Darby's Rangers (1958)

120-121 mins | Biography | January 1958

Director:

William A. Wellman

Producer:

Martin Rackin

Cinematographer:

William H. Clothier

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designer:

Don Peters

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The opening title credit reads, "William A. Wellman's Darby's Rangers ." The film begins with voice-over narration by Jack Warden, as “M/Sgt. Saul Rosen,” explaining that the picture is dedicated to William Orlando Darby and his brave men. Warden’s voice-over narration is then heard intermittently throughout the film. The picture ends with the following written statement: “With great appreciation for the cooperation of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense…We dedicate this picture to the Rangers, whose rugged hard-hitting methods of training inspired techniques now employed by all fighting units of the United States Army.”
       As shown in the film, the U.S. Army Rangers were an all-volunteer force, commanded by Darby, first formed to spearhead Allied invasions during World War II. While most of the military incidents depicted in the film are true, the personal stories of the soldiers were fictional and some details of real events were changed, including the speed at which Darby is shown to earn his promotion to colonel. James Altieri, one of the original Rangers who trained with the First Battalion in Scotland, wrote the book on which the film is based, also entitled Darby's Rangers .
       Although a Feb 1956 HR news item announced that William Bowers would work on the film’s script, his contribution, if any, is undetermined. According to HR production charts and a final script for Darby’s Rangers dated 17 Apr 1957, found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library, the original cast included Charlton Heston as Darby, James Garner as “Hank Bishop,” Joanna Barnes as “Wendy Hollister” and Dennis Hopper as “Rollo Burns.” In addition, ... More Less

The opening title credit reads, "William A. Wellman's Darby's Rangers ." The film begins with voice-over narration by Jack Warden, as “M/Sgt. Saul Rosen,” explaining that the picture is dedicated to William Orlando Darby and his brave men. Warden’s voice-over narration is then heard intermittently throughout the film. The picture ends with the following written statement: “With great appreciation for the cooperation of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense…We dedicate this picture to the Rangers, whose rugged hard-hitting methods of training inspired techniques now employed by all fighting units of the United States Army.”
       As shown in the film, the U.S. Army Rangers were an all-volunteer force, commanded by Darby, first formed to spearhead Allied invasions during World War II. While most of the military incidents depicted in the film are true, the personal stories of the soldiers were fictional and some details of real events were changed, including the speed at which Darby is shown to earn his promotion to colonel. James Altieri, one of the original Rangers who trained with the First Battalion in Scotland, wrote the book on which the film is based, also entitled Darby's Rangers .
       Although a Feb 1956 HR news item announced that William Bowers would work on the film’s script, his contribution, if any, is undetermined. According to HR production charts and a final script for Darby’s Rangers dated 17 Apr 1957, found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library, the original cast included Charlton Heston as Darby, James Garner as “Hank Bishop,” Joanna Barnes as “Wendy Hollister” and Dennis Hopper as “Rollo Burns.” In addition, a 25 Apr 1957 HR news item states that the producers considered Tab Hunter to play Rollo. That article notes that Hunter was unable to participate in the production because of the need to shoot pickup scenes for Lafayette Escadrille (see below), and that Heston had withdrawn from the role and filed a $250,000 suit against Warner Bros. for failing to uphold a verbal agreement under which he would earn five percent of the film’s profits.
       In his autobiography, Heston noted that the suit was settled for a higher sum than that he would have earned from his percentage of the profits. On 1 May 1957, HR reported that Garner, who had, according to HR charts, been cast in a minor role, had been recast as Darby. Darby's Rangers marked the first starring role in a feature for Garner, who was at the time a popular television star of the series Maverick , and was the first film in a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. The role of Darby is considered to have launched Garner's film career as a leading man.
