The Dirty Dozen (1967)

149 mins | Drama | 15 June 1967

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HISTORY

As noted in the 28 Jun 1967 LAT review, the film is structured in three major parts: recruitment of the prisoners, group training, and the execution of their mission.
       According to a 13 Mar 1966 LAT article and 7 Apr 2016 NYT obituary, writer E. M. Nathanson was living in Los Angeles, CA, when he first heard the story of “the Dirty Dozen,” a squad of U.S. Army convicts deployed on a secret mission during World War II. Nathanson’s neighbor, film producer Russ Meyer, had claimed to encounter the group while working as a combat photographer on the European front. After searching the Pentagon Law Library and other military archives, however, Nathanson could find no “official” proof that the Dirty Dozen ever existed, and instead used his research of WWII stockade prisoners to create a fictionalized version of the supposed events. Although Nathanson’s characters were depicted as murderers, rapists, and thieves, NYT noted that the idea of the Dirty Dozen bore some resemblance to the “Filthy Thirteen,” a real-life group of disorderly paratroopers who landed behind enemy lines shortly before the invasion of Normandy, and were named for their aversion to bathing. On 31 May 1963, LAT announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had acquired the motion picture rights to Nathanson’s novel, which was still in manuscript form. The 13 Mar 1966 LAT listed the purchase price at $80,000.
       Early the next year, various DV items reported that Harry Denker had begun writing a script for longtime producing partners William Perlberg and George Seaton. The 4 Mar and 15 Apr 1964 issues indicated that Nick Adams and ... More Less

