Ubachi, near the Chinese border. When Tom objects that his small unit lacks the supplies to make a successful attack, Parkson assures him they will receive supplies from their Chinese allies. Later, Carla visits Tom and invites him to stay with her when he has recovered. The day before returning to the hills, Tom goes to see Carla, but is disappointed to find her in a luxurious hotel, which she admits is at Nikko’s expense. Tom criticizes Carla’s inability to put aside her desire for luxury and departs hurt and angered. Tom rejoins his unit and they proceed on their mission. When the supply convoy fails to arrive at the designated time, Tom decides they must go ahead with the attack anyway. Although the mission is successful, Nautaung and several Americans are killed. While making their way back, the unit comes across the destroyed convoy and finds evidence that indicates that renegade Chinese from across the border were responsible. Tom decides to pursue the renegades, despite Danny’s protest. The men find the Chinese camp at nightfall and locating their supply tent, come upon several dozen American dog tags and personal effects. Shocked and outraged, Tom realizes the renegades have been killing American soldiers. Danny translates one of several Chinese warrants from the Chung King government authorizing independent military forces to defend China in and outside their borders against all foreign intruders, and stating that all confiscated materials will be split with Chung King. Tom rouses the Chinese in the camp and holds them under guard, but when he radios headquarters to report, he receives a message ordering his immediate return as the Chinese have lodged a complaint about his unit’s incursion. While Tom consults with Danny about the prisoners, a Chinese soldier surprises them and kills Danny. Tom sends a message back to headquarters rebuffing their demand and orders Ringa to execute the prisoners. Upon returning to Burma, Tom promotes Ringa and places him in command of the unit, then proceeds to Calcutta where he is placed under house arrest. Carla visits Tom and confesses that she could not tell him earlier that Nikko is with intelligence and she is his assistant. Carla advises Tom to say that battle fatigue caused his defiant incursion into China, but he refuses. Later, Parkson and his commanding officer, Gen. Sloan, visit Tom who shows them one of the Chinese warrants. Sloan advises Tom not to mention the warrants and demands that he apologize to the representative of the Chinese government. Tom declines and offers Sloan the American dog tags found at the renegade camp. A military psychiatrist is brought in to examine Tom for a possible mental discharge, but Tom refuses to cooperate. The Chinese representative then arrives, and Sloan unexpectedly sides with Tom, demanding that the warlord who has killed American servicemen be reported and an apology issued from China to the U. S. Stung, the representative departs and Sloan reveals that the Chung King government had already sent an apology with a promise to investigate the murders. Exonerated, Tom is freed and reunites with Carla. +

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

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