Seven Days in May (1964) – 111

Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven Days in May (1964)

Yes, I know who Judas was. He was a man I worked for and admired until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform.

Welcome to today’s show, Seven Days in May (1964), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. So please subscribe when you are finished listening. You can also go to to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts.

Today’s movie is Seven Days in May (1964). This star-studded military movie doesn’t feature any combat. But there is enough action for anyone, as a rogue general tries to replace the US president in a military coup. Every actor in this movie is amazing but I want to call out Edmond O’Brien who plays a drunken Senator. Rod Serling wrote the screenplay and the movie was directed by John Frankenheimer.

So, let’ jump right into the actors, many of whom of show veterans.



Burt Lancaster played Gen. James Mattoon Scott. The great Burt Lancaster was covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). (1962).

Kirk Douglas played Col. Martin ‘Jiggs’ Casey. Douglas was first covered in Episode 4 – In Harm’s Way (1965).

Fredric March plays seemingly weak President Jordan Lyman. March was first covered in Episode 67 – The Buccaneer (1938).

Edmond O’Brien was great as permanently inebriated Sen. Raymond Clark. O’Brien was covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

Martin Balsam plays the president’s aide Paul Girard. Balsam was covered in Episode 26 – Time Limit (1957).

Hugh Marlowe played the role of Harold McPherson. Marlowe was covered in Episode 28 – World Without End (1956).

Whit Bissell plays Sen. Frederick Prentice Bissell was covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).


John Houseman played Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell and was uncredited. Houseman always plays a stogy old Englishman so I was very surprised to find out he was born in Romania in 1902. He was raised and educated in England.

In 1925, he moved to New York City and began working in theater. He was also a founding member of the Mercury Theatre. During the Great Depression, he worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) financed Federal Theater Project. He was the producer of the “Cradle Will Rock” with Orson Welles and known leftists Howard Da Silva and Will Geer. Grandpa, say it ain’t so. Tim Robbins directed a movie version Cradle Will Rock (1999) which had more stars than I can name here. It is really worth a watch.

Houseman directed more plays and went to work for the US government during World War II on the Voice of America. Following the war, he directed and produced Julius Caesar (1953), the one with Marlon Brando. He was a producer on a lot of films, and television shows, such as Lust for Life (1956), Executive Suite (1954), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Holiday for Sinners (1952), On Dangerous Ground (1951), They Live by Night (1948), and The Blue Dahlia (1946).

Houseman devoted much of his life to teaching and even help formed the acting school at the Julliard School for the Arts. He played the stern law professor in The Paper Chase (1973) and won an Oscar. His talents were in high demand as a supporting actor. Houseman died in 1988 at the age of 86.

Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven Days in May (1964)

Ava Gardner played the role of Eleanor Holbrook. Gardner was born in 1922 in the mighty metropolis of Grabtown, North Carolina. This hometown beauty gained a love of going barefoot being raised on a tobacco farm. When Ava was 18, someone noticed a picture of her in her brother-in-law’s photography studio. On the strength of just her looks, she was given a contract with MGM.

Since Gardner had no previous acting experience, the 17 films she made between 1942 and 1945 were one-liners and small parts. Eva was then cast in Whistle Stop (1946), a B-movie drama with George Raft. Next, she was lent to Universal and starred in one of the best film noirs ever, The Killers (1946), with Burt Lancaster.

Although she remained under contract to MGM for 17 years, a lot of her best work was when she was loaned to other studios for movies like Mogambo (1953) and Bhowani Junction (1956). She made many quality movies such as The Sun Also Rises (1957) with an aging Errol Flynn, the sci-fi On the Beach (1959), 55 Days at Peking (1963), Seven Days in May (1964), and The Night of the Iguana (1964).

Living in Europe, she made a few films just for the money such as The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), and disaster flicks Earthquake (1974) and The Cassandra Crossing (1976). This beautiful and talented actress died early at the age of 67 in 1990.

Richard Anderson played the role of Col. Murdock. Anderson did some acting before his time in the Army. After he was discharged, he worked in summer stock and radio. He was eventually signed with MGM and was in some important movies such as Forbidden Planet (1956), Paths of Glory (1957), The Gunfight at Dodge City (1959), Seven Days in May (1964), and Tora, Tora, Tora (1970), which is much better than Pearl Harbor (2001). However, he was a strong television actor. He was a regular on the last year of “Perry Mason” 1959, and The Fugitive 1964-1967.  However, to most of us, he will always be Oscar from “The Six Million Dollar Man” 1974-1978 and on “The Bionic Woman” 1976-1978. Anderson is currently age 90.


The movie credits roll showing the articles of the Constitution.

Monday, May 12

Two groups of picketers are outside of the White House. One group is strongly against President Jordan Lyman and the other is for peace and a non-nuclear world. The former group is carrying signs that say elect Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff four-star Air Force General, James Mattoon Scott (Burt Lancaster). If you need a mnemonic for general ranks it is “be my love general” – which means 1-star Brigadier General, 2-stars Major General, 3-stars Lieutenant General, 4-stars just General, and 5-stars General of the Army. There will be a test later.

Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven Days in May (1964)

One of the anti-Lyman protestors attacks the “Peace on Earth” sign and a huge fight breaks out between the two groups. The Capital Police have to come in and break it up. Inside of the White House, the President’s popularity is shown to be 29%. His doctor is examining him while his aide Paul Girard (Martin Balsam) is working. The President is trying to stop a nationwide strike. His doctor wants him to take a vacation but the President says he will swim in the White House pool.

Senator Raymond Clark, D-Ga. (Edmond O’Brien) comes in to join the president. They mention that the VP is out of the country. Clark explains that the USA and the USSR will dismantle their atomic bombs at a result of the treaty. Lyman explains why we must have the treaty, so the world is not destroyed. He also advises the Senator to lay off on the booze.

General Scott is testifying in front of a Senate committee. General Scott is explaining why the treaty is a bad idea when Senator Frederick Prentice, R-Calif. (Whit Bissell) and Senator Clark gets into a verbal spat. General Scott is flanked by his two aides, Colonel Martin “Jiggs” Casey, USMC (Kirk Douglas) and Col. Murdock (Richard Anderson).

Jiggs is devoted to General Scott. On the way back to the Pentagon, General Scott tells Jiggs that no one on Capitol Hill or in the press corps must find out about the alert scheduled for Sunday, May 18. The General says this “one must be deep and dark, right down the line.”

Back at the Pentagon, Jiggs receives a top-secret communication that was sent out early in the morning to all the key military commanders in the US military asking for their Preakness Stakes bets, the race being run on Sunday, May 18. Of the major commanders that were sent the message, only Vice-Admiral Farley C. Barnswell USN (John Houseman), ComSixthFleet says he will not bet.

Jiggs goes back to his office and finds Colonel William “Mutt” Henderson USA (Andrew Duggan) is waiting. When Jiggs asks where he is stationed, Mutt replies, you know already, I’m exec at EComCon, Site Y. Jiggs is totally in the dark but he gets more information out of Mutt. He finds out it is near El Paso and is commanded by Colonel John Broderick (John Larkin) who is in town to brief General Scott. Jiggs says Broderick is a bit of Nazi. Jiggs also finds out that they have 100 officers and 3600 enlisted men training for seizure and not protection.

Colonel Murdock comes in and warns Jiggs not to mention the alert. When Jiggs brings up the Preakness bet, Murdock becomes very angry saying it is the general’s personal business. After Murdock leaves Jiggs calls the operator and asks if there is a list for EComCon and there is not.

Later that night, Jiggs goes to a party. He is accosted by Girad who wants to know why the General was so high and mighty at the Senate hearing. Senator Prentice steps into the conversation and gives Jiggs some relief. But he gets drawn back in. Jiggs avoids answering questions about how he feels about the treaty. When Jiggs goes into the other room, he runs into the general’s former mistress Eleanor “Ellie” Holbrook (Ava Gardner). She makes an odd foreshadowing comment for Jiggs to make sure the General rests on the 7th day. She is talking loud and Jiggs takes her aside and calms her down and tells her that when she is sober she is great to have around. She then asks him to drive her home and he agrees. Before he gets out Senator Prentice tells him he works for the only man that can get us out of this trouble and he needs to stay “Alert” especially on Sunday.

Jiggs has to dump Ellie to go to Fort Myer to see the General. When he gets there he sees Senator Prentice going into the house.

Tuesday, May 13

When Jiggs comes into the office Col. Broderick is in with General Scott. When Broderick comes out he starts goading Jiggs about his liberal views. Jiggs handles it and goes to see the General. Jiggs and the General go over films from the last alert and the results are not good as everyone is moving too slow.

The General lies to Jiggs about what time he went to bed. He tells Jiggs to stay close so they can meet after the General’s meeting. The General also tells Jiggs not to mention the Preakness or the fact that Admiral Barnswell refused. Jiggs notices that the Navy was not at the meeting. He picks up a crumpled piece of paper from Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Hardesty and it reads “Airlift EComCon 40 K212s to Site Y before 0700 Sunday. Chi, New York, LA, Utah.”

Outside Jiggs is flagged down by the Ensign that told him about the Preakness. He is being transferred to Pearl Harbor which he sees as a reward. The ensign says all of the other military leaders came through with their Preakness bets.

Television host, and real sunshine patriot, Harold McPherson (Hugh Marlowe) introduces General Scott and everything goes like a political rally. Jiggs is shocked by what he sees on television. Although it hurts him, he calls the White House.

Jiggs lays out the slight bit of evidence he has before the president. The (nuclear football guy is always by the president). The President’s aide Girard is there as well. Jiggs says that EComCon might mean Emergency Communication Control. General Scott has asked the President to watch the alert without Press, Congress is in recess, and the VP is out of the country. Jiggs has to say that he thinks General Scott is planning a coup for Sunday, May, 18th. Girard does not believe it. When Jiggs leaves, they bring in Bill Condon from the Bureau of the Budget. The President assembles a team like you should do when you’re under attack, consisting of Art Corwin from Secret Service, Secretary of Treasury Chris Todd (George Macready), Senator Clark, and later Jiggs.

Seven Days in May (1964)

Seven Days in May (1964)

Wednesday, May 14

Todd doesn’t believe it because no one has authorized the funding. The President because his hide is on the line takes it a little more seriously. Art Corwin has to shadow the Joint Chiefs, Chris Todd will coordinate from the White House, Senator Clark is to go to El Paso to find the base. Girard is sent to Gibraltar to get information from Adm. Barnswell who it seems has refused to join the plot. Jiggs is sent to spy on General Scott.

Back at the Pentagon office, General Scott catches Jiggs looking up El Paso on the map. The General feels Jiggs out on his opinion of the treaty and what they should do. He then gives him 72 hours-leave and insists that he leave immediately.

