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The D.I. (1957)

A no-nonsense Drill Instructor is convinced that he can make a recruit, that is haunted by his family combat history and who falters under pressure, into a Marine.


Jack Webb


James Lee Barrett (screenplay)




Credited cast:
Jack Webb ... Gunnery Sgt. Jim Moore
Don Dubbins ... Pvt. Owens
Jackie Loughery ... Annie
Lin McCarthy ... Capt. T.L. Anderson
Monica Lewis ... Burt (as Matt Davis)
Virginia Gregg ... Mrs. Charles D. Owens
Jeannie Beacham Jeannie Beacham ... Hostess
Lou Tobin Lou Tobin ... Bartender at Cotton Club
Earle Hodgins ... Guard
Jeanne Baird Jeanne Baird ... Mother at Woman's Store
Barbara Pepper ... Woman Customer
Melody Gale Melody Gale ... Little Girl at Woman's Store
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jean Blake Fleming Jean Blake Fleming ... Waitress


Gunnery Sergeant Jim Moore is one of the toughest Drill Instructors on Parris Island. But he's got a thorn in his side: Pvt. Owens, who always seems to foul up when the pressure's on. Convinced that "there's a man underneath that baby powder," Sgt. Moore drives Owens to the point of desertion. Making things worse, Capt. Anderson has given Moore three days to make the scared private into Marine material, "or I'll personally cut the lace off his panties and ship him out!" Adding to the pressure, Moore also juggles a budding romance with a shop girl. Written by Michael J. Hayde <mmeajv@earthlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The First Story of That Special Rugged Breed They Call the Drill Instructor See more »




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Did You Know?


This movie was shown to recruits in the 1980s at MCRD San Diego, Ca. See more »


In the middle of the movie, Jack Webb is wearing dress Alpha uniform with 4 service stripes (hash marks), which indicates more than 16 but less than 20 years of service. Near the end of the movie, he is in his blues with 3 hash marks, indicating between over 12 but less than 16 years of service. See more »


TSgt Moore: [after beating Joey in a short fight] The next time you jump me, Joey, you make it look like something.
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Featured in JAG: Boot (1996) See more »


(If'n You Don't) Somebody Else Will
Music by Ray Conniff
Lyrics by Fred Weismantel
Sung by Monica Lewis
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User Reviews

Quite a few good men.
12 June 2003 | by schappe1See all my reviews

First, the film itself. This is Jack Webb's finest lead performance in a film, miles ahead of "Pete Kelly's Blues", (1955), more interesting that Sergeant Friday in "Dragnet", (1954), and stronger than the newspaper editor he played in "-30-", (1959). He does a great job of barking out the semi-comical venom of the DI, yet gives a layered performance of a man who's life has been defined by the Marine Corps yet somehow feels he wants more. Jack's future wife, Jackie Loughery, provides the possibility of loving something other than the Corps. At the same time he's frustrated by his inability to get through to one recruit, played by the excellent Don Dubbins and pressured by his superior, authoritatively played by Lin McCarthy to shape Dubbins up or boot him out. The changes we see in Webb's Sergeant Moore as he bullies his men, talks shop with a fellow sergeant, defers to the captain and expresses desire for Jackie are startling. His comic discomfort in being made to wait in her dress shop is fine acting. The contrast between his overbearance when dealing with the recruits and his quiet deference in the scenes with the captain is striking. His utter silence in the long scene between the Captain and Virginia Gregg, playing Dubbins' mother is remarkable for the star and director of the film.

There is relatively more explanation provided by this D.I. as to the purpose of his instructions to the men that one would normally expect. It's obvious that a soldier's rifle is his best friend and that punishment of the entire unit for a rifle is designed to promote peer pressure to "shape up and teamwork to get the job done". The concern over the "Murder of a Sand Flea", (the original title of this story when presented on Kraft Television Theater with former Marines Hugh O'Brian and Lee Marvin), is explained as an attempt to get the men not to respond to insect bites because to do so might alert an enemy of the presence o the men in real war. Somehow I doubt that D.I.s do as much explaining as we see here.

