AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
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Battleground
Director: William Wellman (Dir)
Release Date:   20 Jan 1950
Premiere Information:   Washington, D.C. premiere: 9 Nov 1949; Los Angeles premiere: 1 Dec 1949
Production Date:   5 Apr--3 Jun 1949
Duration (in mins):   118
Duration (in feet):   10,988
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Cast:   Van Johnson (Holley)  
    John Hodiak (Jarvess)  
    Ricardo Montalban (Roderigues)  
    George Murphy ("Pop" Stazak)  
    Marshall Thompson (Jim Layton)  
    Jerome Courtland (Abner Spudler)  
    Don Taylor (Standiferd)  
    Bruce Cowling (Wolowicz)  
    James Whitmore (Kinnie)  
    Douglas Fowley ("Kipp" Kippton)  
    Leon Ames (The chaplain)  
    Guy Anderson (Hansan)  
    Thomas E. Breen (Doc)  
    Denise Darcel (Denise)  
    Richard Jaeckel (Bettis)  
    Jim Arness (Garby)  
    Scotty Beckett (William J. Hooper)  
    Brett King (Lt. Teiss)  
    Roland Varno (German lieutenant)  
    John Royce (German soldier)  
    Peter Michael (German soldier)  
    Robert Boon (German soldier)  
    Tony Christian (German soldier)  
    Eugene Gericke (German soldier)  
    Fred Zendar (German soldier)  
    Edmon Ryan (Major)  
    Michael Browne (Levenstein)  
    William Erwin (Warrant officer)  
    Arthur Walsh (G. I.)  
    George Offerman Jr. (G. I.)  
    William Self (G. I.)  
    John Riffel ("Kipp" Kippton)  
    Bob Porter (G. I.)  
    Ted Eckelberry (G. I.)  
    Martin Lowell (G. I.)  
    Victor Paul (G. I.)  
    Nelson Scott (G. I.)  
    John Gardner (G. I.)  
    John Dutra (G. I.)  
    Jim Drum (Supply sergeant)  
    Nadine Ashdown (Little girl)  
    Janine Perreau (Little girl)  
    Dewey Martin (G. I. straggler)  
    Tom Noonan (G. I. straggler)  
    David Holt (G. I. straggler)  
    Steve Pendleton (Sergeant)  
    William "Red" Murphy (Non-com)  
    Phillip Pine (Non-com)  
    Sam Resnick (Non-com)  
    Jerry Paris (German sergeant)  
    Tommy Bond (Runner)  
    Billy Lechner (Runner)  
    Nan Boardman (Belgian volunteer)  
    Ivan Triesault (German captain)  
    Henry Rowland (German)  
    John Mylong (German major)  
    Ian MacDonald (American colonel)  
    William Leicester (Tank destroyer man)  
    George Chandler (Mess sergeant)  
    Charles B. Smith (Clerk)  
    Tommy Walker (Mechanic)  
    Dan Foster (Gunner)  
    Roger McGee (Tanker)  
    Dick Jones (Tanker)  
    Joel Allen (Transportation captain)  
    James Horne (Transportation captain)  
    George Dee (Frenchman)  
    Bert Davidson (101st Battallion officer)  
    Carl Saxe (101st Battallion officer)  
    Irene Seidner (French peasant woman)  
    Martha Bamattre (French peasant woman)  
    Gretl Dupont (French peasant woman)  
    Louise Colombet (French peasant woman)  
    Jean Del Val (French peasant man)  
    Albert Pollet (French peasant man)  
    Lilian Clays (Old woman)  
    Chris Drake (Medic private)  
    Raymond C. Bowsher (Casualty)  
    Harry Mackin (Casualty)  
    John Mansfield (Casualty)  
    Richard Bartlett (Casualty)  
    Tommy Kelly (Casualty)  
    Peter Rankin (Casualty)  
    Norman Budd (Crying casualty)  
    Otto Reichow (German platoon leader)  
    Gene Coogan (G. I. scout)  
    Victor Desny (Wounded German soldier)  
    Robert Ward Wood (Replacement)  
    Jim Martin (G. I. from the South)  
    Edmund Glover (G. I. from Maine)  
    Richard Irving (G. I. from New York)  

