At a cocktail function in London, Lee Marvin got drunk and propositioned an older woman in the most vulgar manner possible. So slurred was his speech that she asked him to repeat it and he obliged. The woman turned out to be Sean Connery's aunt, and Connery was on his way to Marvin's general direction when producer Kenneth Hyman intervened. "Don't hit him in the face, Sean", he begged, "He's got his close-ups tomorrow". Fortunately, Connery saw the funny side and roared with laughter. "You fucking producers", he said as he left.
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Jump to: Spoilers (8)
Lee Marvin referred to this movie as "crap" and "just a dummy moneymaker", although he enjoyed the film. The movie has nothing to do with war, he stressed, and he was very pleased that he got to do The Big Red One (1980), which mirrored his own wartime experiences. Marvin also said many of the actors in this film were too old to play soldiers.
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One scene required Lee Marvin to drive an armored truck with Charles Bronson riding shotgun. With cameras poised, Marvin was a no-show. He was eventually tracked down to a pub in Belgravia and was hauled into a car and taken to the studio, where coffee was poured down his throat. When on arrival he fell out of the car, Bronson flipped, "I'm going to fucking kill you, Lee".
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The scene where one of the dozen pretends to be a General inspecting Robert Ryan's troops was initially written for Samson Posey (Clint Walker). However, Walker was uncomfortable with this scene, so director Robert Aldrich decided to use Donald Sutherland instead. The scene was directly responsible for Sutherland being cast in MASH (1970), which made him an international star.
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Production ran so long that Jim Brown was in danger of missing training camp for the upcoming 1965-1966 football season. As the season approached, the NFL threatened to fine and suspend Brown if he didn't leave filming and report to camp immediately. Instead, Brown held a press conference and announced his retirement from football. At the time of his retirement, Brown was considered one of the best in the game, and is still considered to be one of the NFL's all-time greats.
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Jim Brown later recalled: "I loved my part. I was one of the Dozen, a quiet leader, and my own man, at a time when Hollywood wasn't giving those roles to blacks. I've never had more fun making a movie. The male cast was incredible. I worked with some of the strongest, craziest guys in the business."
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Joseph Wladislaw says his father was a coal miner from Silesia, an area of Poland known for coal mining. Charles Bronson's father was a coal miner from Lithuania, and Bronson (born Charles Buchinsky) worked in the mines as a boy in Pennsylvania.
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Lee Marvin (Marines), Telly Savalas (Army), Charles Bronson (Army), Ernest Borgnine (Navy), Clint Walker (Merchant Marine), Robert Ryan (Marines), and George Kennedy (Army) all served in World War II.
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Lee Marvin told an interviewer following the release of this film, "Life is a violent situation. It's not just the men in the chalet who were Nazis; the women were part of it, too. I liked the idea of the final scene because it was their job to destroy the whole group and maybe in some way speed up the demise of the Third Reich. We glorify the 8th Air Force for bombing cities where they killed 100,000 people in one night, but remember, there were a lot of women and children burned up in those raids."
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Lee Marvin provided technical assistance with uniforms and weapons to create realistic portrayals of combat, yet bitterly complained about the falsity of some scenes. He thought Reisman's wrestling the bayonet from the enraged Posey to be particularly phony. Director Robert Aldrich replied that the plot was preposterous, and that by the time the audience had left the cinema, they would have been so overwhelmed by action, explosions, and killing that they would have forgotten the lapses.
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The cast apparently enjoyed England, spending a lot of time in what was then swinging London though Lee Marvin would occasionally disappear on one of his motorcycle outings. Clint Walker had an unusual experience. He was a well-known TV star for Cheyenne (1955) with some film roles under his belt. Walker visited Buckingham Palace and marveled at the famously immobile guards but as he started to walk away, one asked for an autograph out of the side of his mouth.
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The script called for the chateau to be blown up, but it was built so solidly that 70 tons of explosives would have been needed. Instead, a section was rebuilt from cork and plastic.