Jiggs meets Senator Clark at Dulles Airport. Before Clark leaves, he asks Jiggs to go see Ellie and see if there is any information on General Scott. Jiggs is sick with himself having to do that dirty work. While getting in his car, Jiggs see Harold MacPherson getting into General Scott’s staff car. Jiggs and the Secret Service driver follow. In a dark alley by the Dobney Hotel, MacPherson goes to meet Senator Prentice. General Scott is there and almost catches Jiggs in the parking garage.

Thursday, May 15

The President says he will not participate in the alert on Sunday and will be going to his private retreat at Blue Lake for some fishing. Scott calls Broderick at Site Y in El Paso. Senator Clark is in a small café outside Site Y. There is a girl (Colette Jackson) hanging around the café. She wonders why there are no men coming from the base when planes are going in and out day and night. She says it is about 50-miles away.

Senator Clark follows the instructions until he finds a dirt road to turn onto. A helicopter zooms in and lands by his car. An armed guard comes out of the helicopter.

Girard makes it to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, that Barnswell uses for his flag ship. Girard brings up betting, horse racing, and finally the Preakness. Girard forces him to make a written statement about the plot.

Jiggs shows up at Ellie’s apartment unannounced. Ellie knows that Jiggs is not there to see her. Jiggs kisses her and she asks that he not complicate her life. He kisses her harder.

Girard leaves the ship and phones that he has the confession. Girard hides the note in a cigarette case that was given to him by the President. He then jumps a commercial jet out of Madrid.

Back at Ellie’s house Jiggs gets Ellie to talk about her feelings for the General. She mentioned that General Scott was a very careful man who never really cared about her. She tells him that he wrote her incriminating love letters. Jiggs picks up the letters while Ellie is out of the room. She walks in and catches him. She thinks Jiggs is doing this to help General Scott out. She is furious and says that Jiggs is always ready to clean the Generals privy before she slaps him.

Friday, May 16

The Secret Service shows a film to the President, Chris Todd, and Jiggs of the Colonels Murdock and Broderick reconing the Presidents home at Blue Lake. Todd is really taken by Ellie’s letters. But Jiggs is still sensitive. The President stops the argument and commends Jiggs for doing the distasteful work. He says he believes they are on top of it, just as the secretary brings in word the Girard is dead as the plane has crashed.

Senator Clark is being held at Site Y and calls Senator Prentice and is told that they were made aware of the base. Col. Broderick opens a fifth of booze and leaves it in the locked room with the Senator. Clark sees that Girard has been killed in a plane crash and pours the hooch down the drain.

A man from the US Embassy goes to the crash site to look for evidence. The smashed cigarette case is laying on the ground but it will take time to find it.

Back at Site Y, there are two fresh bottles on the night table. Col. Henderson comes in to see the Senator. Clark tells Henderson about Jiggs not knowing about EComCon and that no references were in the JCS orders. Clark says he is going to tell “the damndest story you ever heard.” Henderson decides to get the Senator off the base. But Henderson is betrayed by one of Rodrick’s goose-steepers and the pair are stopped on the flight line by a sergeant. Henderson is driving a super cool tracked dune buggy with a 50 caliber machine gun mounted on the top. Henderson beats the crap out of the sergeant and escapes.

 Saturday, May 17

Henderson and the senator make it back to Dulles airport in Washington just fine.  Senator Clark steps into a phone booth, that’s like an iPhone attached to the wall, and calls the White House.  When he turns around Henderson has vanished.

The President finds out the Col. Henderson is being held in the stockade at Fort Myer anonymously.

The President contacts Adm. Barnswell, but with the evidence presumably destroyed in the plane crash, Barnswell deny’s ever having signed a document.

Chris Todd wants the President to fire the conspirators. The President lashes out that he has no proof. Senator Clarks suggests that he use the letters Jiggs obtained. The President does not want to go to the bottom of the barrel even though he only has 24 hours left.

Scott is back at his command center rehearsing taking over communications when another conspirator, tells him that General Barney Rutkowski, has found out about the transports flying to unauthorized destinations. They suspect the Rutkowski will report directly to the President.

Rutkowski does report to the President and also lets him know that the next flight of transports has been changed from 7am on Sunday to 11pm on Saturday. The President orders all of the transports to be grounded.

The President orders General Scott to the White House. The two men meet without witness. The President confronts Scott with all of the evidence about EComCon. The President demands the resignation of Scott and all of the other leading traitors. The two men verbally spar to no avail. The President gives a lecture on using the Constitution and not usurping power. The President pulls out the letters from Ellie but decides not to use them. The President then demands the resignation of the officers or he will announce it at a press conference in the morning.

When Gen. Scott walks out he sees Jiggs and realizes he has been working for the President. The General walks out without a word. The President gives Jiggs the letters to take back to Ellie.

Sunday May 18

Scott has decided to record a broadcast that will be aired at 9pm Sunday night. The other generals are starting to waiver because the plan has fallen apart. Scott leaves for the studio so he can record his broadcast.

The President interrupts the Preakness Horse race to deliver his press conference. Secretary of Treasury Todd comes out and stops the press conference. Someone from the embassy in Madrid has arrived with the confession written by Adm. Barnswell. The President orders copies sent to Gen. Scott and the other.

When Jiggs gives the letter to Gen. Scott, Scott calls him a nightcrawler and then demands to know if Jiggs knows who Judas was. Jiggs is ordered to answer and says Judas was “a man I worked for and admired until he disgraced the four stars on his uniform.”

The press conference resumes and the President announces the request for resignations. At the television studio Senator Prentice and Mr. McPherson are panicked by the President’s announcement. Scott rudely dismisses the two.  McPherson won’t let him record his statement. Scott goes back to his HQ and thinks the others generals will stand by him. But before Scott can get back he sees that the three other generals have resigned. Scott gets in his staff car and asks to be taken home.

Jiggs shows up at Ellie’s house to give her back the letters. She asks if the letters were the bullets and Jiggs replies that they might have been. Jiggs asks if he can see Ellie in the future. She agrees.

The President says it is slander to say that the US can’t be strong without making war and that peace is the best course. The movie ends showing the Constitution.

World-Famous Short Summary – Boy has trouble asking a girl out

I hope you enjoyed today’s show. I am on just about all of the social media’s but twitter is my main place. You can find the links in the show notes. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review. It really helps the show get found.

Beware the moors

Seven Days in May (1964)

The Caine Mutiny (1954) – 110

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

If you wanna do anything about it, I'll be outside. I'm a lot drunker than you are, so it'll be a fair fight.

Welcome to today’s show, The Caine Mutiny (1954), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.

Today’s movie is The Caine Mutiny (1954) starring among others, Humphrey Bogart, Van Johnson, Fred MacMurray, and José Ferrer. This great movie covers two of my favorite genres, war movies, and trial movies. What can be better than a military court martial movie? This film was directed by Edward Dmytryk and based on a Herman Wouk novel.

So, let’s get going with the actors, many of whom we have seen before.


Humphrey Bogart played the lead role of Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, a man who had served too hard and too long. The great Humphrey Bogart was covered in Episode 25 – Sahara (1943).

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Van Johnson played reserve officer Lt. Steve Maryk. Johnson was covered in Episode 50 – Battleground (1949).

Fred MacMurray played Lt. Tom Keefer, a man that would rather be writing books than serving in the Navy. MacMurray was covered in Episode 90 – Double Indemnity (1944).

Lee Marvin played Meatball, a battle-hardened sailor. Marvin was covered in Episode 66 – The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962).

May Wynn played the role of May Wynn. Huh! She was the love interest of Ens. Keith. May was covered in Episode 37 – The Violent Men (1955).

Whit Bissell plays psychologist Lt. Comdr. Dickson M.D. Bissell was covered in Episode 30 – Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

Herbert Anderson was uncredited, played another of the ship’s officers, Ens. Rabbit. Anderson was covered in Episode 50 – Battleground (1949).

E.G. Marshall did a great job as Lt. Comdr. Challee, the prosecutor. Marshall was covered in Episode 68 – The Buccaneer (1958).

José Ferrer played Navy defense lawyer Lt. Barney Greenwald. Ferrer was born in 1912 in Puerto Rico. Being from a wealthy family, he attended a Swiss boarding school, the Institut Le Rosey. He graduated from Princeton University in 1933.

By 1935, Ferrer was acting on Broadway. Ferrer made his film debut in Joan of Arc (1948) as the Dauphin opposite a young Ingrid Bergman. Another great film role was in Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) for which Ferrer became the first Hispanic to win an Oscar. He played the role of short man Toulouse-Lautrec in the John Huston directed, Moulin Rouge (1952).

Other important roles for Ferrer include playing Rev. Davidson in Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) with Rita Hayworth, The Caine Mutiny (1954), as a sadistic Turkish commander in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Herod in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), and the double-crossing Professor Siletski in To Be or Not to Be (1983), and as Emperor Shaddam IV in Dune (1984). Ferrer had an active television career and also directed films. I would be remised if I didn’t mention two of his lesser known films, The Swarm (1978) and Dracula’s Dog (1977), of which I have only seen the first. Ferrer died in 1992 at the age of 80 from colon cancer.

Robert Francis was cast in the role of Ens. Willie Keith, the young man with a lot to learn about life. Francis was born in 1930 in California. Relatively athletic, he was spotted on a Santa Monica beach by a talent scout. Does this happen? In 1947, he graduated from Pasadena City College. He started taking acting lessons but had to stop for two years while he was in the Army. He continued to take acting lessons after he was discharged. The husband of his acting coach thought that the polite young man would work well with the head of the studio Harry Cohn. Cohn had been dealing with those rebels without a clue like Brando and Dean. After he was screen tested, he was offered a contract with the studio.

This cut into his passion for flying. He had befriended Howard Hughes and the two often when flying. Francis’ first role was in The Caine Mutiny (1954) alongside some of the greatest actors of a generation. As a rising young star he was quickly cast into They Road West (1954). This was followed by The Bamboo Prison (1954) a Korean War POW tale. His final movie was another great one. Directed by John Ford, The Long Gray Line (1955) is a tale of the US Military Academy at West Point.

After these four successes, Francis was loaned to MGM for the movie Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) with James Cagney. However, he never made it to the set. About a week before he was set to travel to the location on July 31, 1955. He and two others took off from Burbank. The engine stalled and all the occupants were killed. Francis was 25 years old.

Tom Tully played the first captain of the USS. Caine, Comdr. DeVriess. DeVriess ran a very loose ship. Tully was born in Colorado in 1908. After serving in the Navy, he got his first credited role in the submarine movie, Destination Tokyo (1943) and North Pursuit (1943). His early career is steeped with noir films like Lady in the Lake (1947) and westerns like Blood on the Moon (1948). His greatest film roles are considered to be The Caine Mutiny (1954), Love Me or Leave Me (1955), Coogan’s Bluff (1968), with Clint Eastwood, and Charlie Varrick (1973).

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Tully did a large amount of television work including a series “The Lineup” 1954-1959. In the early 1970s, on a USO tour of Vietnam, Tully contracted a parasite that eventually contributed to his death in 1982.

