A Walk in the Sun (1946)

117 mins | Drama | March 1946

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HISTORY

Although the opening credits of this film indicate that Lewis Milestone Productions copyrighted the picture in 1945, the title is not included in the Catalog of Copyright Entries . After the picture's title card, which is the cover of Harry Brown's novel, the soldiers are shown marching, and the camera individually focuses on Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, George Tyne, John Ireland, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Herbert Rudley and Richard Benedict as Burgess Meredith's narration mentions each actor's character name and gives a brief description of the character. An onscreen acknowledgment extends appreciation to the United States Armed Forces for assistance and participation in the film's production and to Colonel Thomas D. Drake for his technical advice. Throughout the film, the offscreen narrator and a balladeer comment on the action. Although the onscreen credits list "The Ballads" by Millard Lampell and Earl Robinson, "The Ballad of the First Platoon" is one song. An abridgement of Brown's novel appeared in Liberty magazine on 16 Sep 1944.
       According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, and HR news items, the film's tangled production history began in Sep 1944, when independent producer Samuel Bronston purchased the rights to Brown's novel. Bronston, who had a distribution agreement with United Artists, intended to make the picture under his newly formed company Comstock Productions, Inc. with Lewis Milestone as co-producer and director. The film began shooting in Oct 1944, and in Nov 1944, Bronston obtained a $500,000 mortgage loan from Walter Heller & Co. and Ideal Factoring Corp. When the lending corporations discovered that the ... More Less