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Lee Marvin had high praise for all the men in the film, commenting that everyone was ideally cast "and even when they ad-libbed a scene, invariably it was in character, so all it could do was to help the film."
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Donald Sutherland was a late casting decision, replacing an actor who dropped out because he thought the role was beneath him.
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Jack Palance turned down the role of Archer Maggott because he disapproved of the character's racist overtones, and because he believed the film contained too much unnecessary violence.
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Reisman was a Captain in the novel. He was made a Major for the film, as Lee Marvin was forty-two.
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Lee Marvin later recalled how Robert Aldrich instructed his cast to get their contemporary hair styles changed to ones more fitting for the time and setting. Marvin immediately got a crew cut, but many of the others merely got trims to their existing styles. After telling them twice their looks weren't acceptable, Aldrich finally told them they needed either to come in with their hair cut correctly or else call their lawyers.
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According to Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson was adamant that he wasn't going to cut his hair for "The Dirty Dozen". Director Robert Aldrich called Bronson into his office one day and holding up the phone, told him he was talking to Bronson's lawyer and said, "Charlie, that was your lawyer in L.A. on the phone. He wants to know if he should fly over to cut your hair, or whether you're going to get it done here?".
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According to Ernest Borgnine in his autobiography, during the shooting, Lee Marvin once talked about Jim Brown with much disrespect, in Brown's absence, because of his skin color. Borgnine wrote Marvin was lucky that Brown was not there to hear it.
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The French château that appears in the film was constructed especially for the production by art director William Hutchinson and his crew of eighty-five. One of the largest sets ever built, it stood 240 feet across and 50 feet high. Gardeners surrounded the building with 5,400 square yards of heather, 400 ferns, 450 shrubs, 30 spruce trees, and six full-grown weeping willows.
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During World War II, the American forces detained some U.S. servicemen convicted of criminal acts at Shepton Mallett prison in Somerset, England. It operated as a prison from 1625 to 2013. During the war, nine U.S. military personnel were executed there, three by firing squad, and six by hanging. The hangman was Albert Pierrepoint, who hanged about 450 people during his career, including about 200 Nazis convicted in the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
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The film's financial success allowed Robert Aldrich to buy his own film studio, which opened in August 1968. His plan was to produce up to 16 films there over the next five years, but the failure of his first two productions, The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) and The Killing of Sister George (1968), scuttled his hopes. He was soon forced into a four-picture deal with ABC-Palomar. His pictures under that contract were not hits either. The director never regained the box office status he had with this film or quite the critical acclaim he enjoyed in the 1950s, although he did enjoy something of a comeback with The Longest Yard (1974).
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George Kennedy, Clint Walker, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown reunited to play the voices of the soldiers in Small Soldiers (1998).
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Lee Marvin related a joke Robert Aldrich pulled on Charles Bronson, who was only about 5'9" and wore low boxing shoes during rehearsal. When it came time to set up the first inspection scene, he placed Bronson between the 6'6" Clint Walker and the 6'4" Donald Sutherland. According to Marvin, Aldrich laughed for about ten minutes over Bronson's perturbed reaction.
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This was Donald Sutherland's biggest payday so far in his career, earning $600 per week. As a struggling Canadian actor in London, this saved him.
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"The Dirty Dozen" author E.M. Nathanson may have gotten the idea for the title (if not the plot) of his best-selling novel from a real-life group of World War II 101st Airborne Division paratroopers nicknamed "The Filthy Thirteen". These men, demolitionists in Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st, supposedly earned their nickname by not bathing nor shaving for a long period of time during training prior to the Normandy invasion. Members of The Filthy Thirteen can be seen in famous vintage film footage and still photos, their faces painted with Indian "war paint", before boarding their planes for the D-Day jump. Another idea source for Nathanson's book may have come from future director Russ Meyer, who was at the time a combat cameraman. He had shot some footage of a group of American soldiers, inmates at a military prison who were under death sentences for such crimes as murder, rape, and mutiny, who were training at a secret location for the D-Day invasion, for which they would be parachuted behind German lines to commit acts of sabotage and assassinations. Prison authorities told Meyer that the men, who volunteered, were told that if they survived and returned, their sentences would be set aside, their records expunged, and they would be set free. Guards told him that the group was called "the dirty dozen" because they refused to bathe or shave. After the invasion, Meyer made inquiries as to these men's fates, and was told that none of them came back. After the war, he related this story to Nathanson, who was a friend of his.
