Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill leads the 3,000 American volunteers of his 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), aka "Merrill's Marauders", behind Japanese lines across Burma to Myitkyina, pushing beyond their limits and fighting pitched battles at every strong-point.Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
When the troops are resting in the swamps, mud patches on Bullseye's arms appear and disappear between shots. See more »
Do you know what I'm going to do after the war? I'm going to get married and have six kids. Then I'm going to line them up and tell them what Burma was like. And if they don't cry, I'll beat the hell out of them.
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Just as Clark Gable died from the strain of doing those roping scenes with wild horses in The Misfits, Jeff Chandler died because of the work required in the Phillipines location for Merrill's Marauders. What a terrible tragedy and a terrible waste at the same time.
The story of Jeff Chandler's death could almost be the subject of a black comedy. He was injured while participating in a pick up baseball game among the cast and crew. According to Marilyn Kirk's biography of him, while playing first base he stretched for a throw to his position and pulled his back out.
With about six weeks of shooting left and not wanting to either run up the cost while on hiatus or having the film shelved altogether, Chandler continued in pain as his back got worse and worse. When the film wrapped he went for a needed operation and that was botched.
Chandler had just finally got free of his Universal contract and had signed a multi-picture deal with Warner Brothers of which Merrill's Marauders was to be the first. It was an important film to him. Maybe under other circumstances, he might have tended to health issues first.
Too bad he didn't live to see it because as Brigadier General Frank Merrill he gives one of his best screen performances. In fact in a crazy way the pain he was enduring in real life probably helped his performance because Chandler in the film is supposed to be under a physical and mental strain.
Merrill's Marauders was a picked group of GIs from the Pacific Theater who were on a volunteer mission to be a part of the retaking of Burma. The bulk of the fighting done in the China-Burma-India Theater was done by British and Commonwealth forces. The Commander of the Theater was Lord Louis Mountbatten, but the military genius over all was a very unsung British hero named General William Slim. Joseph Stilwell, the American General in China, is played here by John Hoyt. Stilwell may have been Merrill's commander, but Slim was running the show.
Warner Brothers provided a trio of their TV cowboys, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown and Will Hutchins in support of Chandler. And he got good support from Claude Akins and Andrew Duggan as well.
Merrill's Marauders is a fine film, but I'm not sure it was worth Jeff Chandler's life.
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