Red Ball Express (1952)

80 or 83 mins | Drama | May 1952

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HISTORY

The film opens with a voice-over narration delivered by Charles Drake as "Pvt. Partridge," outlining the 1944 Allied invasion to free Europe. The title credit does not appear until Partridge's narration is completed, about fifteen minutes into the film. The onscreen production and cast credits are withheld until the end of the film. The picture closes with the following written acknowledgment: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense, the Transportation Corps of the Army and the Virginia National Guard in the making of this motion picture."
       As depicted in the film, the Red Ball Express, formally known as the 371st Quartermaster Truck Company of the Army Transportation Corps, was a division of 6,000 trucks formed by Major General Frank Ross, the film's technical adviser, to rush ammunition, gasoline and other supplies through enemy held territory to General George Patton's tanks. The division included many African American soldiers. According to the HR review, location scenes for this picture were shot at Fort Eustis, VA, the headquarters of the Army Transportation Corps. Although a HR production chart places Susan Cabot and Richard Garland in the cast, their participation in the released film has not been ... More Less

The film opens with a voice-over narration delivered by Charles Drake as "Pvt. Partridge," outlining the 1944 Allied invasion to free Europe. The title credit does not appear until Partridge's narration is completed, about fifteen minutes into the film. The onscreen production and cast credits are withheld until the end of the film. The picture closes with the following written acknowledgment: "We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Department of Defense, the Transportation Corps of the Army and the Virginia National Guard in the making of this motion picture."
       As depicted in the film, the Red Ball Express, formally known as the 371st Quartermaster Truck Company of the Army Transportation Corps, was a division of 6,000 trucks formed by Major General Frank Ross, the film's technical adviser, to rush ammunition, gasoline and other supplies through enemy held territory to General George Patton's tanks. The division included many African American soldiers. According to the HR review, location scenes for this picture were shot at Fort Eustis, VA, the headquarters of the Army Transportation Corps. Although a HR production chart places Susan Cabot and Richard Garland in the cast, their participation in the released film has not been confirmed. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 May 1952.
---
Daily Variety
30 Apr 52
p. 3.
Film Daily
30 Apr 52
p. 6.
Harrison's Reports
3 May 1952
p. 70.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 51
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 51
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 52
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 May 52
p. 1349.
New York Times
30 May 52
p. 11.
The Exhibitor
7 May 52
p. 3291.
Variety
30 Apr 52
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Suggested by a story by
Suggested by a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting agent
DETAILS
Release Date:
May 1952
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 24 May 1952
New York opening: 29 May 1952
Production Date:
early November--19 December 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Co.
Copyright Date:
8 April 1952
Copyright Number:
LP1668
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
80 or 83
Length(in feet):
7,501
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In July 1944, the United States Army launches a massive invasion to break through German lines into France. At the forefront of the assault, General George Patton's swift moving combat forces outrun Allied supply lines, forcing the Transportation Corps to devise a new method to supply Patton's tanks. Dubbed the "Red Ball Express," a new outfit is formed to truck gasoline and ammunition to the front. When Lt. Chick Campbell is put in charge of the outfit, his subordinate, Sgt. Red Kallek, seethes with resentment because he holds a personal grudge against Campbell. As the men climb into their trucks, Kallek confides to his driving partner that Campbell killed his brother. Campbell teams up with Andrew Robertson, a young black corporal, but when Robertson tries to strike up a conversation, Campbell rebuffs him. As the convoy races to reach Paris, Kallek declares that the company is comprised of misfits and challenges Campbell's authority. After driving for two solid days, the men reach their objective and are ordered to unload the trucks, prompting them to complain about performing manual labor. Without any sleep, the convoy heads back, and one driver, suffering exhaustion, crashes his truck into a tree, forcing the outfit to stop. While they are waiting, Antoinette Dubois, a French girl, peddles her bike along the roadside, and after Private Ronald Partridge greets her, she invites him home to meet her family. Upon discovering that the Dubois have been subsisting on meager crusts of bread and watery soup, Partridge promises to bring them some food. Before Partridge can return, however, his partner, Taffy Smith, a black soldier, is ordered to ... +