Claude Akins was cast in the role of Seaman Lugatch aka ‘Horrible’. Claude was born in 1926 in Georgia but raised in Indiana. He served during World War II in Burma and the Philippines. Following the war, he attended Northwestern and studied theater.

Claude was a big tough guy and was great at playing a big tough guy. His film career started out with a bang, with an uncredited role as one of the boxing sergeants in From Here to Eternity (1953). He started working in television around this time as well. Claude worked in noirish detective dramas in films like The Human Jungle (1954), Down Three Dark Streets (1954), Witness to Murder (1954), and Shield for Murder (1954). He was adept at playing military roles too with films like, From Here to Eternity (1953), The Raid (1954), The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Sea Chase (1955), The Sharkfighters (1956), The Proud and the Profane (1956), Battle Stations (1956), and Onionhead (1958). His westerns are too numerous to name. Other great roles include Rio Bravo (1959) with John Wayne, The Defiant Ones (1958), Merrill’s Marauders (1962), The Killers (1964), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), where he played gorilla General Aldo. And that is go-rilla not gu-rilla. Thanks, Captain Ron.

However, I feel that one of his most powerful roles was as a righteous clergyman out to save his town from Darwinism, regardless of the cost, in Inherit the Wind (1960). Claude continued to work until his death in 1994.

Jerry Paris has a brief role as Ens. Barney Harding. Paris was born in San Francisco in 1925. Paris served in the Navy during World War II. Following his discharge, Paris received a degree from New York University and UCLA before attending the Actor’s Studio. His first film was in 1949 as an usher in My Foolish Heart (1949) and Battleground (1949) as a German Sergeant.

Paris got roles in better films such as Outrage (1950), Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), D.O.A. (1950), The Wild One (1953), The Caine Mutiny (1954), Marty (1955), The Naked and the Dead (1958) and The Great Impostor (1961) but he never got beyond the buddy to be the star.

By 1959, he had moved into more television work. He is probably best remembered as the neighbor on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” 1961-1966. During his work on this show, he began directing and worked on such hits as “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple.” In total, he had 59 directing credits.

Jerry would work in film occasionally and his last role was uncredited as a Priest in a line-up in Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986). Sadly, he died that same year at the age of 60.

James Best played an uncredited Lt., JG Jorgensen. Best has been one of my favorite actors since the first time I saw him deliver the line in Shenandoah (1965) “We ain’t got a dog’s chance in hell.”

Best was born in Kentucky in 1926. Orphaned, he was adopted and raised in Indiana. Best finished high school and it wasn’t long until he joined the Army during World War II. Since he entered the war late, most of his time was spent as a military policeman in Germany following the surrender. Later he was transferred to the Special Services, never to be confused with Special Forces, where he learned to act.

Following his time in the Army, Best worked for stock companies until he was noticed by Universal and given a contract. He started out with westerns like Kansas Raiders (1950) and Winchester ’73 (1950) and war films like Target Unknown (1951), Flat Top (1952), and Francis Goes to West Point (1952).

Best had an important role in Shenandoah (1965) and was in some of the Burt Reynolds films like Gator (1976) and Hooper (1978).

Although Best worked a lot he never became a big star in films. He was more successful on television. He is best known for a stitch role on “The Dukes of Hazzard” 1979-1985 as Sheriff Roscoe Coltrane.

As he began to suffer from physical ailments, he became a painter and taught acting in California and Florida. He traveled making personal appearances until his death in 2015.


To get support for this movie from the Navy, they had, to begin with, a disclaimer that there has never been a mutiny on a US Navy vessel.

During World War II, Princeton graduate William Keith (Robert Francis) is graduating from his 90-day officer’s training. He meets his mother and uncle but doesn’t have to courage to bring his girlfriend May Wynn, who took her stage name from this part. He uses hand signals to tell her that he will see her at 10 pm as he is drug away by his mother. Just for note, Wynn is two years older than Francis, but she appears to be much older than her co-star.

That night Willie makes it to the club where May is a singer. If a girl tells you she is a singer, she is a stripper, if she tells you she is a stripper, she is a hooker, if she tells you she is a hooker, runaway. Anyway, May is upset with Willie’s actions. He tells her that he is shipping out. Willie tells her that he loves her, and he wants to introduce her to his mother. When Willie asks for sex, May leaves upset.

Willie is sent to San Francisco for transport to Pearl Harbor for destroyer duty. His mother sees him to the dock. When he gets to his ship, the USS Caine, he is very disappointed because it is poor repair from battle wear and the men are sloppy and unkept.

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Willie meets his fellow officers, Lt. Keefer (Fred MacMurray) a super sarcastic officer that is more interested in writing books than winning the war, Lt. Maryk (Van Johnson) who is a straight talking average intelligence executive officer. Willie is taken to meet the Captain DeVriess (Tom Tully). The shirtless captain asks Willie if he expected better than a minesweeper. Willie admits he did and the captain says that he hopes he is good enough for the Caine.

Willie meets another officer Ens. Barney Harding (Jerry Paris) and the two are given a tour of the ship by the smirking and wise-cracking Keefer. He makes them climb the mast of the ship as the last part of their tour.

In the officer’s mess, Captain DeVriess starts needling Willie. Willie’s family has pulled strings and he has orders to leave the ship and work on the admiral’s staff. Willie yields to peer pressure and refuses the transfer.

The Caine heads to sea in the Pacific and Willie begins learning his job. They drill for the mine sweeping that the ship is never asked to do. One of the tow fish breaks a line and Maryk swims out to it with a tow line. At the same time, Willie gets an action dispatch but in the excitement, he puts it in his pocket and forgets about it. The captain chews out Maryk, and Willie doesn’t seem to understand the relationship between the two.

After that, Willie is trying to get the men to straighten out and he rides Meatball (Lee Marvin) and Lugatch aka ‘Horrible’ (Claude Akins). He gets a letter from May and is then called into the captain’s quarters. He is in trouble for not turning in the action dispatch. The dispatch says the captain is being relieved and they are getting a new captain, Lt. Commander Phillip Queeg (Humphrey Bogart).

The men give Captain DeVriess a going away present. Again, Willie doesn’t understand why they like the Captain so much. Captain Queeg calls an officer’s meeting. He tells him about his duty in the Atlantic and that he plans to run the ship by the book. When Queeg sees a sailor with his shirt tails out. He takes out a pair of ball bearings and begins fiddling with them. Queeg assigns Willie as the moral officer and to be in charge of enforcing regulations.

They are ordered to sea to tow targets for gunnery practice. During the firing, Willie is called to the bridge because Queeg has found a man with his shirt tail out. Queeg orders the ship to turn right and continues to chew the men out. The ship crosses over the tow line and cuts the target loose. Queeg won’t take responsibility for the accident. He blames a defective tow line.

The Caine gets orders to go back to San Francisco and Keefer thinks it is to punish the captain. May is waiting for Willie when he gets off the ship, but Willie is surprised by his mother. He introduces May to his mother as one of his friends. Willie and May head to Yosemite for the weekend. It kind of drags the movie but there is a nice scene of the fire fall. Apparently, they use to build a big fire on top of Glacier Point and then someone would yell “Let the fire fall” and they would push it over the edge and make a fire waterfall. The National Park Service ended this practice in 1968.

Apparently, after a fun night, May is on top of the world and Willie asks her to marry him. She turns him down say his mother won’t approve.

Queeg avoids getting into trouble about the tow line and the ship is sent back to sea to support the invasion of one of Pacific islands. Their job is to escort the landing crafts to 1000 yards from the beach. They throw in some actual footage that may be from Iwo Jima.

Queeg puts Willie in command of the ship even though he is inexperienced. Maryk takes over as the Captain waits in the wings. Lt. JG Jorgensen (James Best) is calling out the distance to the beach. When Maryk slows the ship to let the landing crafts catch-up Queeg panics. He says they are within 1000 yards and orders yellow die markers thrown off the back. This leaves the landing crafts unprotected as the Caine steams away at full speed.

The officers make up funny songs about yellow stain blues and start calling Queeg old yellow stain. Finally, Maryk comes by and orders them to stop mocking the captain. He also tells them that the captain wants another meeting. Queeg is humble as he plays with his ball bearings. He talks about his wife, kid, and dog. Much like Nixon’s Checkers speech. Queeg asks the officers to support him like a family. Maryk says they should have backed him up. Keefer and Willie don’t want to support him. Keefer starts saying the captain is mentally unbalanced. Maryk says there will be no more talk about mental illness. However, Keefer has planted the seed and Maryk begins recording information about the captain and reading about mental illness.

In July 1944, the ship gets a gallon of strawberries. At 1 AM all of the officers are called to the ward room to be part of a strawberry investigation. He has the mess staff (James Edwards) fill a gallon bucket with sand. As each officer tells how many he had, a scoop is ladled out. Queeg is convinced that someone is stealing food on the ship and has a key to the storage locker. The captain estimates a quart is missing. He places Maryk in charge but the board of review cannot find where the missing quart of strawberries has gone. In the morning, Queeg tells a story of his past glory when he caught a thief on board a ship when he was an ensign. He has the officers turn the ship upside down in a quest to find a key that doesn’t exist.

Keefer starts bringing up the mental illness to Maryk again. He even brings up article 184 where a subordinate commander may relieve his superior. Ens. Harding gets emergency leave because his wife is sick. But before he goes he tells the other officers that he saw the mess boys eat the strawberries. He says he told the captain, who then called him a liar and threatened to hold up his orders. This is the final straw and now Maryk wants to go see the Admiral of the Fleet along with Keefer and Willie. When they get to the flagship, Keefer backs out saying that this is the real Navy and they will not understand the Caine. All three go back without talking to the admiral.

As the three are leaving the flagship, the fleet gets notice of a typhoon. The order is for the fleet to sail through the storm at a specific heading. The storm is based on a real typhoon, Typhoon Cobra. Because of bad information, the entire fleet sailed directly into the storm resulting in almost 800 US deaths. Queeg does not want to take on ballast or increase speed, and he gets mad when he finds out that the depth charges have been put on safe. Queeg is slow to make commands and Maryk keeps making the correct orders. When one of the smoke stakes falls over, Queeg freaks. Maryk begins giving commands to the ship’s helmsman. When the captain and Maryk conflict, Maryk relieves him under article 184. Willie backs up Maryk. Keefer stands silent.

The ship makes it through the storm and Maryk and Willie are sent to San Francisco for trial. One bright spot in Willie’s life is that he hears from May. He pledges his undying love and she tells him it is over and done.

Maryk, Keefer, and Willie are in a conference room and Navy defense lawyer Lt. Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer) comes to interview them to see if they are worth defending. Greenwald has a broken right arm from an airplane crash. Right away, Greenwald takes a dislike to Keefer who is not on trial. Greenwald gets right to the point with Keefer and says he is just as guilty as Maryk and Willie. So Keefer leaves. Greenwald tells them that most lawyers don’t want to defend them and Maryk is either a fool or a mutineer.

