The Gallant Men was Warner Brother's contribution tot he War genre of the early 60's, featuring many of the same contract players who had appeared in their western and detective series. It was a sort of rival of Combat, which premiered on the same network in the same year but which was produced by a different company. I was a kid then and my family started out watching The Gallant Men but began watching Combat when the former was canceled. I liked The Gallant Men very much but spent much of my childhood humming the "Combat March" with my friends, who always instantly recognized it.
I'd have to pick Combat as the better show because it's more consistently good but they shows are by their nature very similar and a good "Gallant Men" is as good as a good Combat. It's just that there are fewer of them. The writing, directing and acting on Combat is more consistently good. The characters are a little stronger overall, as well. Vic Morrow's Sgt. Chip Saunders is one oft he classic TV characters of all time. Rick Jason's Lt. Gil Hanley is almost as good, (but forgotten by many, for some reason). Jack Hogan's Kirby is also memorable. Pierre Jalbert as Caje and Dick Peabody as Littlejohn, (and he's the right size for it), offer strong support. The one thing The Gallant Men has is a sardonic narrator, Robert McQueeney's war correspondent, Conley Wright. William Reynolds is a forceful Captain Benedict. Robert Ridgely is OK as Lt. Kimbro. Eddie Fontaine is good as the wheeler's dealer of the unit, Pvt. DeAngelo, but not as good as Hogan's similar Pvt. Kirby on Combat. Roland LaStarza, a former boxer who once got KO'ed by Rocky Marciano, has some good comic moments as Lucavich, but isn't much of an actor. (In one show, the soldiers talk about what they expected war to be like. Lucavich said he thought they might name a country after him. "A country named Lucavich?!?", says DeAngelo.) Both shows were popular at the time but ABC decided they needed only one war show on it's schedule and Combat was getting the better ratings at the time so The Gallant Men was canceled after only one year. It was very disappointing to me. I had hopes that the two shows would work their way to the end of the war and meet up with each other in Germany. As it was The Gallant Men never made it to the end of the war and the Combat crew fought on for 5 years, which hardly seems fair, considering that the actually length of time from the Normandy invasion to V-E Day was only ten months. No wonder they complained about the war dragging on.
One thing the two shows had in common was the dilemma they faced in each battle. Obviously, a fire fight between a squad of American soldiers who are regulars in a TV show and a squad of German troops who are not is going to be rather one sided. The war could not have been that easy. So, if you see a guy in an American uniform who isn't one of the regulars, kiss him goodbye...
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