In July 1944, the United States Army launches a massive invasion to break through German lines into France. At the forefront of the assault, General George Patton's swift moving combat forces outrun Allied supply lines, forcing the Transportation Corps to devise a new method to supply Patton's tanks. Dubbed the "Red Ball Express," a new outfit is formed to truck gasoline and ammunition to the front. When Lt. Chick Campbell is put in charge of the outfit, his subordinate, Sgt. Red Kallek, seethes with resentment because he holds a personal grudge against Campbell. As the men climb into their trucks, Kallek confides to his driving partner that Campbell killed his brother. Campbell teams up with Andrew Robertson, a young black corporal, but when Robertson tries to strike up a conversation, Campbell rebuffs him. As the convoy races to reach Paris, Kallek declares that the company is comprised of misfits and challenges Campbell's authority. After driving for two solid days, the men reach their objective and are ordered to unload the trucks, prompting them to complain about performing manual labor. Without any sleep, the convoy heads back, and one driver, suffering exhaustion, crashes his truck into a tree, forcing the outfit to stop. While they are waiting, Antoinette Dubois, a French girl, peddles her bike along the roadside, and after Private Ronald Partridge greets her, she invites him home to meet her family. Upon discovering that the Dubois have been subsisting on meager crusts of bread and watery soup, Partridge promises to bring them some food. Before Partridge can return, however, his partner, Taffy Smith, a black soldier, is ordered to join the convoy, leaving Partridge behind. Peddling furiously on Antoinette's bike, Partridge finally rejoins Smith. The outfit then continues on to a relief camp. There, Pvt. Wilson calls Robertson a "black boy," sparking racial tensions that result in a fistfight. After Campbell stops the fight, Robertson visits him in his tent and requests a transfer. Declaring that he has not been schooled in race relations, Campbell denies his request. Upon returning to his tent, Robertson complains to his black tentmates, Smith and Pvt. Dave McCord, that Robertson is a racist, but McCord defends the lieutenant. Continuing their mission, the trucks approach a heavily mined area, and although aware of the danger, McCord forges ahead into certain death. After McCord's truck is blown up, Campbell stops to conduct a funeral service for the slain soldier, thus earning the respect of his men. Soon after, the convoy meets a company of armored tanks, and when the tank sergeant derides the truckers as the "Foul Ball Express," the company of misfits finally coalesces to defend their honor. Later, the returning convoy passes Antoinette's house, and Partridge returns her bike and delivers a package of food. When the company pulls out without him again, Partridge is once again forced to peddle his way back. Upon reaching their base, the truckers unload their supplies and Campbell informs Robertson that he has approved his transfer. Robertson, who has developed respect for Campbell, replies that he wants to stay. At the base canteen, Kallek tells Joyce McClellan, a Red Cross worker, that Campbell killed his brother Al. Kallek claims that Campbell and Al were driving a rig through the Rockies when the truck jackknifed, trapping Al in the cab. Finding Campbell standing next to him at the bar, Kallek disparages Campbell's story that he was knocked unconscious and therefore unable to help Al. When Kallek challenges Campbell, the lieutenant orders his arrest. Soon after, the convoy is dispatched on a dangerous mission through German lines and Campbell orders Kallek's release. Along the road, they are pinned down by a German tank and Partridge sacrifices himself by crashing his truck into the tank. Upon discovering that the only road to their objective, a convoy of stranded tanks, runs through a city engulfed in flames, Campbell orders Kalleck to drive the lead truck into the inferno. Losing control of his truck, Kallek crashes his vehicle into a building. Risking his own life, Campbell stops to pull Kalleck from the flames, finally earning his esteem. As the convoy reaches the tanks, it is greeted with cheers. Its mission completed, the convoy begins its trek back to the base. As they near the Dubois house, Smith braces to give Antoinette the sad news about Partridge when he sees Partridge standing along the roadside with Antoinette. After being warmly greeted by his friends, Partridge explains that he was only knocked unconscious in the crash and peddled his way back to Antoinette. +

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.