Chicago Sun-Times, Wednesday, December 13, 1961, p. 62, c. 1:
You think, maybe, the armies of the world have but one responsibility, to defend the precious soil of their native lands?
Then you haven't reckoned with the persuasive charms of the motion picture industry. One of the more recent trends in the movie-making business is "renting" armies. The soldiers come fully equipped and trained and are far less costly than hiring and rehearsing movie extras. We're prompted to bring this to your attention by the use of regular armies in such movies as "The Longest Day" and "El Cid."
Many Persons Were Surprised that the Pentagon had given Darryl Zanuck permission to use regular military personnel and equipment in filming "The Longest Day." Our government's policy, apparently, is to provide such personnel it the movie is in the best interests of the nation. "Longest Day," the story of D-Day, written by Cornelius Ryan, apparently qualifies. Zanuck, as producer, has to defray whatever costs are involved in transporting, housing and feeding the troops he uses. He reportedly has expended $300,000 for this purpose, which is peanuts compared to what his costs would b in hiring, training and equipping a similar number of actors.
The British Army is Available for movies, too, but on another basis. The producer must provide the same pay for each soldier that an actor would get And this sum goes into the British Army's benevolent fund. This discourages producers from making too frequent use of the army. The French Army also is for rent, but its policy is similar to the British, hence you don't see much of this one on the screen, either. Zanuck probably is the first producer who was able to make deals for all three armies--U.S., British and French--in "The Longest Day."
South American Armies also are frequently employed in movies. Once upon a time these were comic-opera armies, available for a few pesos slipped under the table to a revolutionary general, always temporarily in command. Times have changed somewhat. When United Artists decided to film "Taras Bulba," starring Tony Curtis, in Argentina, the studio learned it would cost the equivalent of $7 per man per day for the use of the army. The studio didn't mind the fee, but when the soldiers stopped whatever they were doing promptly at 4:45 p.m. because that was the end of their normal day, the studio realized it was in for trouble. But little did they realize what trouble was ahead. The soldier-actors were called off the movie for 11 days because of a general strike in Argentina. The studio reportedly ordered the army to settle the strike and return to movie-making--or else.
There Are Other Armies that not only come cheaper to movie producers, but actually seek the work. Yugoslavia's army, for instance. A number of Hollywood producers shot their movies in Yugoslavia largely because the army was available, at little or no cost. Any producer in need of five or six thousand soldiers would leap at the offer. The Greek Army, too, is available and willing. In fact, the Greek Army was outstanding in "Lion of Sparta," one of the finest performances by an army. Seldom has an army been so brave.
One of the Most popular armies, for moviemaking thiat is, is Spain's. The colorful uniforms are especially dear to the hearts of the producers. And the Spanish Army, ever willing to oblige, will do something no other army will do. Their soldiers will don enemy uniforms. That's what they did for Samuel Bronston, producer of "El Cid," starring Charlton Heston. All that the Spanish soldiers demanded for portraying the enemy was a little more money than for playing themselves. In this case, Bronston crossed their palms with a few extra pesetas and he had two armies.
Our only fear is that Hollywood may now add an Oscar for the best acting army.