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This is one of the few Hollywood movies showing American soldiers intentionally committing acts that would be war crimes under the Geneva Convention.
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(at around 1h 21 mins) General Worden choking his drink upon hearing of the Dozen's party was ad-libbed by Ernest Borgnine.
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Director Robert Aldrich intended the film as an anti-war allegory for what was happening in Vietnam.
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When Cleveland Browns' fullback Jim Brown signed on as Jefferson, Robert Aldrich beefed up his part because he was such a big football fan.
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John Wayne was first offered the part of Major John Reisman, but he declined. The part was then offered to Lee Marvin, who took it. Wayne's refusal was due to his disapproval of the original script, in which Reisman has a brief affair with a married woman whose husband is fighting overseas. Other sources say Wayne turned the film down because he did not want to be making a movie in the UK when his third wife Pilar was due to give birth in February 1966.
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Charles Bronson didn't care for the film, claiming it was too violent. He even walked out of it in the middle.
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The operation count-off was as follows: - One: down to the road block we've just begun. - Two: the guards are through. - Three: the Major's men are on a spree. - Four: Major and Wladislaw go through the door. - Five: Pinkley stays out in the drive. - Six: the Major gives the rope a fix. - Seven: Wladislaw throws the hook to heaven. - Eight: Jiminez has got a date. - Nine: the other guys go up the line. - Ten: Sawyer and Gilpin are in the pen. - Eleven: Posey guards points Five and Seven. - Twelve: Wladislaw and the Major go down to delve. - Thirteen: Franko goes up without being seen. - Fourteen: Zero hour, Jiminez cuts the cable, Franko cuts the phone. - Fifteen: Franko goes in where the others have been. - Sixteen: we all come out like it's Halloween.
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MGM's biggest moneymaker of 1967.
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The film was shot in various locations in England, primarily in Hertfordshire. The major part of it (the training sequence) was shot at Hendon Aerodrome, about seven miles (eleven kilometers) north of central London, while the besieged chateau was built at MGM's British studios in Borehamwood.
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Later followed by three television sequels in the 1980s.
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The film was controversial when it was released, as it depicted Allied soldiers as no better than Nazis.
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Lee Marvin had worked with Robert Aldrich before, on Attack (1956). He found the director "a tremendous man to work with. You knew when you went to work with him you were both going for the same object, a good final print."
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Woody Allen joined Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas to play poker when filming was finished for the day. He was simultaneously filming Casino Royale (1967) in London and earning "a fat salary". Filming was so far behind schedule, that he would gladly hook up with the cast for a few hands of poker.
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Many of the actors were considered too old to play World War II soldiers.
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Most of the events in the film were taken from the final part of the novel.
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On the eve of their final battle, they are eating in the guards' hut. The fact that they are twelve men plus the leader (Reisman), and the fact that they are all sitting on the same side of the table with their backs to the wall resembles The Last Supper painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. It's an omen for those who die.
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Six of the Dozen were well-known American stars, while the "Back Six" were actors resident in the UK: Englishman Colin Maitland, Canadians Donald Sutherland and Tom Busby, and Americans Stuart Cooper, Al Mancini, and Ben Carruthers.
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Lee Marvin based the character of Reisman on John Miara of Malden, Massachusetts, who was a close personal friend of Marvin while both were serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.
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According to Jim Brown's autobiography, Trini Lopez's part was supposed to be larger, but he demanded that his part be even bigger, or he'd walk off the movie, which you don't do to director Robert Aldrich. The next day the question was asked, "Where's Jimenez?" Charles Bronson said "He got hung on an apple tree. Broke his neck." An obvious jab at Lopez's hit song "Lemon tree."
