HELL IS FOR HEROES
DIRECTED BY DON SIEGAL
PRODUCED BY HENRY BLANKE
Photo with the courtesy of Gorch
DIRECTED BY DON SIEGAL
PRODUCED BY HENRY BLANKE
Photo with the courtesy of Gorch
Information from IMDb
World War II drama where the action centers around a single maneuver
by a squad of GIs in retaliation against the force of the German Siegfried line.
Reese joins a group of weary GIs unexpectedly ordered back into the line when on their way to a rest area.
While most of the men withdraw from their positions facing a German pillbox at the far side of a mine-field,
half a dozen men are left to protect a wide front. By various ruses, they manage
to convince the Germans that a large force is still holding the position.
Then Reese leads two of the men in an unauthorized and unsuccessful attack on the pillbox,
in which the other two are killed; and when the main platoon returns,
he is threatened with court-martial. Rather that face the disgrace,
and in an attempt to show he was right, he makes a one-man attack on the pillbox.
Written by alfiehitchie
Steve McQueen ... Reese
Bobby Darin ... Pvt. Corby
Fess Parker ... Sgt. Pike
Harry Guardino ... Sgt. Larkin
James Coburn ... Cpl. Henshaw
Bob Newhart ... Pvt. Driscoll
Nick Adams ... Homer Janeczek
Stephen Ferry ... Sgt. Morgan
Mike Kellin ... Pvt. Kolinsky
Simon Prescott ... Thomas
Joseph Hoover ... Capt. Loomis
Robert Phillips ... Jeep driver
Bill Mullikin ... Pvt. Cumberly
L.Q. Jones ... Supply Sgt. Frazer
Don Haggerty ... Capt. Mace
Michele Montau ... Monique Ouidel
Richard Adams ... Sergeant (uncredited)
Fred Cavens ... Old Man (uncredited)
Louis J. Gasnier ... Old Man (uncredited)
Chuck Hicks ... Wounded Prisoner (uncredited)
Jack McClure ... German Prisoner (uncredited)
Fred Ross ... Sergeant (uncredited)
Glenn Stensel ... Medic (uncredited)
James Turley ... Corporal (uncredited)
Guy Way ... Sergeant (uncredited)
Robert Pirosh screenplay story
Bob Newhart said in an interview that due to the film's ballooning budget, Paramount refused to provide more film stock to the set. The filmmakers ran out of film stock before filming the scripted ending. But the abrupt ending has helped the film gain a cult audience.
Director Don Siegel did not want to shoot the scene where Bob Newhart's character has a fake telephone conversation with "headquarters" to fool the Germans listening through a microphone planted in the US bunker, believing that it had no place in the story. He was overruled by the studio, however. Newhart at the time was a hugely popular stand-up comic, and a major part of his act was having one-sided phone conversations. The studio ordered that the scene be shot in order to capitalize on Newhart's popularity. Newhart wrote his own lines for this scene.
The weapon Steve McQueen is using is an M3, .45 ACP Cal., sub-machine gun know as the "Grease Gun". It came into use late in the war replacing Thompson sub-machine guns. It was not a general issue weapon to infantryman, normally it was the crew weapon on a tank. Many "found" their way to the front line troops. This earlier model weapon had a charging lever on the side that you see McQueen using occasionally to clear the weapon as it jams. Later models (M3A1) were charged by simply pulling back on the bolt by inserting your finger into a recess in the bolt. The M3A1 wire stock included a tab to help load magazines, the ends threaded to accept a cleaning brush to clean the barrel and was used as a wrench to unscrew the barrel for disassembly. The weapon, only manufactured during WWII by General Motors Headlight division, at a cost about $20 vs. the Thompsons at a fee of $100 each.
According to Bob Newhart's autobiography, 'I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This', Steve McQueen and Bobby Darin did not get along during filming. When stories of their feud appeared in the trade papers, the film's publicist was fired. But it was Nick Adams who leaked the story. According to Newhart, Adams felt so badly that he chased the publicist's departing plane yelling "I'm sorry!"
Screenwriter Robert Pirosh was originally set to direct the film but after repeated clashes with star Steve McQueen he was replaced with Don Siegel. Pirosh's script featured many blackly comedic scenes but most of them were not filmed, as Siegel wanted to make the film more dramatic. Disappointed, Bob Newhart tried to get Siegel to kill his character early, but Siegel refused.
Temperatures reached 117 °F during filming. Some of the day sequences were changed to night so the cast would not collapse from the heat.
Steve McQueen did not socialize with the rest of cast because his character was anti-social and alienated himself from the rest of the squad.
Althought you see Steve McQueen's character carry the M3, .45 ACP Cal., sub-machine gun know as the "Grease Gun", which feeds ammunition via a long magazine, you don't see him carrying any ammunition pouches for this weapon and instead you see he's carrying only the shorter pouches on his ammunition belt for the M-1 Garand rifle. And those rifle ammunition pouches he's carrying are obviously empty, as they are all flat and appear to contain nothing.