Greenwald takes the case and the court-martial begins. Maryk’s trial goes first. The prosecutor is Lt. Comdr. Challee (E.G. Marshall). The first witness is Willie. They crush Willie on the stand by comparing his lack of experience as compared to the captain. The defense asks about the name old yellow stain. The board takes exception to calling the captain a coward.

Next, they bring in the helmsman. He doesn’t help either side. They then bring in Meatball. The prosecution makes Meatball look like a complainer, but Greenwald shows how much battle time he has had.

They bring in Keefer and he acts like he was not a part of it and throws it all at the feet of Maryk. He even goes as far as saying he is not an expert on mental illness. Keefer made it seem like it was Maryk’s idea to keep the book on the captain and go see the admiral. Greenwald doesn’t cross-examine.

They then bring in Naval doctor Dickson (Whit Bissell). He testifies that Queeg is sane. However, Greenwald breaks him down and forces him to admit that Queeg has a paranoia personality.

Maryk takes the stand in his defense. Challee gets Maryk to admit he is of average intelligence. He breaks him down on his lack of knowledge about mental illness. Maryk admits that he may be guilty.

Queeg is called in to testify and he is cool as a cucumber. Queeg states that he has bad officers and they attacked him. Greenwald asks about the cut tow line and the beach attack. Greenwald asks if Queeg abandoned the landing crafts during the attack. On objection, the board says that there is nothing worse than accusing an officer of cowardice. In a masterful statement, Greenwald says that no man that rises to the command of a ship can be a coward. He also shows glowing fitness reports that Queeg has written about Maryk.

Finally, Greenwald brings up the strawberries and the search for the key. Greenwald brings up that Ensign Harding told him that the mess boys ate the strawberries. He says Harding can be flown in. Queeg pulls out the iron balls and starts fidgeting with them. He begins to become agitated and starts making rapid fire statements about his innocence. Queeg regains his composure but keeps playing with the iron balls. The prosecutor and the board know Maryk was right in relieving Queeg. Maryk and Willie are found not guilty.

The officers of the Caine have a party to celebrate the acquittals. Willie is on the phone making up with May. She agrees to come marry him. Keefer shows up and Maryk says he didn’t think he would have the guts to come around after he betrayed him at the court martial.

Greenwald comes in and he is very drunk. He says he defended Maryk because the wrong man was on trial and he had to torpedo Queeg to save Maryk and he fills sick about it. Greenwald blames the officers because when Queeg asked for their help after the yellow stain incident and they refused to help.

Finally, he turns to Keefer and calls him the author of the Caine mutiny. He lets the other officers know that Keefer betrayed Maryk. Finally, Greenwald splashes a drink in Keefer’s face and delivers the great line – “If you want to do anything about I’ll be outside. I’m a lot drunker than you so it will be a fair fight.”  The officers leave Keefer with his wet face alone.

May, Willie, and his mother arrive at the dock where Willie’s new ship is waiting. He finally can stand up to his mother and choose his own wife. When the new captain comes by it is Captain DeVriess. Willie goes to the bridge and the captain orders the now mature Keith to take the ship out. The movie ends as Willie issues sailing commands and May waits on the dock and the ship sails under the Golden Gate Bridge.


Van Johnson had a bad car crash while filming A Guy Named Joe (1943). Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne fought to keep the injured Johnson in the film until he recovered. This accident caused several large scars on his forehead. Most of the time, he covered these scars with make-up when filming. But for this film, he let the scar be shown to enhance his character.

In the close-ups of Humphrey Bogart in the courtroom, two scars can clearly be seen on his right upper lip. These scars came from World War I when a prisoner he was escorting hit him with his handcuffs. This gave Bogart the tight-lipped speaking style that he made famous.

World-Famous Short Summary – IT WAS the strawberries

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Beware the moors

110 The Caine Mutiny (1954)

The Glory Guys (1965) – 105

The Glory Guys (1965)

The Glory Guys (1965)

You're government property now, son.


Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.

Today’s movie is The Glory Guys (1965). This is a fun little cavalry romp that tells the tale of love and Custer’s Massacre.


Tom Tryon played the role of Capt. Demas Harrod. Tryon was covered in Episode 4 – In Harm’s Way (1965).

Slim Pickens played veteran Sgt. James Gregory. Pickens was covered in Episode 4 – In Harm’s Way (1965).

Harve Presnell played head scout Sol Rogers. Presnell was born in California and spent his youth in the great outdoors. When he was 7, it was discovered that he had a great voice and he began singing in church. He initially went to USC on a sports scholarship but left to study acting. Trained in opera, he spent three years touring in Europe.

Back in the US, Presnell after singing at Carnegie Hall, “practice, practice, practice”, and being seen at the Hollywood Bowl, the role of Johnny Brown was written for him. He first performed this role on Broadway and then in the film version, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) with Debbie Reynolds.

There were very few musicals being produced at the time so Presnell tried another genre in films like the western The Glory Guys (1965) and the teen romp When the Boys Meet the Girls (1965) with Connie Francis. His singing stood out, especially with “They Call the Wind Mariah” in Paint Your Wagon (1969), a movie that hilariously crossed cast Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood as singers. Had it not been for Jean Seberg, this movie would have been perfect.

The Glory Guys (1965)

The Glory Guys (1965)

In the 1970s, there was no film work for Presnell. With his singing voice though he became a major force in popular theater. He returned to film in a big way in the Coen Brother’s hit Fargo (1996). Other films followed such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), Mr. Deeds (2002), Old School (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), and Evan Almighty (2007). He was active on television as well. Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 at the age of 76.

Senta Berger played the love interest Lou Woddard. Berger was born in Austria in 1941. She started performing with her father at an early age. At 16, she was discovered by an Austrian director and got her first film role. She was active in the Vienna Theater.

In 1962, Berger moved to Hollywood and did quite well in movies and television. In three films she played almost the same role. These films are Major Dundee (1965), The Glory Guys (1965), and Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).

In 1969, she returned to Europe and continues to perform in movies.

James Caan played pugnacious Irish Pvt. Anthony Dugan. Caan was born in the Bronx in 1940. A gifted athlete, Caan played football at Michigan State University. Later while studying at Hofstra University he became interested in acting. He began studying at Stanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse. Caan began doing off-Broadway plays during this time.

Caan’s first film role was in Irma la Douce (1963). He really got noticed when he was cast as Mississippi in the western El Dorado (1967) starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. But what really put him in orbit was his role as Brian Piccolo in the made for television movie Brian’s Song (1971). I cry when I watch it and I know you do too.

Next came the role that made Caan a star. Director Francis Ford Coppola cast him as the mercurial son of Don Corleone, Santino AKA Sonny in the epic Mafia drama The Godfather (1972). Because of the way The Godfather: Part II (1974) was written Caan was able to return in flashbacks. Spoiler – he was killed in the first one.

In the following years, Caan tried a variety of projects include films such as Freebie and the Bean (1974), The Gambler (1974) which was one of his better performances, Funny Lady (1975), the follow-up to Funny Girl (1968), dystopian future Rollerball (1975), and the spy thriller, The Killer Elite (1975), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Following this, Caan’s career went cold. Except for Thief (1981), most of his movies through the late 70s and early 80s were not much to write about. Then he popped back playing a tormented SFC during the Vietnam War pulling state site duty. This movie was Gardens of Stone (1987) and both Caan and his co-stars Anjelica Huston and James Earl Jones were great.

Caan crushed it again in the sci-fi buddy cop adventure Alien Nation (1988). He had a part in the highly-stylized Dick Tracy (1990) as Spaldoni. That same year he played a sheepish author, in Misery (1990), who is held prisoner and tortured by an obsessed fan, played by Kathy Bates .

Other great roles followed, such as For the Boys (1991) with the Divine Ms. M, the comedy Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), The Program (1993), Eraser (1996), Bottle Rocket (1996), Elf (2003), and Get Smart (2008). Caan is still making movies and has been performing on television, notably with his son on “Hawaii Five-0” and his own series “Las Vegas” 2003-2008.

Michael Anderson Jr. played young Pvt. Martin Hale. Anderson was born in England in 1943. His first acting was on television beginning in 1956. His first film was an English film, The Moonraker (1958). He turned in a great performance The Sundowners (1960) holding his own with Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, and Peter Ustinov. He continued to work in television and film before showing up in three American westerns, The Glory Guys (1965), The Sons of Kate Elder (1965), and Major Dundee (1965). That same year he was also in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). His next major film role was in Logan’s Run (1976) as the Doc. Anderson has continued in film and television with his last work being in 1998. He is still alive.

Andrew Duggan played the role of hard fighting Gen. Frederick McCabe. Duggan was born in Indiana in 1923 but raised in Texas. He attended Indiana University where he studied speech and drama. He was drafted into the Army and was in a Special Services unit commanded by Melvyn Douglas. Following the war, his contacts helped him on Broadway.

Duggan started in television in 1949. His first film of around 70, was Three Brave Men (1956). Other films of note include Merrill’s Marauders (1962), PT 109 (1963) as the narrator, The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), Seven Days in May (1964), The Glory Guys (1965), In Like Flint (1967), The Secret War of Harry Frigg (1968), Frankenstein Island (1981), Doctor Detroit (1983), and A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987).

Duggan is known for two big television roles. The first as the original John Walton Sr. in “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” 1971. The other was as Hotlips’s father in a 1980 episode of “M*A*S*H” 1972. Duggan passed away at the age of 64 in 1988.

The Glory Guys (1965)

The Glory Guys (1965)

Peter Breck played mean  Lt. Bunny Hodges. I mentioned this guy briefly in I Want to Live (1958) but he is mostly known as Nick Barkley on “The Big Valley” 1965-1969.

Erik Holland has a very small part as Pvt. Clark Gentry who feared he would turn yellow in battle. Holland was born in Norway in 1933 and was only in a few movies being mostly a television actor. These movies include More American Graffiti (1979), Titanic (1997), Gotcha (1985), Stargate (1994) and Ghostbusters II (1989). However, I mention him here because he was the Union oath giver in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).

Wayne Rogers had a small role as Lt. Mike Moran, assistant to Capt. Demas Harrod. Rogers was born in Alabama and graduated from Princeton before joining the Navy. Rogers began acting in the Navy and went into this line after his discharge.

Rogers studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse before working on and off Broadway for a number of years. He also did some television work. His early film roles include Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), The Glory Guys (1965), and Cool Hand Luke (1967).

His big break came in 1972, when he was cast as Trapper John in the military comedy series “M*A*S*H” 1972 – 1978. Feeling like Alan Alda was getting all of the attention Rogers left the show. He did some television and movies but not to compare with the previous series.  Eventually, Rogers found great success as a money manager.

Henry Beckman had a very small role as a salesman. Beckman first showed up as a carpetbagger in The Undefeated (1969).