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The training segment of the story took two months to film.
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According to Guinness, this movie was the top money maker of 1967 in the US and Canada.
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The film was released at a time when there was considerable debate over the morality of the bombing of German cities by the Royal Air Force, and later the U.S. Army Air Forces, from 1940 to 1945. There was also considerable reassessment of the "heroism" of Allied soldiers during World War II, particularly in view of the Vietnam War.
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In the film's original opening scene, while Reisman walked down the line of condemned men, all of their individual crimes are listed out loud, along with their names and prison terms. In subsequent, more politically correct years, there are noticeable gaps in the audio, as the list of crimes has been deleted from the soundtrack, sometimes seamlessly, sometimes more awkwardly.
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In the novel, the black character's name is Napoleon White. It was changed to Robert Jefferson for the movie at some point, although in the original trailer, he's called Napoleon Jefferson.
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Although Robert Aldrich had tried to purchase the rights to E.M. Nathanson's novel "The Dirty Dozen" while it was still in outline form, it was MGM that successfully acquired the property in May 1963. The book became a best-seller upon its publication in 1965.
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In August 1966 Muhammad Ali visited the filming set of The Dirty Dozen. Ali was in England for his title bout with contender Brian London. He hung out with friend Jim Brown and took photos with the cast.
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In the novel, Reisman was 30, and Wladislaw, Franko, Maggott, and Posey were in their twenties.
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Although it is never mentioned in the film, Major Reisman was Jewish. His true forename was Jacob. "John" was a nickname.
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In Spain, the dubbed version changed Franko's name to Franchi because the country's ruler at the time was Francisco Franco.
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The cast learned judo and commando techniques.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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The submachine guns being used by most of the Dirty Dozen is the M3, .45 caliber ACP submachine gun known as the "Grease Gun". It came into use late in the war, replacing Thompson submachine guns (Tommy guns). It was not a general issue weapon to infantrymen, but normally used as the crew weapon on a tank. Many "found" their way to the frontline troops, however. This earlier model weapon had a charging lever on the side. Later models (M3A1) were charged by simply pulling back on the bolt by inserting your finger into a recess in the bolt. The M3A1 wire stock included a tab to help load magazines, the ends threaded to accept a cleaning brush to clean the barrel, and was used as a wrench to unscrew the barrel for disassembly. The weapon, only manufactured during World War II by General Motors Headlight division, cost about twenty dollars to produce, as opposed to the Thompson, which cost several hundred.
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(at around 12 mins) The opening credits don't occur until several minutes into the movie. Although a common practice today, it was considered unusual back in 1967.
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Features John Cassavetes's only Oscar nominated acting performance. He lost to his co-star in this film, George Kennedy, in Cool Hand Luke.
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The huge Chateau where the German Generals are quartered is actually a huge 240' x 50' set built in England.
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One of the German guards killed at the checkpoint ended up with a promotion. Richard Marner was the guard saying he has leave. He played Colonel Kurt Von Strohm on 'Allo 'Allo! (1982).
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Robert Aldrich was attracted to both the story's action elements and to its core irony, that the heroes were criminals and even psychopaths.
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Director Robert Aldrich hated to work in England. British crews were too slow for his fast pace of working.
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The film cast includes three Oscar winners: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and George Kennedy; and four Oscar nominees: Robert Ryan, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, and Richard Jaeckel.
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This was the first commercially produced Hollywood film to open the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1967 (the festival began in 1947 under the name of the First International Festival of Documentary Films).
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In a TCM short about Lee Marvin and the filming of this movie, the working title of the film was shown as "Operation Dirty Dozen".
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(at around 25 mins) Early in the movie, Sergeant Bowren chastises Corporal Morgan for not finding something to do. In the novel, it was actually Master Sergeant Morgan, the prison hangman, and Corporal Bowren, one of Morgan's subordinates. Morgan compromises the mission during training and is sent back to the prison, and Bowren is promoted to Sergeant just before the mission begins.
