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HISTORY

The working titles of the film were The Red Beret and The Big Jump . The order of the opening credits differs slightly from that of the closing credits. A HR news item from early 1951 indicates that Trevor Howard was to star in the film, while an 8 Mar 1951 LAT item announced John Russell as the film's only American cast member, aside from Alan Ladd. Russell was to play a Canadian paratrooper, but he was not in the released film. Another HR item in mid-1952 notes that the production was originally set to be co-produced by RKO-Radio Pictures, but a mutual decision by producers Irving Allen and Albert "Cubby" Brocolli and RKO, suspended the contract and the film was then taken to ... More Less

The working titles of the film were The Red Beret and The Big Jump . The order of the opening credits differs slightly from that of the closing credits. A HR news item from early 1951 indicates that Trevor Howard was to star in the film, while an 8 Mar 1951 LAT item announced John Russell as the film's only American cast member, aside from Alan Ladd. Russell was to play a Canadian paratrooper, but he was not in the released film. Another HR item in mid-1952 notes that the production was originally set to be co-produced by RKO-Radio Pictures, but a mutual decision by producers Irving Allen and Albert "Cubby" Brocolli and RKO, suspended the contract and the film was then taken to Columbia. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Jan 1954.
---
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1953.
---
Film Daily
11 Jan 54
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1951.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 52
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Nov 52
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1951.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Dec 53
p. 2118.
New York Times
31 Dec 53
p. 9.
Variety
19 Aug 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
Cond by
SOUND
Sd supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to the prod
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Red Beret by Hilary St. George Saunders (London, 1950).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Big Jump
The Red Beret
Release Date:
January 1954
Premiere Information:
London opening: 13 August 1953
New York opening: week of 13 December 1953
Production Date:
late September--late November 1952 at Shepperton Studios, London
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
1 December 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3109
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
87-88
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16111
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In an English military training camp in mid-1940, Canadian Steve "Canada" McKendrick begins the grueling regime of training as a parachutist under his new commanding officer, Major Snow. The night before the men's first group jump from a balloon, several men nervously study their training manual and learn that a "Roman candle" is the term used to describe a parachute that fails to open. Canada piques the men's interest by admitting to having witnessed a Roman candle. The following morning a superstitious Canada exchanges his chute with packer Penny Gardner and makes the first jump successfully. Canada then asks Penny for a date, but when she overhears him threaten drill instructor Sgt. Breton, she refuses. The next day the men leave on their first airborne flight, and when none volunteer to be the first one off, Breton cheerfully jumps, only to "Roman candle" as the men watch, horrified. The trainee in command quickly recovers and forces the men to make their jumps. That night, several men toast Breton, but when Corp. Dawes mocks America's Lend-Lease program, Canada instigates a brawl, while Penny watches, dismayed. When brought before Snow, both Dawes and Canada admit to beginning the row and escape punishment. Curious about Canada's barely concealed rage, Snow orders a private investigation into his past. The men continue their training and after several weeks earn their wings. Shortly afterward, Snow hand-picks a group, including Canada, for Operation Pegasus, whose objective is a vital radar site inside Germany. Before take-off, Canada gets his chute from Penny, but is indifferent when she reads him the "Packer's Prayer," a verse reflecting the packer's unique involvement ... +


In an English military training camp in mid-1940, Canadian Steve "Canada" McKendrick begins the grueling regime of training as a parachutist under his new commanding officer, Major Snow. The night before the men's first group jump from a balloon, several men nervously study their training manual and learn that a "Roman candle" is the term used to describe a parachute that fails to open. Canada piques the men's interest by admitting to having witnessed a Roman candle. The following morning a superstitious Canada exchanges his chute with packer Penny Gardner and makes the first jump successfully. Canada then asks Penny for a date, but when she overhears him threaten drill instructor Sgt. Breton, she refuses. The next day the men leave on their first airborne flight, and when none volunteer to be the first one off, Breton cheerfully jumps, only to "Roman candle" as the men watch, horrified. The trainee in command quickly recovers and forces the men to make their jumps. That night, several men toast Breton, but when Corp. Dawes mocks America's Lend-Lease program, Canada instigates a brawl, while Penny watches, dismayed. When brought before Snow, both Dawes and Canada admit to beginning the row and escape punishment. Curious about Canada's barely concealed rage, Snow orders a private investigation into his past. The men continue their training and after several weeks earn their wings. Shortly afterward, Snow hand-picks a group, including Canada, for Operation Pegasus, whose objective is a vital radar site inside Germany. Before take-off, Canada gets his chute from Penny, but is indifferent when she reads him the "Packer's Prayer," a verse reflecting the packer's unique involvement with each operation. On board, Canada finds a small handkerchief tucked into his chute. Upon landing, Dawes breaks both legs, but despite continual enemy fire, the mission is successful and the men are picked up safely by a naval cruiser. Canada visits Dawes at the base infirmary and discovers that both of his legs have been amputated. Canada waves Penny away when she notices his concern and angrily tries to return the handkerchief, which she explains is only a good luck custom. The men choose a red beret as their unit emblem, which becomes part of their uniforms. Snow summons Canada and offers him a commission, which Canada flatly refuses, insisting on remaining a private. Later, the base receives several Dakota airplanes from the U.S., flown by American pilots, one of whom claims to recognize Canada. Penny invites Canada to her parents's home in the country and prods him into revealing his past. He admits to having served as an officer in the U.S. Army as a test pilot. He remains guilt-ridden over the death of his best friend, whom Canada forced to jump from a damaged plane, then watched him "Roman candle." Penny reassures Canada that he did the right thing and encourages him to take the commission offered by Snow, but he again declines. Snow summons Canada and repeats his commission offer, acknowledging that he knows about Canada's past service. Canada turns down the offer and demands a transfer, which Snow denies. Believing Penny has informed Snow, Canada upbraids her, but when she maintains her innocence, they quarrel. With news of the Allied invasion of North Africa, the Red Beret unit is ordered to jump into Tunis to support the landing forces. On the morning of the mission, Canada, still angry, initially rejects Penny's chute, but when he is refused another from the other packer, grudgingly accepts it. Before boarding his craft he finds another handkerchief tucked in the chute and waves a pleased acknowledgment to Penny. The men, now calm and relaxed about jumping, make a successful landing, despite heavy enemy attacks. In the desert, the outfit evades a German tank division and fights its way through a road block only to find themselves in a minefield. Both Snow and the sergeant major are wounded. As a German officer makes a surrender demand, Canada discovers they are carrying a bazooka and ammunition and suggests to Snow that a safe path might be blown through the minefield. Snow orders Canada to take command and lead the men to safety and after some hesitation, Canada proceeds. The segeant major dies before the evacuation is completed, but the unit meets up with the invasion force as planned. Snow presents Canada with the transfer he had requested earlier, but Canada refuses and instead asks for another chance at the officer commission. +

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.