The movie begins in the train station at Mule City. Sounds like a great place. Sgt. James Gregory (Slim Pickens) is shepherding a group of new recruits in the train station. Included in the group are runaway groom Pvt. Martin Hale (Michael Anderson Jr.) and authority-defiant Irishman Pvt. Anthony Dugan (James Caan). They are waiting for the return of Capt. Demas Harrod (Tom Tryon) who is back in town finishing up a one-night stand with Lou Woddard (Senta Berger).

Eventually, he gets to the men and heads them to Fort Doniphan and the 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment under the command of General Frederick McCabe (Andrew Duggan). Under Sgt. Gregory the men begin learning to drill, basic arms, and finally horsemanship.

Lou drives a carriage onto the post and asks for Capt. Harrod’s quarters. Gen. McCabe and his staff return and the other officers are called. McCabe explains they are part of a campaign to return hostiles to the reservation but McCabe was not selected to command the entire operation. McCabe says he intends to do the whole job with just the 3rd. McCabe holds Harrod back and it seems they have a history during the Battle of Wishbone Creek and that McCabe sacrificed some men for his own glory.

When Harrod gets back to his hut he finds a bottle that Lou left behind for him. When he finds the note, he heads out in a hurry. Harrod is surprised that she lives in Mule City. She explains that when they first met 200-miles away she was keeping her reputation around Mule City clean. She asks to be let alone but he is kind of hard off about her.

Time passes and the men of D Troop improve. Dugan stays in trouble. Lou comes back to the post and Lt. Bunny Hodges (Peter Breck) an all around jackass and typical officer reports that scout Sol Rogers (Harve Presnell) will report to the general after he takes care of some business in town AKA Lou. When he gets to Lou’s place Lou and Harrod are having a fine time and getting all kissy face.

Sol tells Lou he has found $6,000 in gold and won’t be scouting for the 3rd. He expects her to go to California with him. Sol invites Harrod to leave and a punch exchange begins. The fight escalates until they roll down the stairs. Just then a group of soldiers comes to force Sol to the fort. Lou tells Harrod that she is engaged to Sol.

McCabe wants Sol to help him get a great victory against the Sioux. Sol tells the general that the Indians are waiting on the Army. Not long after this meeting D Troop heads out before sun up. The men are concerned that they do not have weapons with them. They ride about 20-miles out and Harrod leads them into an arroyo. It is not long before Plains Indians attack from both directions. The Indians are using lances to unhorse the weaponless troopers. At first, it seems like they are just counting coup as the lances are blunted. With all of the enlisted men off their horses, the Indians ride away. On Dugan has a hold of one of the Indians and is beating the crap out of him. They make him stop as the leader of the attack is shown to be Sol and the whole thing was done for a practice exercise. Sol challenges Harrod to a fight at 11 PM that night for reals.

The Glory Guys (1965)

The Glory Guys (1965)

The soldiers are released to go to Mule City and Sgt. Gregory warns them to stay out of the town marshall’s bar. Sol is in town buying new clothes a salesman (Henry Beckman) who has now moved up from carpet-bagging to clothes selling. Dugan leads Pvt. Clark Gentry (Erik Holland), Pvt. Martin Hale (Michael Anderson Jr.), and Pvt. Crane straight to that bar. He gets busy buying drinks for a saloon girl that is more like a saloon grandma. Hale and Gentry leave to get food. Sol and Lou are in the restaurant and he proposes. She stalls because she says Sol is wild and she may be in love with Harrod. When Dugan runs out of money the Marshall and his men beat the crap out of him. Hale and Gentry come back in time for the fight. Hale escapes and is taken in by a nice girl and her mother.

Sol shows up at Harrod’s room and they start drinking before they fight. Dugan shows up on post drunk and starts blowing the bugle. Lt. Hodges and Gen. McCabe find him and order him tied to the wheel. Harrod and Sol decide to go into town to look for Hale. They release Dugan and Sgt. Gregory gets six more men. The marshall is no help and a full-on bar brawl breaks out. The group is taking a beating until Sgt. Gregory comes in with the six men. Harrod is knocked through a door where Crane is consorting with a saloon girl. The Captain orders him into the fight.

The mother and daughter that run the local mission are feeding Hale pie. The mother says he can stay because he doesn’t curse or drink. Harrod says all the men in D Troop have that kind of character. Harrod says that Lou deserves the best and bows out of the love competition.

In the morning Lt. Hodges comes to cut Dugan loose from the wheel. As Hale recovers, he gets a letter saying that he can be bought out of the Army because apparently, the cousin he got pregnant married someone else. He wants out now because of Becky. His father has already sent the money to get him out. Becky says she will wait while he graduates for college.

Harrod has the men out on the firing range when Lou comes riding by in her buggy. She sends a major set of mixed signals to the Cap. He is being all noble and says he doesn’t want her to love him. She then drives away.

Dugan is complaining while they were working and Lt. Hodges gives him poop shoveling detail for the night. Harrod drives his troop so hard that McCabe calls out the band so they can pass in review. Sol and Lou show up in a buggy. As the troop parades by Sol realizes that Lou loves Harrod. Harrod sends the men a couple of kegs of beer for the night. Hale is lovesick and is waiting for his letter of release to come in. Sgt. Gregory tells him that he can slip out through the officer’s stable where Dugan is working. The officers are having a fancy dance because the campaign begins in the morning. Hale makes it to town and tells Becky and her mother that the letter didn’t come and he is heading out in the morning. Hale proposes to Becky and she accepts. McCabe takes Sol away and the general’s wife basically calls Lou a slut. She breaks down in tears and Harrod dances with her to hide her shame. When Sol sees the two dancing he agrees to go on the campaign. Hale makes it back to the stable and Dugan is drinking. Lt. Hodges comes in and Dugan has to dump manure on Hale to hide him.

In the morning, everyone is assembled to move out. The officers get to go and kiss their women folks’ goodbye. At the last minute, Harrod rides over, says for her not to wait for him, and plants a big one of Lou’s lips.

They make camp for the night and have a meeting of the generals. This is where it becomes Gen. Custer and the Little Bighorn. They all agree to meet on the 16th. As soon as McCabe gets out of the meeting he orders Gattling guns, musical instruments, and none essential wagons back to the fort. He pushes his men hard to get ahead. At one point Lt. Hodges sees Dugan tying a shovel to his horse. When he asks why Dugan says it is so he can bury the officer. Hodges orders him to dig the officer’s latrines for the rest of the trip.

A couple of nights later McCabe calls the officers and head of scouts. When he asks Sol how many hostiles are ahead, Sol empties a handful of sand. McCabe thinks it is an overestimate. Harrod calls McCabe out for rushing the battle a day ahead. Harrod assigns Hale to the medical wagon so he will be safe. Sol and Harrod have a buddy moment in the night. Sol gives Harrod advice about living and not planning on dying.

In the morning, they see some Indians and Sol thinks they are setting up an ambush below the bluff. McCabe orders Harrod and his troop to following the Indians heading towards the ambush site. He then surprisingly sends a major with a couple of troops to support Harrod. He says if they get into trouble he will come to their aid. Below the bluff, Harrod sees he is badly outnumbered. They dismount and prepare to fight. Harrod is surprised to see the other troops show up after what McCabe did at Wishbone Creek. The Major looks for McCabe’s support but he has already moved in to attack the village.

The Major decides to fall back and the troops basically take on the roles of Reno and Benteen at the real Battle of the Little Bighorn. Pvt. Gentry, who has worried that he won’t be brave, loses his horse during the retreat and faces death with no fear as the Indians charge down on him.

The troops cross a river while being engaged in a running fight with the Indians. Sol shows up to join them. The troops take the high ground above the river where Hale and some of the wagons have been waiting. The troops are short of water already. An arrow hits Hale in the chest but is stopped by an empty canteen. Sol and Harrod gather some canteens and sneak down to the river to refill them. They get the canteens filled but are almost caught by the Indians. Another group of Indians runs them down and they have a hand to hand battle. All of the Indians are killed but Sol is mortally wounded. He does one of the most ham-fisted death scenes every including they line “if I could only see the sun one more time.”

At sunup, the Indians are gone. They think McCabe has accomplished his mission. D Troop is sent to contact McCabe. When they get there, all of Cabe’s men are dead. Dugan finds Hodges and begins burying him while he cries. The infantry shows up. Harrod rides off to embrace life.

World-Famous Short Summary – Boys spend some time in the military

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Beware the moors

The Glory Guys (1965)

They Came to Cordura (1959) – Episode 98

They Came to Cordura (1959)

They Came to Cordura (1959)

Heroes? Saints living in the desert? My God, they tried to rape me! And blackmail you! It's a wonder they haven't shot you already! No, Thorne, they're only men - and damned poor specimens at that!


Welcome to today’s show, They Came to Cordura (1959), my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.

Today’s movie is They Came to Cordura (1959). I’m going to do a lot of background on the historical events related to this movie. Francisco “Pancho” Villa was a Mexican Revolutionary general that lived for 1878 – 1923. Villa was the commander of the División del Norte. He was quite successful for a time fighting the Federal forces of usurper Victoriano Huerta. Following two major loses in 1915 Villa’s forces were in tatters. On March 9, 1916, Villa raided across the US border and attacked the town of Columbus, New Mexico. Villa’s men looted and burned but they were not ready to the resistance from over 300 American soldiers stationed nearby. Some historians think he conducted the raid to try and bring foreign powers into the Mexican Civil War.

President Woodrow Wilson ordered a punitive expedition into Mexico with the stated goal of capturing Villa. The expedition, under the command of General John “Blackjack” Pershing last from March 14, 1916, to February 7, 1917. While this helped to prepare the US Army for World War I, it did not do much related to Villa, as they constantly moved to avoid American forces. This movie is set during the expedition following the Battle of Columbus.

I had previously mentioned that directors Christy Cabanne and Raoul Walsh made a film titled The Life of General Villa (1914) that had actual footage of battles from the Mexican Civil War. However, this film has been lost. There is a TV movie titled And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003) with Antonio Banderas about the filming that is worth watching.

They Came to Cordura (1959)

They Came to Cordura (1959)

On another tangent, I have had the opportunity to do archaeology in Brownsville, Texas. Locals will tell you that the town is named for Captain Brown who died there in the Mexican-American War. But I am pretty sure it is because of the color of the landscape. Dusty, dry, and brown.

I thought it was very suited that Steve Martin’s character in the movie The Big Year (2011) co-starring Owen Wilson and Jack Black was at the Brownsville Dump looking for the elusive Tamaulipas crow. This bird also known as the Chihuahuan raven is at the north of its’ range in Brownsville.

But I digress. When we were down there you could still cross the border without getting killed. A nice Mexican archeologist invited us to visit the Agrarian Museum in Matamoras. Oh great, what is better than looking at a bunch of old plows and tractors. When we got there, in spite of the name, it was more like the museum of agrarian reform. A large portion of the museum was devoted to Villa and the Mexican Revolution. So, we spent the evening looking at guns that were used during the battles.