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Pin-ups of Betty Weider can be seen on the walls of the MP barracks.
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(at around 2h 20 mins) When Jefferson is going to throw the grenades into the air shafts someone yells "Remember, Jefferson, 20 seconds!". A grenade would go off in less than 6 seconds.
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This was Charles Bronson's fourth film for director Robert Aldrich. They had previously worked together on Vera Cruz (1954), Apache (1954) and 4 for Texas (1963). They were due to reunite for Death Hunt (1981), but Aldrich quit after a pay dispute with the producers.
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The decision to cast veteran actors in their forties as soldiers was widely condemned when the film was released.
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Many of the actors were much older than their characters in the novel.
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The hangman's noose used in the opening sequence, is an exact version of the noose used by Albert Pierrepoint, who was the lead executioner for Britain from 1940 to 1956.
The building used for the Marston-Tyne military prison is a 1500s inspired, Tudor-style manor, built at the beginning of 1800s. It eventually became a business school.
Critics at the time the film opened considered many of the actors much too old for the parts they played. Actor Richard Jaeckel, playing the entry-level MP Sergeant Bowren, was 41 years old. Charles Bronson, who plays a low-level enlisted man, was 46, yet Ernest Borgnine, who was just four years older, plays a two-star general.
When MGM first announced this in 1964, George Seaton was being lined up to direct.
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When Reisman and Captain Kinder discuss his psychological report on the prisoners the bottle he pulls out is Johnny Walker Black Label scotch.
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British stand up comedian (and later a straight actor) Mike Reid appears as an extra in this film.
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Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland appeared in Kelly's Heroes (1970). Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin appeared in Death Hunt (1981). Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas appeared in Violent City (1970).
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Charles Bronson was originally chosen to play Colonel Nick Alexander in The Delta Force (1986), but ultimately was played by Lee Marvin. Also, George Kennedy appeared in that film.
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Had the unit left for Allied lines, they could have connected with Airborne pathfinders after the mission.
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The pens that Wladislaw was collecting during the war games were pencil detonators, aka timing pencils, basically pens with blasting caps and short-duration timers, settable by turning. Yet, this act by Wladislaw or even what these devices were was never explained nor the purpose and ultimate intent and objective given. One can only conclude there must've been more in this scene and the lead up to the scene that ended up on the cutting room floor, but this remaining scene was missed during editing and inadvertently left in, leaving the viewer wondering just what that was all about.
Final film of Suzanne Fleuret .
Donald Sutherland was one of the easiest actors to cast in this film. He was already living in London at the time scraping a living on the stage and making occasional television appearances in British television and films (usually as ex-pat Canadians or occasionally as token Americans). His actor son Kiefer Sutherland was born in London shortly after filming wrapped and is technically a true Cockney, being born within the sound of Bow bells.
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Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin appeared in Death Hunt (1981). They'd previously appeared in You're in the Navy Now (1951).
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Although Aldrich had a reputation for making excellent macho-man movies like this one and "The Flight of the Phoenix", he also directed sensitive and powerful films about women like ,"Whatever Happened to Baby Jane", and "Autumn Leaves".
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One of the two announcers in the movie's official trailer is veteran actor Gary Merrill.
Final film of Dora Reisser.
When John Wayne turned down the part of Major Reisner the producers asked Kirk Douglas. Douglas had to turn the part down as the shoot would have clashed with 'The War Wagon' (1966), a film he had just signed on to do, ironically opposite John Wayne.
Wladislaw, Pinkley and Maggot are the only ones who speak German during the mission.
The fate of the twelve prisoners in chronological order, whether on- or off-screen, and their assigned numbers: a. Jiminez, off-screen in apple tree, #10. b. Gilpin, off-screen on roof, #4. c. Pinkley, on-screen by car, #2. d. Maggott, on-screen in upstairs hallway, #8. e. Vladek, on-screen in driveway, #6. f. Jefferson, on-screen running to truck, #3. g. Bravos, on-screen at crossroads, #12. h. Posey, off-screen at crossroads, #1. i. Lever, on-screen in boat, #5. j. Sawyer, on-screen in boat, #7. k. Franco, in truck, #11. l. Wladislaw, wounded and survives, #9.