       According to a 7 Jun 1957 HR news item, some scenes were shot on location at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, CA. HR news items add Paul Fix, Paul Busch, Tito Vuolo and Forbes Murray to the cast, but they were not identifiable in the viewed print. Although Darby’s Rangers was shot after the 1958 Warner Bros. film Lafayette Escadrille (see below), it was released first. Because of the release schedule, Darby's Rangers is not considered William A. Wellman’s last film, but it does mark Etchika Choureau’s American feature debut. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Jan 1958.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jan 1958
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Jan 1958
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1956
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 1957
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1956
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1956
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 1957
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 1957
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 May 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jun 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1957
p. 21.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 1958
p. 3.
LA Mirror-News
12 Feb 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Jan 1958
p. 681.
New York Times
13 Feb 1958
p. 23.
Variety
22 Jan 1958
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Warner Bros.--First Natinal Picture
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story consultant
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Stills
Gaffer
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
USA, Commander 4th Ranger Battalion
Project training instructor
Ranger Department, USA Infantry School
Project training instructor
Ranger Department, USA Infantry School
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Suggested by the book Darby's Rangers by James Altieri (publication undetermined).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Ranger Chant," music and lyrics by James Altieri.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1958
Production Date:
22 April--late June 1957
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1958
Copyright Number:
LP13400
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Black and White
Widescreen/ratio
1.75:1
Duration(in mins):
120-121
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18594
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During World War II, Maj. William Orlando Darby tries to convince his superior, Brig. Gen. W. A. Wise, that he should be named commanding officer of a new combat unit. When Wise refuses to give the position to Darby, who has no combat experience, Darby receives permission to argue his case to Gen. Truscott. Within minutes, Darby wins over the general with his impassioned description of an elite force of guerrilla commandos to precede the troops and secure the front lines, whom he suggests calling the “American Rangers,” and is awarded the post of commanding officer. With Great Britain’s commando force as an inspiration, the Rangers’ headquarters are established in Dundee, under Scotsman Lt. Dave Manson. Four thousand volunteers are culled from American troops in the United Kingdom, including pugnacious Sims Delancey, womanizer Tony Sutherland, gambler Hank Bishop and Heavy Hall. Despite the British officers’ disapproval, Darby insists on forming personal relationships with each of his men. At the start of training, Manson, who describes himself as vicious, informs the recruits that they are about to endure “brutally enforced discipline.” Due to a lack of housing, however, they are allowed to bunk with various citizens of Dundee, a privilege that includes private bedrooms and access to the town’s young women. Hank has already met a girl he fancies, bus ticket-taker Wendy Hollister, and Tony immediately attracts the attention of Sheilah, the wife of his host, kind, older John Andrews. Rollo Burns arrives late to training, and Darby, annoyed, tests the soldier’s mettle by tossing a grenade into Rollo’s hand. Unaware that it is a dud, Rollo smashes the major’s window to throw the grenade out and hurls himself over ... +