Although the opening credits of this film indicate that Lewis Milestone Productions copyrighted the picture in 1945, the title is not included in the Catalog of Copyright Entries . After the picture's title card, which is the cover of Harry Brown's novel, the soldiers are shown marching, and the camera individually focuses on Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, George Tyne, John Ireland, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Herbert Rudley and Richard Benedict as Burgess Meredith's narration mentions each actor's character name and gives a brief description of the character. An onscreen acknowledgment extends appreciation to the United States Armed Forces for assistance and participation in the film's production and to Colonel Thomas D. Drake for his technical advice. Throughout the film, the offscreen narrator and a balladeer comment on the action. Although the onscreen credits list "The Ballads" by Millard Lampell and Earl Robinson, "The Ballad of the First Platoon" is one song. An abridgement of Brown's novel appeared in Liberty magazine on 16 Sep 1944.
       According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, and HR news items, the film's tangled production history began in Sep 1944, when independent producer Samuel Bronston purchased the rights to Brown's novel. Bronston, who had a distribution agreement with United Artists, intended to make the picture under his newly formed company Comstock Productions, Inc. with Lewis Milestone as co-producer and director. The film began shooting in Oct 1944, and in Nov 1944, Bronston obtained a $500,000 mortgage loan from Walter Heller & Co. and Ideal Factoring Corp. When the lending corporations discovered that the film could not be completed on the budget allocated by Bronston, according to the legal records, they foreclosed on the loan in early Jan 1945 and took over the project. The rights were transferred to Superior Productions, Inc., which was headed by Milestone, David Hersh and John J. Fisher, and the picture was completed. Superior Productions negotiated with several major studios for distribution rights, according to a 10 Jul 1945 HR news item, and the picture was purchased for distibution by Twentieth Century-Fox in Jul 1945.
       In late Jan 1945, Bronston filed suit against Superior Productions, Walter Heller & Co. and Ideal Factoring Corp., claiming that the foreclosure was illegal. In Feb 1945, Bronston's suit was settled out of court and dismissed, with Bronston assigned to receive 21.25 percent of the profits from the picture's sale and distribution. Other lawsuits filed over the film included one by publicist Frank Smith and attorney Herman H. Levy, who argued that they were not adequately compensated for their services. The dispositions of their suits have not been determined.
       The legal records note that Buddy Yarus was originally scheduled to play "Jake Friedman." Although HR production charts include Barton Hepburn in the cast, his appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. Dana Andrews was borrowed from Sam Goldwyn for the production. The legal files indicate that Goldwyn's studio facilities and recording equipment were used in production for the picture, which, according to HR news items, was shot on location at Malibu Lake, CA. A 29 Oct 1944 NYT article reported that some sequences were shot on location at a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, CA, which modern sources note was the Agoura Ranch in Agoura, CA.
       Several contemporary news items noted that the production received full cooperation from the War Department and Army officials, which in turn requested several rewrites of the script. According to a 19 Apr 1945 HCN article, Milestone added the sequence in which the platoon expends all of its bazooka ammunition during an attack on a German armored car and two tanks in order to satisfy the Army's complaint that bazookas would have been used when the platoon stormed the farmhouse. A HR news item reported on 15 Jan 1945 that Milestone was shooting added scenes "to provide a prologue requested by the War Department that would show all officers being properly briefed before the invasion." Carl O'Bryan was added to the cast to play the briefing captain, according to HR , but that sequence does not appear in the finished film. According to an 11 Oct 1944 HR news item, Milestone had requested permission from the War Department to film "one extra, complete, unexpurgated print to distribute to Allied forces only." Milestone felt that the use of authentic dialogue spoken by soldiers would "considerably strengthen the powerful drama for boys who have become accustomed to life 'as is,'" but the uncensored version was not produced.
       Many reviews praised the film and favorably compared it to All Quiet on the Western Front , the influential World War I picture directed by Milestone in 1930. According to a 27 Jun 1946 HR news item, the picture, which had opened two days previously in Los Angeles, was "playing to bigger business than anywhere else in the country," because of "the elimination from newspaper advertising of any mention of the war theme." A Walk in the Sun was named one of the year's ten best films by the National Board of Review. The film marked actor Robert Horton's motion picture debut. The film was re-issued in the 1950s under the title Salerno Beachhead . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 Dec 1945.
---
Daily Variety
28 Nov 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Dec 45
p. 14.
Hollywood Citizen-News
19 Apr 1945.
---
Hollywood Citizen-News
26 Jun 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 44
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Oct 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Oct 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 44
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 44
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 44
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jan 45
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jan 45
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Feb 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jul 45
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 45
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 46
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jun 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 46
p. 16.
Los Angeles Daily News
26 Jun 1946.
---
Motion Picture Daily
28 Nov 45
p. 1, 6
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Dec 44
p. 2243.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
1 Dec 45
p. 2733.
New York Herald Tribune
12 Jan 1946.
---
New York Times
29 Oct 1944.
---
New York Times
12 Jan 46
p. 10.
New York Times
13 Jan 1946.
---
Variety
28 Nov 45
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
David Hersh, President
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Re-rec and eff mixer
Mus mixer
PRODUCTION MISC
Prompter
Prod mgr
Tech adv
Asst to prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Walk in the Sun by Harry Brown (New York, 1944).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"The U. S. Field Artillery March" by Edmund L. Gruber.
SONGS
"The Ballad of the First Platoon," words by Millard Lampell, music by Earl Robinson, sung by William Gillespie.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Salerno Beachhead
Release Date:
March 1946
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 11 January 1946
Production Date:
24 October 1944--early January 1945
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
117
Length(in feet):
10,512
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10795
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 1943, the diverse group of fifty-three soldiers comprising the Lee Platoon of the Texas Division anxiously await their upcoming landing on a beach near Salerno, Italy. A landing barge carries them to their objective during the pre-dawn hours, and the increasing danger of their situation is demonstrated when their young lieutenant, Rand, is wounded by a shell fragment that destroys half of his face. Platoon Sgt. Pete Halverson takes over command and orders Sgt. Eddie Porter to lead the men to the beach while he tries to find the captain and confirm their orders. First aid man McWilliams remains with Rand, and the rest of the men hit the beach and dig in while trying to elude the shelling and machine-gun fire. Sgt. Bill Tyne wonders what they will do if Halverson does not return, and after the sun rises, the sergeants send the men into the woods to protect them from enemy aircraft. Tyne remains on the beach to wait for Halverson, but learns from McWilliams that both Rand and Halverson are dead. Soon after, McWilliams is shot by an enemy airplane. Tyne walks to the woods, and there discovers that three other men have been hit, including Sgt. Hoskins. Hoskins stays behind and Porter, Tyne and Sgt. Ward then lead the men in three squads along a road toward their objective, a farmhouse with a nearby bridge that they are to blow up. Porter knows that the six-mile journey will be a dangerous one, and warns the men to watch out for enemy tanks and aircraft. As they walk, the men shoot the breeze and discuss their likes and dislikes, ... +