Summary: In December of 1944, only days before Christmas, battle-weary soldiers of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, stationed at an Army base in France, eagerly await their long-promised leave in Paris. Their hopes of a rest are dashed, however, when they are given orders to go to the Belgian town of Bastogne and hold back the 47th German Panzer Corps, which is advancing through Allied lines. Among those sent to defend the French town are Jarvess, a small town newspaper columnist; Holley, a girl crazy soldier; Roderigues, a Mexican American enlistee; "Pop" Stazak, an older serviceman from Wichita, Kansas; Jim Layton, a new recruit; and Kinnie, the platoon leader. Soon after the men arrive in Bastogne, they meet Denise, an attractive French woman who provides them with lodging. While patrolling the fog-shrouded woods near Bastogne, the American soldiers come under intense enemy fire and realize that they have been surrounded and trapped by the Germans. The American soldiers, fighting without air support, soon find themselves engaged in a long battle to keep the Nazis out of Bastogne. The stand-off exacts its first American casualty when Roderigues is struck by an enemy bullet. Unable to carry the wounded Roderigues through the snow to safety, his fellow soldiers hide him under an abandoned jeep and promise to return for him. A short time later, Holley and a small rescue party return for Roderigues, only to find that he has died. As the fighting in the woods near Bastogne intensifies, the American casualties continue to mount. Following a late night surprise attack on the division by a Nazi patrol, the Americans capture a number of Nazi prisoners and take them back to Bastogne. Greatly outnumbered by the Nazis, the men of the 101st Airborne believe their situation to be near hopeless. One day, Nazi officers attempt to negotiate an American surrender, but General A. C. McAuliffe, the highest ranking officer in charge of the operation, responds with just a single word: "Nuts!" A short time later, the Lutheran chaplain delivers a moving sermon to the defenders of Bastogne and reminds them of the importance of their mission. As the fog lifts around Bastogne for the first time since the Nazis began their counterattack, American bombers and relief planes are seen flying overhead. The men of the 101st Airborne Division rejoice at the sight of the planes, and the arrival of the reinforcements make it possible for the Americans to quickly defeat the Nazis. With their mission accomplished, the men of the 101st Airborne Division march out of Bastogne. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: William Wellman (Dir)
  Sid Sidman (Asst dir)
Producer: Dore Schary (Prod)
  Robert Pirosh (Assoc prod)
Writer: Robert Pirosh (Story and scr)
Photography: Paul C. Vogel (Dir of photog)
  James Harper (Cam op)
  Edwin Hubbell (Stills)
  Jimmy Manatt (Stills)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Hans Peters (Art dir)
Film Editor: John Dunning (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Alfred E. Spencer (Assoc)
Music: Lennie Hayton (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec supv)
  Conrad Kahn (Sd)
Special Effects: Peter Ballbusch (Mont seq)
Make Up: Jack Dawn (Makeup created by)
Production Misc: H. W. O. Kinnard Lt. Col. Inf. (Tech adv)
  John Banse (Scr supv)
  Henry Forrester (Grip)
Stand In: William Kaplan (Unit mgr)
Country: United States

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 19/10/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2594 Yes

PCA NO: 13886
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
 
Subjects (Major): Military invasion
  Military life
  Nazis
  United States. Army
  World War II
 
Subjects (Minor): Bastogne (Belgium)
  Battles
  Bulge, Battle of the, 1944-1945
  Death and dying
  Dentures
  Fog
  French
  Jeeps
  Mexican Americans
  Military leave
  Officers (Military)
  Prisoners of war
  Rescues
  United States. Army Air Corps--101st Airborne Division
  War injuries