Well anyway, on to Gary Cooper and today’s movie.


Gary Cooper played the role of the coward Major Thomas Thorn. Cooper was covered in Episode 83 – Sergeant York (1941).

Richard Conte played Cpl. Milo Trubee. He kept his tough guy image in this film. Conte was covered in Episode 78 – The Big Combo (1955).

Michael Callan played Pvt. Andrew Hetherington. Callan was covered in Episode 71 – Cat Ballou (1965).

Rita Hayworth played American expatriate Adelaide Geary. She is pretty amazing in this movie playing an older character without much makeup as opposed to her normal glamours roles. Rita Hayworth was the daughter at a Spanish dancer. She joined the stage act at 12. Three years later she was signed by Fox Studios and made her first movie, Dante’s Inferno (1935) at age 16. After a few small roles, Hayworth was released from Fox. Her first husband aggressively marketed her and she got a Columbia contract. Thirteen small roles and then she was loaned to Warner Brothers where she had her first success. These movies were The Strawberry Blonde (1941) and You’ll Never Get Rich (1941) where she showed off her dancing talent with Fred Astaire.

Hayworth became a superstar with the release Gilda (1946) which showcased her sexiness. She stopped acting in 1949 to get married but it turned out badly. Upon her return to films she had some very fine performances including Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) and They Came to Cordura (1959).

In 1960, Hayworth was beset with what now appears to be early onset Alzheimer’s. This forced her to take increasingly smaller roles. Hayworth died at the age of 68.

Van Heflin played another tough soldier, Sgt. John Chawk.  Heflin was born in Oklahoma in (1910. After High School, he signed on with a tramp steamer. After one year at sea, he studied law at the University of Oklahoma. After two years, he returned to the sea. When he returned to school he tried drama at the Yale School of Drama. For a time, he alternated between theater and the sea.

In 1936, Katherine Hepburn saw him on stage and convinced him to try film. She got him his first film role in A Woman Rebels (1936) He spent a year at RKO before returning to the stage. In 1940, Heflin acted in Santa Fe Trail (1940).

Heflin signed with MGM and stayed there for 8-years minus the two years he was in the Army Air Corp. During the MGM years his movies included Johnny Eager (1941), winning the best actor Oscar, Kid Glove Killer (1942), Grand Central Murder (1942), Tennessee Johnson (1942), Presenting Lily Mars (1943), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) with Barbara Stanwyck, Green Dolphin Street (1947), The Three Musketeers (1948), Act of Violence (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), East Side, West Side (1949), and The Prowler (1951).

After leaving MGM Heflin floated around a big but made some great westerns. This includes Shane (1953); 3:10 to Yuma (1957); Gunman’s Walk (1958). Most of his movies through the 1960s were of poor quality like a remake of Stagecoach (1966). However, he turned in a great performance as the bomber in Airport (1970). Heflin died of a heart attack in July 1971, at the age of 60.

Surfer hunk Tab Hunter was cast in the role of Lt. William Fowler. Tab Hunter, the surfer girls dream, was born in New York City in 1931. At 15, he joined the Coast Guard but was discharged when they found out his true age. Because of his good looks and toned body, he decided to go into acting. His first film was The Lawless (1950) with Gail Russell. Next, he made a British film, Island of Desire (1952) with Linda Darnell. He spent much of the movie shirtless.

After Hunter was signed by Warner Brothers, it was not long before he became a star in the WWII drama Battle Cry (1955). He continued his role with more films such as The Sea Chase (1955), The Burning Hills (1956) and The Girl He Left Behind (1956).

Following a musical, Damn Yankees! (1958) Hunter went on star in the William A. Wellman directed WWI drama Lafayette Escadrille (1958). Hunter left Warner’s in the 1960s and roles became hard to find. He did do a lot of television during this time including his own show for one season.

He was cast in a comedy, The Pleasure of His Company (1961) with Debbie Reynolds. But good roles became hard to find. He was in stuff like Operation Bikini (1963), Ride the Wild Surf (1964), City in the Sea (1965), and Birds Do It (1966). He bounced back in the 1980s and 90s with more mature roles. He even spoofed his clean image playing the partner of a transvestite, played by Divine, in the John Waters film Polyester (1981).

Dick York was cast as Pvt. Renziehausen. I know I have mentioned Dick York before. He is known to the world as the long-suffering husband Darrin Stephens on television’s “Bewitched” 1964-1969. He left the series in 1969 and was replaced by another actor. The injury that forced him to leave the show occurred while filming They Came to Cordura (1959).

Robert Keith played Colonel Rogers, the commander of Major Thomas Thorn. Robert Keith is a well-known American character actor. He began acting in stock companies and eventually ended up on Broadway as an actor and writer. In 1927, he began writing for movies and acting as well. He returned to the stage in 1932 but returned to films in the late 1940s.

Some of Keith’s most well-known movies are Guys and Dolls (1955) as Lt. Brannigan, The Wild One (1953), with Marlon Brando where Keith played Sheriff Harry Bleeker, Written on the Wind (1956), and Love Me or Leave Me (1955).

He often acted with his son from his second marriage, Brian Keith. However, the story of his first wife is very interesting. His first wife, Peg Entwistle was a successful actress. In 1932, she committed suicide by jumped from the top of the H on the Hollywood sign. Robert Keith died in 1966.

The role of the parrot was uncredited and was performed by Maggie. There is no evidence that Maggie made any other films.


The movie begins with a shorter introduction to the scene than I have given above and then says it is the story of a man trying to answer two questions: What is courage and what is cowardice?

The American encampment is set on a rugged hilltop in northern Mexico. An officer explains to bored reporters that a few hundred of Villa’s men have occupied a large hacienda owned by an American woman.

They Came to Cordura (1959)

They Came to Cordura (1959)

Maj. Thomas Thorn (Gary Cooper) arrives and the officer refuses to shake his hand. The men are told that he has been assigned to the responsibility of being awards officers for the expedition. The reports ask Thorn if he was with Col. Rogers (Robert Keith) when the town of Columbus was attacked. He confirms that he was and then they start to ask him why such a senior office was chosen for the task when the other officer changes the subject.

Thorn has Pvt. Andrew Hetherington (Michael Callan) in tow. He wants to award him a medal but doesn’t want him to get killed so he asked that all of the men recommended for awards be pulled out of the line and be sent to Cordura. When the reporters ask about the awards program he says a bigger war is coming.

Thorn and Hetherington head to meet-up with Colonel Rogers before the attack on the hacienda. When they arrive, Rogers is saying that the American woman is a traitor. He also says that since the war in Europe is being mechanized he wants to make one last great cavalry charge with the regiment in a single line. As we called it when I was in the Air Cavalry boot to boot and they say later in the movie. Of course, we had helicopters, not horses.

That night Thorn tells Hetherington that he is being recommended for the CMH. Hetherington says he did it because the lord took hold on him. This medal was created in 1862 during the Civil War and is now referred to at the Medal of Honor. As far as I can tell no one received a MOH for the Mexican Expedition but 56 were awarded around the same time for the occupation of Veracruz.

In the morning, the cavalry lines up while the battle-hardened Mexicans wait on the walled roof of the hacienda. In the hacienda, a well-dressed Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) gives a drink to the Mexican commander.

When the Americans attacked. a large number are killed by rifle fire before they even get near the hacienda. The formation hits piecemeal due to the terrain. Lt. William Fowler (Tab Hunter) at first orders his men into a ditch but later charges a part of the line and overruns the Mexicans. Cpl. Milo Trubee (Richard Conte) throws a bomb back at some of the Mexicans. Sgt. John Chawk (Van Heflin) used a hay wagon for cover and then attacked the line. Pvt. Renziehausen (Dick York) climbed the gate under fire and opened it for the other Americans. The remaining Mexicans escaped.

After the battle, Thorn walks among the men and watches how they handle the aftermath. Col. Rogers in praying in the chapel when Thorn comes in. Rogers states that he knew Thorn’s father. Rogers asks to be recommended for a medal because he leads the charge. When Thorn refuses, Rogers becomes enraged and first says he has done a lot for Thorn and then he threatens to expose what he knows about Thorn. Rogers orders Thorn to take the five men and Ms. Geary to the railhead at Cordura. He also says that Thorn was a coward at Columbus.

Major Thorn, Lt. Fowler, Sgt. Chawk, Cpl. Trubee, privates Renziehausen and Hetherington, and Ms. Geary head out for a two-day ride. Ms. Geary has her parrot Maggie on the trip with her. Geary makes a very good case for letting her go. Thorn orders the men to stay away from Geary and Geary to stay away from the men, of course, they can’t keep eyes off of her.

On the journey Lt. Fowler asks Thorn what he thought of the battle. Thorn explains that Rogers was reckless sending his men against a position without reconnoitering the strength of the enemy and the terrain to be crossed. The lines were single and weak. So when Thorn turned down Rogers for a medal he also held back that the old commander was a fool and got a lot of men killed. The Lt. can only see the victory. The men are getting grouchy because they don’t have any tobacco and Ms. Geary is consistently smoking in front of them. Ms. Geary says she hasn’t been across the border in 8 years. She also said she had a lot of family trouble and will be a victim of the newspapers.

Most of the men don’t know why they are on the trip. Thorn keeps asking them about their bravery and why they did the things that did in battle. Ms. Geary drinks her spirits and Thorn tells the Lt. why they are going to Cordura. Chawk and Trubee try to steal the booze from Ms. Geary. He tells the men why they traveling in hopes of getting them to act right. Later that night Ms. Geary gets drunk as a monkey and reveals she is a disgraced US Senator’s daughter. She makes a lot of noise talking to her parrot about the men.

In the morning, Ms. Geary finds that someone has killed the bird. She begins screaming at the men in Spanish but no one will fess up. Thorn is mad and doesn’t allow the men breakfast or any breaks during the day. During the ride, Trubee gets an ass boil. Thorn wants Ms. Geary’s tequila bottle. She refuses but he says he has to take it anyway. They make a fire and heat the lip of the bottle. Thorn then pushes the hot end of the bottle down on the boil as Trubee howls. When Thorn brings back the tequila in a cup Ms. Geary pours it out to taunt the men.

Some time later the detail is attacked by some of the Mexican’s that fled after the battle. In the initial attack, Renziehausen’s ear is shot off. Thorn leads the men into a defensive position in a canyon. Chawk shows he has no redeeming values. Trubee wants to get transferred to the quartermaster. Then he finds out that Trubee is just as bad as Chawk. Chawk starts talking about mutiny.