As noted in the 28 Jun 1967 LAT review, the film is structured in three major parts: recruitment of the prisoners, group training, and the execution of their mission.
       According to a 13 Mar 1966 LAT article and 7 Apr 2016 NYT obituary, writer E. M. Nathanson was living in Los Angeles, CA, when he first heard the story of “the Dirty Dozen,” a squad of U.S. Army convicts deployed on a secret mission during World War II. Nathanson’s neighbor, film producer Russ Meyer, had claimed to encounter the group while working as a combat photographer on the European front. After searching the Pentagon Law Library and other military archives, however, Nathanson could find no “official” proof that the Dirty Dozen ever existed, and instead used his research of WWII stockade prisoners to create a fictionalized version of the supposed events. Although Nathanson’s characters were depicted as murderers, rapists, and thieves, NYT noted that the idea of the Dirty Dozen bore some resemblance to the “Filthy Thirteen,” a real-life group of disorderly paratroopers who landed behind enemy lines shortly before the invasion of Normandy, and were named for their aversion to bathing. On 31 May 1963, LAT announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) had acquired the motion picture rights to Nathanson’s novel, which was still in manuscript form. The 13 Mar 1966 LAT listed the purchase price at $80,000.
       Early the next year, various DV items reported that Harry Denker had begun writing a script for longtime producing partners William Perlberg and George Seaton. The 4 Mar and 15 Apr 1964 issues indicated that Nick Adams and Sidney Poitier had been considered for roles, while Seaton told the 2 Jun 1964 edition that some, if not all, of the picture would be shot in Europe. However, the pair had several other projects in the works, and a 2 Jan 1964 DV production schedule indicated that Seaton was also directing 36 Hours (1965, see entry), set to begin filming that spring. Perlberg remained with The Dirty Dozen until early winter, when the 3 Dec 1964 DV reported that he and Seaton had ended their association with MGM two years before their contracts were due to expire. A 3 Feb 1965 Var news story named Kenneth Hyman as Perlberg’s replacement, with Nathanson working on a new version of the script. The 13 Mar 1966 LAT stated that Nathanson was “appalled” by Harry Denker’s first draft, and requested he be allowed to adapt his work for the screen, as it was around this time that the novel was finally published by Random House. MGM agreed, but his script was never used. The 20 May 1965 DV announced that screenwriting duties had been assumed by Nunnally Johnson.
       With no director yet in place, Hyman began a yearlong casting search. Several contemporary sources reported that John Wayne, Aldo Ray, George Chakiris, Jack Palance, and Burt Lancaster were among those who were approached to star, but did not appear in the final film. According to the 22 Feb 1966 DV, Palance was offered a $125,000 salary plus $1,000 for each week of production to portray “Archer Maggott,” but objected to the character’s racism against the group’s only black convict, “Robert Jefferson.” Jefferson was played by Cleveland Browns fullback Jim Brown, who had previously appeared in Rio Conchos (1964, see entry), and was considering giving up professional football to pursue an acting career. Despite reports that Brown was scheduled to return to Cleveland, OH, for training in the summer of 1966, delays on The Dirty Dozen ultimately prompted his retirement. According to a 31 Oct 1966 LAT brief, singer Trini Lopez passed up $200,000 in club appearances and performance dates to star in the film.
       On 4 Apr 1996, LAT announced that the full cast was in place, with Robert Aldrich committed to direct. While no contemporary sources announced his involvement, Lukas Heller shares screenwriting credit with Nunnally Johnson. Heller previously worked with Aldrich on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965, see entries).
       Principal photography began 25 Apr 1966 in London, England. Kenneth Hyman told the 24 Aug 1966 Var that due to the script’s high ratio of exterior to interior scenes, “it would have been impossible” to substitute Southern CA or their next suitable choice, Connecticut, for the European locales. Although costs allocated to talent salaries did not meet the qualifications for tax returns from Britain’s Eady Levy, MGM decided to film overseas, with a $500,000 budgetary margin in place to protect the production in the event of inclement weather. Despite these precautions, heavy summer rains continually postponed filming by several months. The 14 Sep 1966 Var estimated that delays led to $1 million in overruns, bringing the final cost to $5 million. Additionally, a 23 May 1966 LAT news item reported that the 200 residents of Chenies, England, complained that the crew’s presence amid the soggy conditions caused considerable damage to their village landscape.
       On 26 Oct 1966, Var announced that principal photography had wrapped at MGM-British Studios, with post-production to be completed at the MGM facilities in Culver City, CA. Release was preceded by an extensive promotional campaign, as the 19 Apr 1967 Var indicated positive reception from exhibitor screenings in sixteen key markets. Engagements were scheduled in sixty-seven cities throughout Jun and Jul 1967, some of which would present the film in 70mm with six-track stereo sound. The New York City premiere took place 15 Jun 1967 at the Capitol Theatre, with a dual booking at the 34th Street East. The 20 Jun 1967 DV reported a combined three-day gross of nearly $70,000. According to the 27 Jun 1967 DV, The Dirty Dozen was set to open the following day at the Paramount Theatre in Hollywood, CA, with a sold-out benefit performance for the Variety Club Heart Fund. The film played there through 17 Oct 1967, at which point it moved to multiple booking sites, the 17 Aug 1967 DV reported. It performed well at the box-office, and a 14 Jul 1967 LAT news item attributed earnings of $2,503,779 toward MGM’s third-quarter revenues that year.
       John Poyner received an Academy Award for Sound Effects, and the film was nominated in three additional categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (John Cassavetes), Film Editing, and Sound. Cassavetes was also nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. AFI ranked The Dirty Dozen #65 on its list of 100 Years…100 Thrills.
       The picture’s success was revived in the 1980s, with several television movies featuring original cast members Earnest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Richard Jaeckel, and Telly Savalas: The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (1985), The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987), and The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988). A short-lived television series aired for one season on the Fox network in 1988, and ten years later, Borgnine, George Kennedy, Clint Walter, and Jim Brown reunited to lend their voices to the animated film Small Soldiers (1998). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jan 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
4 Mar 1964
p. 10.
Daily Variety
15 Apr 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 Dec 1964
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
20 May 1965
p. 1.
Daily Variety
13 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1966.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jun 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Jun 1967
p. 3.
Daily Variety
17 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Los Angeles Sentinel
20 Jan 1966
Section A, p. 1.
Los Angeles Sentinel
9 Jun 1966
Section D, p. 2.
Los Angeles Sentinel
23 Jun 1966
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
31 May 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
13 Mar 1966
Section B, p. 28.
Los Angeles Times
4 Apr 1966
Section C, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
23 May 1966
Section C, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times
31 Oct 1966
Section C, p. 23.
Los Angeles Times
28 Jun 1967
Section E, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1967
Section B, p. 14.
New York Times
12 Apr 1967
p. 36.
New York Times
16 Jun 1967
p. 36.
New York Times
7 Apr 2016.
---
Variety
3 Feb 1965
p. 15.
Variety
24 Aug 1966
p. 16.
Variety
14 Sep 1966
p. 3.
Variety
26 Oct 1966
p. 26.
Variety
19 Apr 1967
p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Kenneth Hyman Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Sp eff supv
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Main title des
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Dirty Dozen by E. M. Nathanson (New York, 1965).
SONGS
"The Bramble Bush," words and music by Frank De Vol and Mack David
"Einsam," words and music by Frank De Vol and Sibylle Siegfried.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 June 1967
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 15 June 1967
Los Angeles opening: 28 June 1967
Production Date:
25 April--October 1966
Copyright Claimant:
M. K. H. Productions
Copyright Date:
15 June 1967
Copyright Number:
LP34487
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Metrocolor
Widescreen/ratio
35mm & 70mm
Duration(in mins):
149
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