According to Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, a columnist visiting the set commented on Steve McQueen's irascible temperament by noting that McQueen seemed to be his own worst enemy. Bobby Darin reportedly overheard the comment and quickly replied, "Not while I'm around." (The full Mankiewicz quote: "Steve McQueens character in 'Hell is for Heroes' seemed to have a little trouble getting along with people. By most accounts, playing that kind of guy wasn't a stretch for McQueen. Time and time again during production, McQueen got in the face of studio executives or Don Siegel, the director, or even cast members. At one point, a columnist was visiting the set, and he mentioned to another observer that Steve McQueen seemed to be his own worst enemy. Co-star Bobby Darin overheard the comment and quickly replied, 'Not while I'm around.'")
The shoulder patch worn by most of the soldiers in the platoon is that of the 95th Infantry Division, a real-life military unit (nicknamed "Iron Men of Metz") that saw action in the European Theater during World War II. Today, the 95th Division is an Army Reserve unit headquartered at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
According to the 'Variety Movie Guide', "Recollections of an actual and tightly classified incident near the dragon's teeth of the Siegfried Line during the dark days of World War II inspired the story by Robert Pirosh, . . . creative activator of the film who bowed out as its producer along the way."
This film's director Don Siegel once said: "I would never make a war picture unless it was strongly antiwar. No side wins a war. How hypocritical warring nations are. Both sides have their priests and ministers pray to the same God for victory. War is senseless and futile. It is true that hell is for heroes. It is equally true that for heroes there is only hell."
This movie's opening prologue is represented by segments of a speech by President John F. Kennedy.
According to Bob Newhart's autobiography, 'I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This', his fee for night-club appearances increased during production and he really wanted to get back on the road. He would routinely go up to the director with ideas on how his character could be killed off. The director would respond, "You're in it to the end, soldier."
During the production shooting of this movie, a number of actors including Steve McQueen and Fess Parker frequently arrived on set late and shot a number of scenes without rehearsal or little of it, without make-up. Apparently, these actors were working on other film projects at the same time in parallel to this one.
Robert Pirosh was a Master Sergeant during World War II, serving with the 320th Regiment, 35th Division. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, at Ardennes and in the Rhineland. He commanded a unit in Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge was awarded a Bronze Star. Pirosh's war movies pay homage to the American front-line infantry of World War II. Along with this film, they are Battleground; Go for Broke!; Combat!.
Apparently, writer-producer-director Robert Pirosh left this film before it was completed after on-the-set problems with star actor, Steve McQueen. Pirosh is only credited as a writer (story and screenplay) and has no director or producer credit. After his departure, Pirosh contacted Selmur Productions about a television series about the American front-line infantry. This series would become Combat!.
The TV episode Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Siege of AR-558 features a number of characters whose names are based on the names of actors and characters from this movie. They include Reese (Steve McQueen's character; Larkin (Harry Guardino's role), and Kellin (after this movie's actor Mike Kellin). The episode's story is also similar to this movie's.
Bob Newhart's feature-film debut.
When Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the Texas Theater on November 22, 1963 for shooting a policeman, this was the film that was showing.
The final attack is to take place at 6:00 AM. Judging from the shadows, the attack scenes were filmed between 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Flamethrowers seen in all night scene was an M1, with long double tube. In the main attack, the two men dying carry both M2 flamethrowers, with a pistol grip near the muzzle. But when Colby grab one of those back, and use it on the bunker, it's a M1 again.
During the night attack the flamethrower is clearly blown up; but during the next day when the company attacks, a soldier is seen picking up the intact flamethrower and using it.
On the line Pike asks Reese what do they have down there? Reese responds "9MM light". The German machine gun would have been either an MG34 or an MG42, both 7.92 X 57MM standard rifle size rounds in German Army. A 9MM is a small pistol round used in machine pistole (burp guns), not in machine guns as "Light" may imply.
When Reese, Henshaw and Kolinsky are low crawling through the mine field they are trying to find mines with their hands at night. This would be suicide. The actual military way to find land mines is by using a bayonet and probing with the tip at an angle into the dirt.
Homer would have been sent to the Polish 2nd Corps to become a soldier. Displaced Poles were picked up and added to the ranks of these units as they marched through Holland and Belgium. At Normandy there were 195,000 Polish Army troops at the war's end there were 237,000 troops under arms. It is said that the Poles recruited from the front. Poles conscripted into the German army was a primary source, but any displaced person would be absorbed.
McQueen's weapon of choice is his M3 'Grease gun' submachine gun. Yet he carries ammunition pouches for rifle ammunition (5-8 round clips) not 32 round M3 submachine gun clips.
During the final charge on the pillbox, no German machine gun shown firing from the pillbox. The gun would have to be placed so the barrel would be outside the opening for maximum effect.
During the final battle, a German gives the order "Achtung, Fire". In addition to mixing German with English, the use of "fire" as in "fire when ready" in German "Feuern Sie, wenn vorbereitet" is meaningless. "Fire" in this context is an American term.
When laying out the ammo boxes connected to wires: A) It is night but there are obvious shadows B) The wire reels movement does not correspond to man movement. While moving through rough country, the wire spools unroll rather smoothly. C) When the lines are laid, the hands shaking the wires move only slightly, but the ammo boxes shake wildly.
Redding, California, USA
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