Highly fictionalized account of the formation of the US Army's First Ranger Battalion in World War II and their first commanding officer Major (later, Lieutenant-Colonel) Orlando Darby. The idea was to create a US unit along the lines of the British commandos. In this account, which focuses on several fictional characters, the story is initially on their training in Scotland and the lives and loves their encounter while there. Their first combat mission was in the invasion of North Africa in 1942, followed by the invasion of Sicily and then Italy itself, including the amphibious landing at Anzio. Written by
Darby's Rangers is the story both of a proud group of the best and brightest the USA sent to war and the commander who sold the idea to the brass and the outfit was unofficially named for him. It was director William Wellman's next to last feature film and the first starring picture of James Garner.
As William Orlando Darby, James Garner is far from the cynical and comical Bret Maverick whom he was portraying on television at the time in a mega-hit series. Garner sells the idea of having an Americanized version of the British commando spearheading the American landings wherever they may be.
Trained by the British Commandos, Darby's Rangers or as it is officially known the First Ranger Batallion comes into being. We follow the Rangers from their first blooding at Dieppe through the North African and Italian campaigns until they were nearly annihilated at Cisterna, protecting the Allied landing at Anzio.
The film is narrated by Jack Warden who plays Garner's chief non-commissioned officer in the unit. We meet all the Rangers, some of them not the noblest of characters such as womanizing Corey Allen who takes up with married British lady Andrea King. Young shavetail lieutenant Edd Byrnes gets a baptism of fire on many fronts both in battle with Garner and in love with Etchika Choureau.
After the action of this film is concluded Darby was killed on April 30, 1945 just days from VE Day in action. Coincidentally on the same day that Adolph Hitler committed suicide. Maybe it was better for the film to end as it did however for entertainment value.
It's a fine World War II film about a true story. And this review is dedicated to those survivors if there be any of our First American Ranger Batallion and their gallant fallen comrades.
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