Part of this emphasis on the "why" of things may be what actually happened at Parris Island on April 8, 1056, only a few months before this film began production. Staff Sergeant Matthew McKeon ordered his platoon in the middle of the night to march though a nearby tidal stream called Ribbon Creek. Six of them drowned, creating a huge scandal that called into question Marine Corps training methods. From my reading there were extenuating circumstances. Apparently McKeon was an inexperienced D.I. who had seen other D.I.s call for such "disciplinary night marches". The platoon contained several men who were at best novice swimmers. It also contained more than the usual number of "Screw-ups" who provoked the incident by sticking nervous recruits with sticks and thrashing about in the water, creating a panic that caused the drownings. McKeon was "the first one in and last one out" trying to save his men but was pilloried as an example of mindless, uncaring Marine discipline. Another factor was the attitude of the chief drill instructor, who was allegedly looking forward to retirement and lax in his discipline and another DI tried to play the "good guy" and allow the men to breach discipline without reporting it. When the survivors were interviewed years later, all but one expressed admiration for McKeon.

It's made clear several times in the D.I. that Webb's Jim Moore cares about his men very deeply and sees being rough on them as necessary preparation for battlefield conditions. it would be easy for him to give up on Dubbins but he sees potential there and doesn't want to lose even one potential Marine. He's looking for the degree of focus only an organized mind can produce and the type of teamwork that will be necessary to survive. Military drill itself is a relic of the musket era- when soldiers had to march in formation, under fire close to enemy positions and fire a coordinated volley due to the inaccuracy and poor range of the weapons. Modern wars aren't fought like that. But the discipline instilled at a place like Parris Island is still essential to success- and survival- in warfare. Somebody has to instill it- somehow.

The Marines looked at this film as a way to launch a comeback from the terrible publicity of the Ribbon Creek incident and they were delighted to cooperate. A weakness of the film is that it does nothing to acknowledge the incident or deal with it's causes. It would be interesting if the other DI's varied somewhat in their attitudes or levels of competence and if they discuss what happened at Ribbon Creek and their determination to overcome it. But the Marines apparently didn't want any mention of it at all. Webb does have a rival DI that he slugs over a girl but there's nothing about different approaches to the job here. The closest thing to a reference to the incident is when Dubbins tries to go AWOL and Webb catches him at the swamp that surrounds the camp and warns him against trying to wade through it. The actual story of the Ribbon Creek tragedy would have been a fascinating story to have done in this movie but it wasn't what the Corps or apparently Webb were looking for at this juncture.

There has been some discussion of the D.I. played by actual D.I. R. Lee Ermey in the film "Full Metal Jacket" 30 years after this. He actually makes a speech in that film praising Lee Harvey Oswald and what he learned about marksmanship in the Marines. He's trying to turn the men into "killing machines" and succeeds as one of them kills him in what much have been the fantasy of some recruits. Here is what George McDonald Fraser, in his book "The Hollywood History of the World", says about "Full Metal Jacket": "Half of it is devoted to the training of Marine recruits, the chief aim of which seems to be to degrade and dehumanize them, consisting as it does of head-shaving, subjection to the filthiest kind of verbal abuse, physical assault from their demented instructor, the chanting of imbecilic slogans and other ritualistic charactures of discipline. Of real soldiering they are taught virtually nothing, except how to go over a childishly simple assault course: obscene screaming and tough talk are what pass for instruction- and I just don't believe that is all the US Marines teach their recruits, although it is all we see here." Well, that's not all we see in the D.I. Webb may not have been an actual D.I. like Ermey but his men were actual marines, (even Dubbins). And I think his platoon would have outperformed Ermey's in just about anything.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

28 March 1958 (Finland) See more »

Also Known As:

The Drill Instructor See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Mark VII Ltd. See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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