Note: The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "This story is about, and dedicated to, those Americans who met General Heinrich von Luttwitz and his 47 Panzer Corps and won for themselves the honored and immortal name 'The Battered Bastards of Bastogne.'" Robert Pirosh's credit appears onscreen as "Story and screenplay by Robert Pirosh, Associate Producer." The film is based, in part, on actual events that took place in the Ardennes Forest in December of 1944. The Nazi counterattack and the overwhelming Allied resistance with which it was met is commonly referred to as the "Battle of the Bulge." According to the onscreen credits, members of one of the original resistance forces, the "Screaming Eagles" of the 101st Airborne Division, appear in the film. Lt. Col. Harry W. O. Kinnard, the technical advisor on this film, served as a World War II intelligence officer at the Battle of The Bulge, according to a Mar 1949 DV news item. An Aug 1948 HR news item indicates that former RKO production head Dore Schary purchased the rights to the Battleground script from RKO following his move to M-G-M. According to the news item, the film, which was one of several projects at RKO that were shelved when Schary resigned, was to have been made by Jesse Lasky and Walter MacEwan. The news item also noted that RKO had already invested approximately $100,000 in the film before it was shelved.
       In Oct 1948, following M-G-M's acquisition of the property, a HR news item noted that Robert Taylor, Van Johnson John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban and Keenan Wynn were set to star, and that the picture was given a $2,000,000 budget. An Oct 1948 HR news item noted that Pandro S. Berman was set to produce the film, but his contribution to the released film has not been determined. A HR production chart lists actor Jim Mitchell in the cast, but he did not appear in the released film. A pre-production news item in HR noted that half of the picture was to be filmed in Northern California, Oregon and Washington. A May 1949 HR news item adds that Fort Lewis, WA served as the background for the tank sequence depicting the relief of Bastogne. According to a May 1949 HR news item, Schary instituted a system of dubbing and cutting during production which made it possible to preview the film within forty-eight hours of the scenes being filmed. Each day's film was processed as it was shot, reducing the average time between completion and preview by several weeks.
       Schary completed the film twenty days under its original shooting schedule by instituting several other innovations. He also ordered twenty-five sets built on one sound stage, and then had art director Hans Peters map out in detail the terrain, action and possible camera angles. Copies of these drawings were then given to director William Wellman and cinematographer Paul Vogel. Some of the sets were used several times over as the film's actions shifted, according to a Jun 1949 HR news item.
       Battleground marked the first film in which actor Herbert Anderson was billed as "Guy Anderson." After several years, Anderson returned to the used of the name "Herbert."
       The Washington, D.C. premiere was attended by Brig. Gen. A. C. McAuliffe, the defender of Bastogne, according to an Oct 1949 DV news item. Robert Pirosh, who himself fought in the Battle of the Bulge, received an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay, and Paul C. Vogel received an Academy Award in the category of Best Black-and-White Cinematography. The film also received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (James Whitmore); and Best Editing. Battleground was listed as the Best Picture of the Year by Photoplay . According to a DV news item, the film took in $3,750,000 at the box office and was M-G-M's largest grossing film in five years. In 1951, Van Johnson starred in M-G-M's follow-up film to this picture, entitled Go for Broke , which was written and directed by Robert Pirosh. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Dec 49   p. 436-37, 448.
Box Office   8 Oct 1949.   
Daily Variety   10 Mar 49   p. 10.
Daily Variety   5 Apr 49   p. 8.
Daily Variety   28 Sep 49   p. 3, 6
Daily Variety   26 Oct 49   p. 3.
Daily Variety   17 Nov 49   p. 1.
Daily Variety   20 Feb 50   p. 1.
Film Daily   28 Sep 49   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Aug 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Oct 48   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Oct 48   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Oct 48   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Mar 1949.   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Mar 1949.   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Apr 49   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   5 May 49   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   9 May 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Jun 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jun 49   p. 10
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jun 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Sep 49   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   1 Oct 49   p. 33.
New York Times   12 Nov 49   p. 8.
Variety   28 Sep 49   p. 6.

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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.
 
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