In the morning Ms. Geary tells Thorn that the revolutionaries just want the horses. Thorn tells the men to cut the horses loose. The Lt. calls Thorn a coward for surrendering the horses. Chawk threatens Thorn again. The gamble works and the Mexicans head out after the horses. It should be a two-day walk to Cordura. Ms. Geary goes crazy screaming in Spanish for her friends to take her. Thorn tells the men he didn’t try to take them out because he didn’t want any of them to be killed. Hetherington is starting to get sick. Trubee brings coffee to Thorn. Trubee tells Thorn he knows about his cowardice at Columbus. Trubee wants the woman instead of the medal. Hetherington falls out and they have to make a stretcher for him. The ragged band burns their equipment and heads out.

That night Hetherington is delirious from fever. Chawk and Trubee slip away tries to rape Ms. Geary. Thorn, Lt., and Renziehausen. Trubee tells the other’s about Columbus and has the Lt. take the guns. The Lt. takes side with the men and says Thorn is on his own. Chawk tells Thorn that he is a wanted man for murder. During the night Ms. Geary helps tend to Hetherington. Thorn tells his story of Columbus and his cowardice. She quizzes him like he has been asking the men. She says one act of cowardice make a man a coward just like one brave act doesn’t make you a hero forever. Thorn says the men are still heroes and Ms. Geary says basically they are scum.

They travel another day across the desert until the come to an alkaline pond. The men drink inspire of Thorn’s warning. Later they day they make it to the railroad. Thorn is woozy from lack of sleep. They start heading down the railroad towards Cordura. Trubee tries to quit but Thorn drives them on. They eventually find and railroad handcar. They get it on the track and head out. On a rest break, Chawk throws a large knife at Thorn but misses. They have to stop for another night and the Lt. riots. He orders Chawk to follow the railroad but Chawk knocks him to the ground. Ms. Geary draws strength from Thorn’s convictions. When Thorn passes out, Ms. Geary goes and has sex with Chawk to protect Thorn.

In the morning, Thorn gives his citation book to Ms. Geary in case something happens to him. Ms. Geary is in love with Thorn and says he is the bravest man she has ever known. Hetherington recovers but he is still weak. Chawk and Renziehausen get into a fight and Thorn clubs Renziehausen. As they start out Thorn is the only one pushing the cart. The rest walk ahead. When they get to a big hill Thorn cannot push the cart up. Thorn and Ms. Geary are trying to hold it up while three men wait for a chance to jump on him. Thorn ropes himself in and starts pulling the cart up the hill. Ms. Geary is helping until Trubee trips her. The Lt hits Thorn’s feet with a rock and he is drug back down the hill by the cart. The five soldiers walk back towards Thorn. The Lt. gets ready to shoot Thorn. Chawk reminds him to look for the citation book. They take the book away from Ms. Geary and start reading the write-ups. They start having regrets. Hetherington goes on a hill and sees Cordura. Ms. Geary helps Thorn up and they all head to the town. Thorn walks towards the town and the others follow. The Lt. is crying for them not to go because his crime was the greatest of all. But the Lt. goes anyway.

So what happened? Did they get their medals or did they just get executed?

World-Famous Short Summary – No good deed goes unpunished

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Beware the moors

They Came to Cordura (1959)

Sergeant York (1941) – Episode 83

Sergeant York (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

Folks say you're no good, 'ceptin' for fighting and hell-raising.

Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the links to social media in the podcast show notes. You can also go to to read notes, bios, and other random movie thoughts. Remember this show is completely free and independent. All I ask is that you jump over to iTunes and give me a review.

Today’s movie is a patriotic biography of the most decorated soldier of World War I, Sargent Alvin C. York. Released just before the attack on Pearl Harbor this film found wide appeal in a country about to enter World War II.


Gary Cooper played the title role of Sergeant Alvin C. York.

Gary Cooper was born in Montana in1901. Both his parents were English immigrants. The family was well to do and owned a large ranch where Cooper spent a good portion of his youth. Cooper spent a couple of years going to school in England before returning to Montana.

Cooper was out of school for some time with a hip injury from an auto accident. In 1920, he finally graduated with the help of a teacher that got him interested in drama. Cooper went to college in Iowa but was more successful with painting than drama. He left after about 18 months.

In 1924, he followed his parents to Los Angeles where he eventually got a job as a western stunt rider for a poverty row studio. Cooper didn’t care for the stunt work because it was hard on the body and cruel to the horses. He hired an agent and paid for his own screen test.

He began to get extra work like being a Roman guard in Ben-Hur (1925). These slowly increased until he signed with Samuel Goldwyn in 1926. His first big film was The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) with Ronald Colman and Vilma Bánky. Cooper signed a five-year deal with Paramount. His relationship with Clara Bow, led to roles in Children of Divorce (1927) and Wings (1927). Wings (12927) was the first picture to win the best picture Oscar. He also started making westerns.

Beginning in 1928, Cooper was paired with a succession of leading ladies trying to find the right chemistry. These actresses included Fay Wray, Evelyn Brent, Florence Vidor, and Esther Ralston. In 1928, he was in Lilac Time (1928) with Colleen Moore which was his first picture with synchronized music and sound effects.

Sergeant York (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

Cooper became a major star with the release of The Virginian (1929). Based on the success of this film, he was cast in a number of westerns and war films. Coope’s next big hit was as a legionnaire in Morocco (1930) with Marlene Dietrich. Cooper allegedly picture the director up by his collar during an argument.

After several more films, Cooper left Hollywood for an extended European vacation and rest. He returned in 1932 ready to act and ready to negotiate better contracts. After finishing Devil and the Deep (1932) with Tallulah Bankhead, Cooper jumped into one of his important films, A Farewell to Arms (1932) with Helen Hayes.

Cooper made a lot of movies during this time and many were very good. Fighting his way along in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), to every man in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, for which he was Oscar-nominated, taming the west as Wild Bill Hickok in The Plainsman (1936), and exploring China in The Adventures of Marco Polo.

Following some so-so movies, Cooper went on to star in Director William A. Wellman’s adventure Beau Geste (1939). The next year he returned to westerns with The Westerner (1940) fighting against Judge Roy Bean and his corrupt law west of the Pecos. This was followed by Director Cecil B. DeMille’s North West Mounted Police (1940).

Cooper found the everyman again with Meet John Doe (1941). Cooper made two more films that were released in 1941 and directed by Howard Hawks. The first was Sergeant York (1941), a movie based on the most decorated soldier of World War I and a movie I always enjoy watching. Cooper earned his first Oscar for Sergeant York (1941). The second movie was Ball of Fire (1941), a comedy with Barbara Stanwyck. The next year Cooper scored another hit with The Pride of the Yankees (1942) followed the next year with For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943).

Cooper helped with the war effort and continued to make movies. Some of the best are You’re in the Navy Now (1951) a wartime comedy, Distant Drums (1951) directed by Raoul Walsh, High Noon (1952) for which he won another Oscar, Springfield Rifle (1952), The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), about a military commander between World War I and II working for aviation, Friendly Persuasion (1956), where he played a Quaker that was being affected by the war, and They Came to Cordura (1959), with Rita Hayworth, where Cooper played a coward who was forced to face what makes a man a coward or a hero.

Cooper was a founding member of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, a conservative organization dedicated, according to its statement of principles, to preserving the “American way of life” and opposing communism and fascism. Other members included Walt Disney, Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, Barbara Stanwyck, and John Wayne—pressured the United States Congress to investigate communist influence in the motion picture industry. In 1947, Cooper appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and was asked if he had observed any “communistic influence” in Hollywood. He did not, however, name names.

Cooper died in 1961, at the very early age of 60.

Walter Brennan played the role of Pastor Rosier Pile, spiritual leader for young Alvin. Brennan was covered in Episode 67 – The Buccaneer (1938).

Joan Leslie played the role of Gracie Williams, Alvin York’s girlfriend. Joan Leslie was born Joan Agnes Theresa Sadie Brodel in 1925 in Michigan. Joan’s sisters Betty and Mary Brodel began playing musical instruments very early in life as a result of their mother’s influence. The duo began playing in front of audiences and Joan made it a trio when she was 2 ½.

When the depression hit in full force, the girl’s father lost his job. The young girls began working in vaudeville to support the family under the name of The Three Brodel’s. To bypass child labor laws the girls often had to lie about their ages. As the youngest, Joan stole the show with her cuteness and talent.

In 1936, Joan was offered a short term contract with MGM. Her first role was in Camille (1936) but all her lines were edited out. At the end of her contract, she went to New York where she worked in radio and modeled. Her older sister, Mary, signed with Universal Studio’s and the entire family moved to Hollywood. Joan worked as a studio freelancer and made many pictures for RKO.

Joan was cast in the William A. Wellman directed Men with Wings (1936). When he found out she was only 13, he replaced her with her sister Mary for the remainder of the film. Joan’s first credited role came in Winter Carnival (1939) because she could do a southern accent.

In 1941, Joan was signed to Warner Brothers and got her first big break when she was cast in High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. It was also at this time that her name was changed to Joan Leslie so she wouldn’t be confused with Joan Blondell. So at the age of 15, she played the role of the crippled Velma.

Later that year, she was cast as Gracie Williams, the girlfriend of Alvin York (Gary Cooper) in Sergeant York (1941). I certainly believed she was from the country. Joan worked with Olivia de Havilland in The Male Animal (1942). She then went on to star in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) opposite James Cagney in a role that took full advantage of her vaudevillian talents.

Joan made four movies in. 1943: The Hard Way (1943) with Ida Lupino, The Sky’s the Limit (1943) with Fred Astaire, This is the Army (1943) with Ronald Reagan, and Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943).

Joan also worked at the Hollywood Canteen during World War II entertaining servicemen. She was in a movie title Hollywood Canteen (1944) with a cavalcade of stars. By 1946, Joan was tired of the roles she had been given and sued Warner Brothers for release from her contract. Jack Warner got her blacklisted from most major studios.

She did two pictures for a poverty row studio – Eagle-Lion Films and made Repeat Performance (1947), a film noir, and Northwest Stampede (1948).

In the early 1950s, Joan took time off to raise her family. In 1952, she signed a short-term deal with Republic Pictures Flight Nurse (1953) was released and did well. Joan’s last film was The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956).

Joan worked in television for a bit until she retired in 1991. Joan Leslie died in 2015 at the age of 90.

York’s army buddy, ‘Pusher’ Ross’ was played by George Tobias. Tobias was in quite a few films including Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Set-Up (1949), and The Seven Little Foys (1955). However, to me and many others, he will always be the hen-pecked husband, Abner Kravitz, on television’s “Bewitched” for 1964-1971.

Margaret Wycherly played Mother York. She was a good and decent woman in this film. I will only mention one other role where she was a mother. That film was White Heat (1949). Top of the world Ma!

Ward Bond played the role of Ike Botkin, young Alvin’s drinking buddy. Bond was first covered in Episode 53 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

The younger siblings of Alvin were June Lockhart who played Rosie, and was covered in Episode 26 – Time Limit (1957) and Dickie Moore who played George, and was covered in Episode 54 – Out of the Past (1947).