Lee Marvin (Major Reisman) and Richard Jaeckel (Sergeant Bowren) both appeared in Attack (1956) also directed by Robert Aldrich.
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When Col Breed takes over Maj Reismans training camp and then Maj Reisman sneaks into the camp, climbs the roof of one of the huts and fires his grease gun towards Breed and his men, you'll notice that the magazine in the grease gun has another one taped upside down to that magazine. Doing that too both magazines is what's known as a "suicide clip". It allows the user to quickly change magazines when the first one is empty by simply releasing it, grabbing it, and turning it upside down to insert the new magazine instead of taking the time to reach into a pouch on your belt to get another one. Also, the nickname for that practice is incorrect because it's not a clip, it's a magazine. A clip is the metal strip that holds the flat rear parts where the primer of the bullets are that you would see, for example, insert into the top of an M1 Garand.
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In this film, Wladislaw, played by Charles Bronson, keeps a prisoner from escaping through the wire. In the Great Escape, Danny, also played by Bronson, is kept from escaping through the wire by another POW.
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Robert Aldrich was told that he could be in line for an Oscar as Best Director for the film if he cut out the scene of Jim Brown dropping hand grenades into the bomb shelter. The scene was considered controversial because the Germans (including women) were locked inside the bunker and had no chance to survive. Aldrich considered it, but elected to leave the scene in to show that "war is hell".
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As film production ran over schedule, Frank Sinatra advised Trini López to quit, so that his recording career wouldn't lose its momentum or popularity. Lopez took Sinatra's advice and quit. Another account is that his agent demanded more money, which Robert Aldrich refused to grant. Originally, Lopez's character, Jiminez, was supposed to be one of the heroes. He was to be the one to ignite all of the dynamite that would destroy the entire château. With Lopez's abrupt departure, however, his character was written off as being killed during the parachute jump.
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Posey is never shown to have been killed. There is a quick cut of Bravos bleeding and falling alongside the mounted machine gun but, no scene of what became of Posey. The viewer may assume from the roof explosion that Gilpin sacrificed himself, to blow up the antenna, and it is revealed that Jiminez died (off camera). However, no explanation is given for the disappearance of Posey.
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The film changes quite a few major points from source novel. The novel is 95 percent training, and the actual mission is mentioned only in the last few pages, as the official report. Many character names and attributes are also changed. Posey, for instance, is a full-blooded native American (and a giant like Clint Walker) and is impossible to disguise, so his job is set according to that. Jefferson is called Napoleon White in the novel, and he's a Lieutenant. One night, he's harassed in a bar by some drunk soldiers, and is beaten and raped by them afterwards, and he ends up killing them (hence his sentence of death). Maggot is pretty much the same racist and psychopath, except in the novel he's much worse. And Corporal Morgan is a hangman, a character absolutely hated by each one of the characters including Reisman, and he's finally excluded from the mission. The biggest change, though, is one point that would have changed the movie's tone radically: In the book, Franco doesn't believe he'll be pardoned, and tries to surrender to the Germans, and is therefore shot by Sergeant Bowren.
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Joseph Wladislaw (Charles Bronson) was one of the survivors and remained alive after the mission. In The Great Escape (1963), Danny "Tunnel King" (Charles Bronson) was one of the three characters who managed to escape and remained alive.
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Of the twelve prisoners, only Wladislaw survives the mission. Although it isn't shown on screen, it's highly implied that both Gilpin and Posey are killed.
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Canadian Bacon (1995) made a reference to this film about black characters dying first. Robert Jefferson was the first character to die on-screen. Pedro Jimenez, the first character to die, was killed off-screen.
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At the end of the movie Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw) is reading the Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper that focuses and reports on matters concerning the members of the United States Armed Forces.
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