A few months before D-Day, Major Reisman, a U. S. Army officer stationed in England, is given the task of training 12 convicted GI's--murderers, rapists, thieves--for the suicidal mission of parachuting into Nazi-occupied France and blowing up a chateau housing top-ranking German officers. Although the 12 men agree to undertake the assignment in the hope of being granted pardons, their initial reaction to Reisman is one of indifference and contempt. But with Sergeant Bowren's aid, Reisman goads, browbeats, and drives the men until he earns a small measure of respect from each of them. And by standing up for his squad against the opposition of two superior officers, Colonel Breed and General Denton, Reisman eventually succeeds in forging his band of misfits into a fighting unit. To prove the worth of "The Dirty Dozen," a nickname the men acquired when they were deprived of soap and water, Reisman gains permission from General Worden to allow the men to participate in war game maneuvers. After making a fool of the pompous Colonel Breed by capturing his entire staff, the men are given the go-ahead for the dangerous mission. Once parachuted into France, they make their way to the chateau and, by various ruses and surprise attacks, gain entry. Everything goes as planned until one of the Dozen, a Bible-spouting sex degenerate, Archer Maggott, goes berserk and betrays his colleagues. He is shot down, however, as the chateau is turned into a battleground of rapid machine-gun fire and exploding grenades. The savage in-fighting ends only when gasoline-soaked grenades are thrown down ventilator shafts, blowing the chateau to bits. Only three of the 12 men--Wladislaw, Posey, and Sawyer--are still alive when it ... +


A few months before D-Day, Major Reisman, a U. S. Army officer stationed in England, is given the task of training 12 convicted GI's--murderers, rapists, thieves--for the suicidal mission of parachuting into Nazi-occupied France and blowing up a chateau housing top-ranking German officers. Although the 12 men agree to undertake the assignment in the hope of being granted pardons, their initial reaction to Reisman is one of indifference and contempt. But with Sergeant Bowren's aid, Reisman goads, browbeats, and drives the men until he earns a small measure of respect from each of them. And by standing up for his squad against the opposition of two superior officers, Colonel Breed and General Denton, Reisman eventually succeeds in forging his band of misfits into a fighting unit. To prove the worth of "The Dirty Dozen," a nickname the men acquired when they were deprived of soap and water, Reisman gains permission from General Worden to allow the men to participate in war game maneuvers. After making a fool of the pompous Colonel Breed by capturing his entire staff, the men are given the go-ahead for the dangerous mission. Once parachuted into France, they make their way to the chateau and, by various ruses and surprise attacks, gain entry. Everything goes as planned until one of the Dozen, a Bible-spouting sex degenerate, Archer Maggott, goes berserk and betrays his colleagues. He is shot down, however, as the chateau is turned into a battleground of rapid machine-gun fire and exploding grenades. The savage in-fighting ends only when gasoline-soaked grenades are thrown down ventilator shafts, blowing the chateau to bits. Only three of the 12 men--Wladislaw, Posey, and Sawyer--are still alive when it is over. Both Reisman and Sergeant Bowren are present when General Worden reveals that the ex-criminals who gave their lives are now listed as soldiers who died honorably in the line of duty. +

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

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