#284) A Walk in the Sun (1945)

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#284) A Walk in the Sun (1945)

OR “The Italian Job”

Directed by Lewis Milestone

Written by Robert Rossen. Based on the novel by Harry Brown.

Class of 2016

The Plot: “A Walk in the Sun” is a fictional account of the 36th Infantry Division during the Allied Invasion of Italy in September 1943. With a sudden overturn in leadership, the platoon lands on a beach in Salerno with one objective: to capture a farmhouse taken over by Nazis. Among the men are de facto leader Sgt. Tyne (Dana Andrews), Sgt. Potter (Herbert Rudley), who is on the verge of a complete breakdown, seen-it-all Pvt. Archimbeau (Norman Lloyd), mid-west farmer Sgt. Ward (Lloyd Bridges), and a complex group of men who know that this “walk in the sun” will forever define their wartime experience.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises the “excellent” script, particularly its emphasis on character over action, thus separating it from other war movies of the era.

But Does It Really?: I…don’t know. The NFR make a good case, but I’m not sure about “A Walk in the Sun”. Like “Twelve O’Clock High”, this is one of the first war movies that emphasized character over action. Also like “Twelve O’Clock High”, this movie is a bit of a slog. There’s some lovely character work throughout, and this film’s non-propaganda stance on the war must have been revolutionary in 1945, but there have been so many war movies in the last 70 years that have eclipsed “A Walk in the Sun” on the character study front. I’m glad the film is being rediscovered, but is it really preservation worthy in the same class as “The Birds” or “Funny Girl”?

Everybody Gets One: The main one here is the film’s original producer Samuel Bronston who, due to financial issues, had to give up the film rights to “A Walk in the Sun” and hand them over to Lewis Milestone’s Superior Productions. But one lawsuit later, Bronston still managed to receive 21% of the film’s profits. Bronston was eventually taken down by three little words: Swiss bank account.

Wow, That’s Dated: Lots of ‘40s jargon in this one, and plenty of slurs against the “Eye-ties”.

Take a Shot: This is another movie I was not expecting to have a title song. Sung by opera bass-baritone Kenneth Spencer, the song “A Walk in the Sun” serves as a common thread throughout the film, commenting on these men and their actions.

Seriously, Oscars?: “A Walk in the Sun” was completed just before World War II ended, and was shelved until 1946. The film received zero Oscar nominations, probably due to its lack of a solid studio to campaign it, as well as competition from that other Dana Andrews introspective war movie: “The Best Years of Our Lives”.

Other notes

  • Director Lewis Milestone is perhaps best remembered for his take on World War I: 1930’s “All Quiet on the Western Front”.
  • This is one of the weirdest opening credits of any movie. That being said I’d like Burgess Meredith to narrate my life.
  • Lloyd Bridges! Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit making lazy “Airplane!” references.
  • “A Walk in the Sun” was shot on location at the 20th Century Fox Movie Ranch. You know it best from “Planet of the Apes” and the “M*A*S*H” TV series.
  • I don’t trust a war movie where the soldiers don’t curse.
  • As the platoon’s first aid man Pvt. McWilliams, this may be Sterling Holloway’s finest live-action performance. Or at least the one where he gets the most screen time.
  • Shoutout to Norman Lloyd, character actor/director/living centenarian (He turns 104 this week!). It’s crazy to think that one of the actors in this movie is also in “Trainwreck” with Amy Schumer.
  • Weirdly enough, this movie predicted smell-o-vision. And to an extent, AromaRound.
  • Archimbeau predicts that in 1956 we’ll be fighting a war in Tibet. Off by a few years and 2400 miles.
  • Never say “over my dead body” in a war movie.
  • Oh those are some very obvious studio reshoots. It’s the only rear projection in a movie filmed entirely on location.
  • During the climax, one of the soldiers exclaims, “Mary and Joseph!” You forgot one.

Legacy

  • Nothing too much in terms of a legacy, but shortly after “A Walk in the Sun”, screenwriter Robert Rossen pivoted towards directing, helming future NFR entries “All the King’s Men” and “The Hustler”.

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