During World War II, Maj. William Orlando Darby tries to convince his superior, Brig. Gen. W. A. Wise, that he should be named commanding officer of a new combat unit. When Wise refuses to give the position to Darby, who has no combat experience, Darby receives permission to argue his case to Gen. Truscott. Within minutes, Darby wins over the general with his impassioned description of an elite force of guerrilla commandos to precede the troops and secure the front lines, whom he suggests calling the “American Rangers,” and is awarded the post of commanding officer. With Great Britain’s commando force as an inspiration, the Rangers’ headquarters are established in Dundee, under Scotsman Lt. Dave Manson. Four thousand volunteers are culled from American troops in the United Kingdom, including pugnacious Sims Delancey, womanizer Tony Sutherland, gambler Hank Bishop and Heavy Hall. Despite the British officers’ disapproval, Darby insists on forming personal relationships with each of his men. At the start of training, Manson, who describes himself as vicious, informs the recruits that they are about to endure “brutally enforced discipline.” Due to a lack of housing, however, they are allowed to bunk with various citizens of Dundee, a privilege that includes private bedrooms and access to the town’s young women. Hank has already met a girl he fancies, bus ticket-taker Wendy Hollister, and Tony immediately attracts the attention of Sheilah, the wife of his host, kind, older John Andrews. Rollo Burns arrives late to training, and Darby, annoyed, tests the soldier’s mettle by tossing a grenade into Rollo’s hand. Unaware that it is a dud, Rollo smashes the major’s window to throw the grenade out and hurls himself over Darby to protect him. Secretly pleased, Darby gruffly orders Rollo to his quarters, where the boy discovers a comely young woman, Peggy. They are flirting in his room when they are interrupted by Peggy’s father, whom Rollo is dismayed to realize is his gruff training sergeant, McTavish. The men train relentlessly for the next weeks, after which only 450 remain. When promotions are awarded, Darby plans to delay announcing them to his men until after the next phase of training, until his second-in-command, M/Sgt. Saul Rosen, slyly mentions Darby’s own promotion to colonel. Realizing how much the titles mean to the soldiers, Darby relents. Phase two of training is even harsher, including endless drills in shooting, running, climbing, crawling and hand-to-hand combat. One night, the boys set up flimsy tents in pouring rain, and although the privates complain, they are pleased to discover that Darby is suffering alongside them. Tony sneaks back to the Andrews’ home where, despite her pleas to the contrary, he succeeds in seducing Sheilah. The boys are awarded passes to London, where Hank brings Wendy to dinner along with Heavy and Sims. She offers to find them dates, and although the boys assume her friends will be “dogs,” they are ecstatic when two pretty girls arrive. Wendy invites Hank back to her flat, and when a bomb raid sounds, soothes Hank’s fears by kissing him. In the morning, she declares her love for him and invites him on a walk in the country. Upon reaching a large estate, Wendy reveals that her parents, Sir Arthur and Lady Hollister, live there, and that she has brought him to meet them. They are wary of the unsophisticated young man and Hank, upon realizing that Wendy plans to marry him, declares himself a “hobo” and a gambler, then leaves. The privates then begin mountain climbing training, during which the callous Tony falls to his death, just as Sheilah loses John by informing him that she is in love with the boy. As training ends, Rollo informs McTavish that he has fallen in love with Peggy, and after he announces he is willing to fight him for her, the sergeant happily welcomes him into the family. The boys prepare to ship out, and Wendy comes to bid Hank farewell, ignoring his warning that he does not believe in marriage by stating that she is confident that he will return to her. On 8 November 1942, the Rangers head to North Africa to secure the beachhead for naval ships. As a result of their courageous operations, the Allies win the Battle of North Africa decisively, and the battalion goes on to Sicily. This time, the mission is even more dangerous and some men are lost, including a lieutenant. His replacement is Lt. Arnold Dittman, a by-the-book West Point graduate with little experience who immediately chastises Rollo for missing guard duty, fails to sympathize with the private, who is distraught after killing his first man. Darby counsels Rollo that when he looks into the eyes of his children, he will understand why he fought and killed. In October 1943, the Rangers move on to Sorrento, and are granted leave in Naples. After Dittman spots local girl Angelina De Lotta refusing to be de-loused, he intervenes on her behalf and she invites him to her apartment. Assuming she is a prostitute, Dittman offers her money, then leaves in shame when she responds with proud tears. Wracked with guilt, he arranges a translator job for her. During the next battle, Dittman orders the men into danger over their objections, and when the troops are boxed in by enemy fire, commands them to retreat while he holds off the Italians. Hank, Heavy and Sims ignore his orders in order to aid him, and together they emerge victorious. A year passes during which the Rangers are assigned to hold a steady position, prompting Darby to insist that his elite troops be better utilized. To this end, they are returned to Naples, where Dittman rushes to tell Angela that he loves her. Finding her pregnant and ill, he leaves in disgust and drinks all night. When he returns to the camp, Darby, who has learned from Angela that her fiancé was killed by the Germans, tells Dittman that she has suffered enough, and that it takes a big man to handle a big mess. Inspired, Dittman tries to requisition penicillin for Angela, and upon learning that it can only be distributed to military families, marries her. Although the baby does not survive, Angela soon recovers, and Dittman promises to be a good husband. The Rangers’ next assignment is to take the town of Cisterno, a task Saul considers routine, but Darby, who has had a nightmare about it, dreads. With no radio contact, the first battalion, led by Dittman, moves in but are soon bombarded by German fire. Darby attempts to relieve them with more troops, but they are surrounded and forced to lay in wait in a fog-covered field. The cries of the wounded men draw more artillery fire, and realizing that they are trapped, Darby reluctantly orders a retreat. Sims has been killed in action and back at camp, Rollo dies in Darby’s arms. The few that survive the battle are proud to learn that they held off and escaped a fully mounted offensive by Hermann Göring’s Panzer Division. With few men left, the Rangers are disbanded and shipped home. Hank returns to Wendy and Dittman to Angela, while Darby is recalled to the Pentagon. Saul accompanies him to the carrier that will take him back to America, and the friends bid goodbye. Darby passes the incoming troops dispiritedly until he hears them admiring the Ranger patch on his arm, and with his head now held high, he salutes his fellow soldiers. +

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

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