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August 1944: proceeding with the invasion of France, Patton's Third Army has advanced so far toward Paris that it cannot be supplied. To keep up the momentum, Allied HQ establishes an elite military truck route. One (racially integrated) platoon of this Red Ball Express encounters private enmities, bypassed enemy pockets, minefields, and increasingly perilous missions, leavened by a touch of comedy. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Louis L'Amour's memoir, "Education of a Wandering Man", said that this movie was actually based on his war time anecdotes. He won two Bronze Stars as an officer on the Red Ball Express. See more »
The majority of Red Ball Express drivers were African American. The US Army used them for the dangerous driving routes as they were considered to be expendable. The film doesn't reflect the demographic realities of the unit. See more »
No credits besides the title, seven minutes in the film. See more »
This is obviously a war film that will never be dated. Even after 60 years, it is fresh and relevant, because it tells about life the way it was in World War II, as experienced by people of the era, in a way that is credible.
We get a good mix of the "workmanship" of war, combined with "down time" and "deadly time". Chandler plays the officer who realizes how dangerous it is to be "lax", as one might be when 98% of your duty is simply workmanship, like driving, loading, and unloading supply trucks. It is the "unforeseeen" incident that gets you. It is being unready. It is the fluke or freak occurrence that will be deadly.
We have a star studded cast here, fairly common for old war films, but impossible for the twenty-first century, simply because of the dilution of movie making. Not that "dilution" is bad, but it's simply the fact that if everyone and his cousin is making a movie, then there are millions of actors, and thus no way for more than a few dozen to ever gain the sort of fame that hundreds of actors used to have.
The integration was splendid in this film, and believable. The white and black troopers behaved and spoke in a way that made you think they were from the mid twentieth century.
This is hard to do today. It is done today, but it is hard to sell that concept today. However, one must remember one thing in making World War II movies. If one makes it for the lingo of the era, as this film does, then it always remains true and credible. If one makes it for the lingo of 1990 or 2000, it will get a huge following for that generation, but in 80 years, it will be scoffed at by later generations, while films like "Red Ball Express" continue to stick around.
The acting is great, and the characters are great. Each character brings his own story to the screen, so we have many subplots. There are 3 major ones, each involving the major stars.
The subplots are handled well, and while the one with Chandler and Nicol is over the top, it is dramatic and theatrical, and well handled.
Chandler was the big star at the time. O'Brien is a minor mainstay, somehow always remaining a recognizable individual that is rare for leading man types. Poitier is a legend, with "Lillies", "Heat", "Dinner", and "Bedford" insuring his status. Drake will always remain a mainstay as a player of lovable rogues. This may be his best role, as he pretty much steals the show. Alex Nicol is the wild card. Films like this, "Then There Were Three", and "The Man From Laramie" will go back and forth to and from classic status, and he will be a huge name in classic film a hundred years from now. He probably never realized this while he was making "B" budget movies.
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