In 1943, the diverse group of fifty-three soldiers comprising the Lee Platoon of the Texas Division anxiously await their upcoming landing on a beach near Salerno, Italy. A landing barge carries them to their objective during the pre-dawn hours, and the increasing danger of their situation is demonstrated when their young lieutenant, Rand, is wounded by a shell fragment that destroys half of his face. Platoon Sgt. Pete Halverson takes over command and orders Sgt. Eddie Porter to lead the men to the beach while he tries to find the captain and confirm their orders. First aid man McWilliams remains with Rand, and the rest of the men hit the beach and dig in while trying to elude the shelling and machine-gun fire. Sgt. Bill Tyne wonders what they will do if Halverson does not return, and after the sun rises, the sergeants send the men into the woods to protect them from enemy aircraft. Tyne remains on the beach to wait for Halverson, but learns from McWilliams that both Rand and Halverson are dead. Soon after, McWilliams is shot by an enemy airplane. Tyne walks to the woods, and there discovers that three other men have been hit, including Sgt. Hoskins. Hoskins stays behind and Porter, Tyne and Sgt. Ward then lead the men in three squads along a road toward their objective, a farmhouse with a nearby bridge that they are to blow up. Porter knows that the six-mile journey will be a dangerous one, and warns the men to watch out for enemy tanks and aircraft. As they walk, the men shoot the breeze and discuss their likes and dislikes, the nature of war and the food they wish they were eating. Porter grows increasingly agitated, but is distracted when two retreating Italian soldiers surrender to the platoon and confirm that they are on the right road. The Italians warn them that the area is controlled by German troops, and soon after, the platoon meets a small reconnaisance patrol of American soldiers. After the patrol's motorcycle driver offers to ride to the farmhouse and report back, Porter becomes even more edgy as minutes pass without the driver's return. Finally Tyne tells the men to take a break while he sits with Porter. As machine gunner Rivera and his pal, Jake Friedman, razz each other, Porter begins to break down and tells Ward that he is putting Tyne in charge. Porter has a complete breakdown when a German armored car approaches, but Tyne's quick thinking prevails and the men blast the car with grenades and machine-gun fire. The bazooka men, who Tyne had sent ahead to search for tanks, blow up two tanks and another armored car, but expend all of their bazooka ammunition. Leaving a man to guard the still-crying Porter, Tyne pushes on, and as the men march, Friedman tells Rivera that he is a traveling salesman who is "selling democracy to the natives." The men finally reach the farmhouse, but when a small patrol attempts to crawl through the field in front of the house, they are shot at by the Germans, and two men are killed. Tyne and Ward are baffled about what to do next when Windy, a calm, introspective soldier suggests circling around the farm via the river and blowing up the bridge without first taking the house. Tyne sends two patrols, headed by Ward and Windy, to accomplish the mission, then orders Rivera to strafe the house while he leads a column of men in an attack on the house, which he hopes will distract the Germans. The remaining men nervously wait for their comrades to reach the bridge, until finally Rivera opens fire and Tyne and his men go over the stone wall and into the field. Tyne's sight blurs as he crawls toward the house, and when he comes across the body of Rankin, one of the fallen men, the platoon's constant refrain, "Nobody dies," resounds through his head. The bridge is blown up, and despite heavy losses, the platoon captures the house. Then, at exactly noon, Windy, Ward and the remaining men wander through the house as Tyne adds another notch to the butt of Rankin's gun. +

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.