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Battleground ()

directed by
featuring Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, James Whitmore, Marshall Thompson

Incoming MGM production head Dore Schary ramrodded Battleground into the studio's schedule over the virulent protests of MGM boss Louis Mayer. The result was an award-winning box-office hit, as well as the beginning of the end of Mayer's power. This dramatization of the battles of Bastogne and the Bulge in the waning days of World War II concentrates on a single infantry unit. Van Johnson and John Hodiak are the ostensible stars, but the film is stolen by James Whitmore as the cigar-chomping, battle-stained sergeant. Also appearing is Ian MacDonald as General McAuliffe, whose legendary response to the Nazi's suggestion that the Americans surrender consisted of a single four-letter expletive: "Nuts". Whitmore's final scenes of near-delirium before the relief troops arrive are unforgettable. Battleground tries within MGM limits to be wholly realistic, though it is slightly compromised by the scripters' inability to use Army profanity, and by pointless subplot involving actress Denise Darcel. The film doesn't hold up as well as such wartime efforts as The Story of GI Joe or Walk in the Sun, but in 1949 Battleground was regarded as an important milestone in the field of truthful, de-glamorized combat flicks. Please avoid the colorized version: this is a black-and-white subject if ever there was one. Hal Erickson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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