It is 1916 at the Three Forks of the Wolf River in Tennessee. It’s so far back in the woods they have to pump in sunshine. Pastor Rosier Pile (Walter Brennan) is delivering an old fashion sermon. The congregation hears a loud disturbance outside. Alvin C. York (Gary Cooper), Ike Botkin (Ward Bond), and Buck Lipscomb (Noah Beery Jr.) are riding their horses, a rootin and a tootin and a shooting. They were drunk as hoots and Alvin shoots his initials into a nearby tree. The pastor turns the meeting out and they all see the A.Y. shot into the tree. Mama York (Margaret Wycherly) says sadly that it’s mighty good shooting for somebody that was drunk.

The next day at Pastor Pile’s general store, the men are gathering. A fancy salesman is trying to sell city clothes to Pastor Pile. When the locals get the news they are only interested in local news although the headline is about the war going on in Europe.

The men are jawing about some of the wild stuff Alvin has done when Mama York walks into the store. The men shut up. She tells the pastor that she is proud of Alvin because he works so hard but thinks he needs some religion. She asks the pastor to talk to Alvin.

Mama York sends her youngest son, George (Dickie Moore), to go to the bars and find Alvin. Alvin and his two buddies are drinking and Alvin is eying one of the bar flies. George comes into the bar and tells Alvin that their mother wants him home. He levels the gun on his brother. The men with the bar fly mock him and a fairly large fight breaks out. Alvin wins the fight and George reminds him that maw wants him.

Sergeant York (1941)

Sergeant York (1941)

Alvin is ashamed when he gets home. His mother throws a bucket of water on him and his sister Rosie (June Lockhart) gives him a towel. Then maw feeds him breakfast before sending him out to plow the field. While Alvin is out plowing a rocky field Pastor Pile says that Alvin has been plowing around a rock for years and he needs to straighten his rows and his life. Alvin says he needs to have religion come to him. The pastor says sometimes it comes slow and sometime it comes fast.

Not long after that Alvin, George and three hounds are out fox hunting. They go by a marker showing where Daniel Boone killed a bear in 1760. The dogs run by a house where a pretty young girl, Gracie Williams (Joan Leslie), is sitting on the porch. When Alvin see her he is twitter patted. She knows him but he does recognize her right off because she has grown up.

That night Alvin starts asking his mother about settin up – getting married. Maw York ask who the girl is and he tells her Gracie. Maw York knows Alvin is not ready for marriage.

Zeb Andrews (Robert Porterfield) is at Gracie’s house courting when Alvin shows-up. Zeb and Alvin start trading verbal barbs. Alvin asks Gracie for a drink and as soon as she leaves Alvin grabs him and runs him off. Gracie rages on Alvin and he announces he is going to marry her. She tells him she wouldn’t have him on a Christmas tree. Alvin jumps to the conclusion it’s because he doesn’t own a good piece of bottom land.

Alvin talks to his mother about getting some bottom land and she tells him that his father tried and failed. Alvin is determined that nothing will stop him.

Alvin goes to Thompkins who is selling some bottom land. Alvin sells his mule, hems, pelts, and some other stuff for $50 credit towards the $120 cost of the land. Thompkins is very clear that Alvin only has 60 days to earn the other $70.

Alvin sets out to earn the money and he is determined to make his goal. He moved rocks, pulled stumps, and split rails for pay. He kept his farm going, and hunted for pelts to make more money. One evening while he is out plowing Gracie comes by and kisses him. Darn near an engagement.

York keeps his totals on a calendar and as the deadline nears he has $44.35 of the $60 he needs. One night as he passes out mamma York covers him with a blanket and prays over him.

Alvin goes to see Mr. Thompkins and ask for four extra days to get the money. Alvin explains that there is a shooting contest and if he wins it all he will have the money. Thompkins agrees but says there is another man trying to buy the land.

On the day of the turkey shoot, the men are shooting at a real turkey which I assume is tied behind a log. The turkey is a wise create and won’t stick his head up so they can shoot him. All the men are missing their shot. When it’s Alvin’s turn he wets his front site and gobbles like a turkey. When the bird looks up, he shoots it through the eye.

After the turkey shoot, they have a target shoot with five places or parts of a cow or a beef critter as it called in the film. Alvin trades in the bird for a shot and buys four money. He is hoping to win the whole cow and then sell it back to get the money he needs.

When the others find out what he is up to they start teasing him and comparing him to Daniel Boone. Alvin wins all five prizes and sells the others another chance to shoot for the cow. They make sure he is not shooting against them on the second try.

About the time Alvin gets the money he needs Mr. Tompkins and Zeb comes walking up. Alvin tries to pay Mr. Thompkins but he says their deal wasn’t in writing and he has already sold the land to Zeb. Alvin flies into a rage and the pair runs away as Alvin’s friends and the past hold him back.

Gracie tells Alvin that it don’t make no difference but he says it does to him. He heads off towards the whiskey in Kentucky and his two friends follow. As they drink a storm rages outside. Alvin gets increasingly sullen as he drinks. He heads out in the storm to kill Mr. Thompkins. Lightning flashes by him and when he wakes up the mule is on the ground and his rifle barrel is split. The lighting has knocked the shoes off the mule but it alive. As he walks on in the rain he comes to the church and walks in the door. The Pastor has the congregation sing “Old Time Religion” as Alvin joins in with the group.

Not long after his religious conversion he goes to Mr. Thompkins. Thompkins grabs a wrench and tries to keep Alvin at bay. Alvin apologizes and buys his old mule back for $20. Tompkins give him his clock back saying it doesn’t work anyway.

Next Alvin goes to see Zeb, but Zeb hides from him. When he realizes Alvin is not going to hurt him he comes out. Alvin asks if he can work on Zeb’s land. Zeb says he will let Alvin share crop the land.

Finally, he goes to see Gracie. He says he is sorry for coming between her and Zeb. She gets mad and says she could have Zeb if she wanted and that she doesn’t kiss men she ain’t gonna marry. Then Gracie runs off crying.

Alvin begins teaching Sunday school and is a real fundamentalist Bible believer. About that time news comes in that the US has entered World War I and the draft is beginning again. Pastor Pile’s store is the local place for men to sign up for the draft. Some are enlisting before they are drafted and when they ask Alvin he says he will wait to be called. Pastor Pile calls Alvin aside and says he has not registered. The Pastor agrees to write a letter for Alvin saying he is against killing. The local board rejects Alvin’s appeal letter.

Alvin and Gracie make big plans for their marriage and the house they are going to build. The Pastor calls Alvin in and he has been rejected by the district and national boards. At first, Alvin says he won’t go because it’s against the book. But he realizes he is wrong. The Pastor tells him to trust in the lord.

The York family is very sad to see Alvin go. He gives his rifle to his brother George. Gracie comes by and kisses Alvin before she runs off crying. Alvin says “I’ll be a comin’ back!”

Alvin is sent from Nashville to Camp Gordon, Georgia. The officers and the sergeant are notified that Alvin has applied for exemption as a conscientious objector. One of Alvin’s friends is a New York subway worker named Pusher Ross (George Tobias).

When Alvin gets his rifle the sergeant starts hounding him. Soon after they head to the rifle range. His first shot is low and too the right. He figures the sites are off and he gets five bullseyes next. When an officer ask him where he learned to shoot and he says he always knew. Back at the barracks, he teaches the men about hunting.

Alvin is called to report to Major Burton. Burton and Captain Danforth tell him that the sergeant has recommended him for Corporal to teach shooting. Alvin explains his objection to killing and he and Captain Danforth have a religious debate. Burton pulls out a copy of The History of the United States. Alvin sees a picture of Daniel Boone and is very interested. The Major talks about defending freedom. Burton gives Alvin a 10-day leave and says that when he comes back, he will let him out of the Army if he still wants to get back. Alvin takes the history book with him.

Back at home York and one of his hound dogs go to a high record where Alvin can think in private. The Bible blows open and Alvin reads in the Bible “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” he decides he has a duty to the country as well as God.

Alvin returns to camp and before long he sails for France as a part of the All-American Division under the overall command of General John “Black Jack” Pershing.  Back home Pastor Pile reads Alvin’s letter to Gracie and the family saying that they will be moving up to the front soon.

Alvin and his men are in the trenches with a couple of British soldiers that are telling them how to determine if shells are going to hit or pass over. One of the men they went through training with, Bert, is killed by shrapnel.

The division takes part in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which is sometimes called the Battle of the Argonne Forest. Note, by this time the Russians were out of the war and the British, French, Italians, and Germans were just about spent. The huge influx of fresh Americans helped force the war to an end.

Alvin’s unit is ordered to attack on October 8, 1918, at 6:10 AM following an artillery barrage. The barrage never comes but they go over the top anyway. The Germans open up with machine guns and mortars. As the Americans get bogged down in no man’s land Alvin and some of the others are sent around on a flanking attack. They get in the German trench and fight hand to hand.

When the Americans come over the hill behind the Germans, most of the Germans surrender. A German machine gun turns on the Americans and kills most of them as the German prisoner’s duck. Alvin is not the senior man on the attack. Alvin crawls across the open and knocks out the German machine guns with rifle fire. In the movie, Alvin uses his back woods hunting skills to clean out a trench.

They gather up the Germans and one throws a grenade killing Pusher. When the killer runs they shoot him down. York and the seven men start moving the prisoners back towards where the American lines are located. They have between 50 – 75 prisoners. They use the German-speaking officer to make more Germans surrender.

They have 132 German prisoners and when they get close to the American line the men there think it’s a trick. No one will take the prisoners off his hands. As the group moves along the line the rumors run will about what Alvin and company have done.

Later at the attack site, Alvin explains to the general what happened. They ask how many men he killed and Danforth said he say 20 bodies. York explained that he is still against killing and did what he did to save American lives.

Sergeant Alvin York was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor, the French Croix de Guerre, the French Legion of Honor, the Italian Croce di Guerra al Merito, and the Montenegro French War Medal.

The Congressman from Tennessee, Cordell Hull, met the returning Alvin on the dock. He met the mayor of New York and was given a ticker-tape parade and a key to the city. He asks only for a ride on the Bronx Express Subway to honor his friend Pusher.

They put him in a fancy hotel and show him all the endorsement offers he has received. Alvin calls home and talks to his mother and Gracie. Alvin lets them know he is not proud of what he did in France and will not make money off of it. He simply wants to go home.

When Alvin gets home the Pastor tells him he is the biggest hero from this parts since Andrew Jackson and Daniel Boone. When he gets back to Gracie they go to see the bottom land. Alvin doesn’t think he has any way to marry Gracie. There is a bridge over the stream and nice house for the couple. This has been donated to them by the state of Tennessee. The governor will marry the couple on their 200 acres of bottomland.

Alvin and Gracie walk away hand in hand.

World-Famous Short Summary – Country couple has a hard time getting married

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Beware the moors

Sergeant York (1941)