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Captain Tom Reynolds and his band of skilled O.S.S. operatives are in WWII Burma to train the Kachin natives in modern warfare. But jungle combat, particularly against a Japanese army as familiar with the terrain as the Kachin, is more grueling than Reynolds had reckoned. Some respite is found in the arms of beautiful Carla, but after Chinese rebels cross the border to loot and murder American soldiers, Reynolds abandons all notions of "military protocol" and seeks requital. Written by
Chris Stone <email@example.com>
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Never So Few finds Frank Sinatra as co-commander with Britisher Richard Johnson of a behind the lines detachment of Kachin native tribesmen, conducting harassing actions against the Japanese in the China-Burma- India Theater of World War II. Sinatra is working out of the Office of Strategic Services which in this case is run by General Brian Donlevy playing William J. Donovan in all, but name.
Sinatra keeps the hipster persona down to a minimum and delivers a good performance as the rather unorthodox commander of native troops. Of course he's confronted with a rather unorthodox situation when warlords with warrants from the Chinese Nationalist government in Chungking massacre Americans and Kachins for their supplies. Purportedly these were our allies.
In all of this Sinatra finds time to romance Gina Lollabrigida the kept woman of Paul Henreid a most mysterious person of influence and nurse Kipp Hamilton. Gina is a most entertaining diversion, but the real story is about the Chinese actions in World War II.
During the Fifties Chiang Kai-Shek was a godlike creature, a noble exile from Communism on Taiwan running the government we still recognized. Never So Few was a daring film for its time, fresh from the McCarthy years for daring to suggest the Nationalist Chinese were less than noble.
Actually what is described in Never So Few, independent warlords making deals with both sides is old business in the Orient. It was something our culture couldn't grasp, still can't in many ways.
Never So Few boosted the careers of three men in Sinatra's and Johnson's command. Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, and Dean Jones all of whom went on to substantial careers. For McQueen it was his first role of substance in a major motion picture.
I recall reading years ago that Hedda Hopper who always boosted Steve McQueen's career when she could in her column, claiming that while this was a good career move, he should avoid dependence on Frank Sinatra for his employment. McQueen being an independent sort of fellow anyway, probably would have come to that same conclusion on his own. Nevertheless he certainly did carve his own legend out in film history.
Never So Few is a decent war film of a little known theater of war for Americans and should be seen.
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