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The Sergeant (1968)

A story of a brilliant master sergeant with a great career behind him and transferred to yet another post, his attraction to a younger man eventually overrides him, to a point where his latent homosexuality, finally emerges.


John Flynn


Dennis Murphy (screenplay), Dennis Murphy (novel)

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Complete credited cast:
Rod Steiger ... MSgt. Albert Callan
John Phillip Law ... Pfc. Tom Swanson
Ludmila Mikaël ... Solange Gérard
Frank Latimore ... Capt. Loring
Elliott Sullivan Elliott Sullivan ... Pop Henneken
Ronald Rubin Ronald Rubin ... Cpl. Cowley
Philip Roye Philip Roye ... Aldous Brown
Jerry Brouer Jerry Brouer ... Sgt. Komski
Memphis Slim Memphis Slim ... Night Club Singer


THE SERGEANT is the story of the dark inner struggle of Master Sergeant Albert Callan to overcome the overwhelming attraction he feels for one of his charges. In the staid and stifling environment of a post-World War II army post in France, Callan's deeply repressed attraction to other men surfaces when he encounters handsome Private Swanson. Maintaining the rugged "man's man" image of a war hero, Callan barks orders to his underlings. Later, lonely in his solitude, he recalls the frightening experiences of war and the events that led to this crossroads. Filled with self-loathing and unable to act on the natural attraction he feels for Swanson, Callan's affection festers into antagonism. He pushes Swanson constantly with verbal assaults and undeserved punishments. Oblivious to Callan's attraction to him, Swanson comes finally to feel enmity for his Master Sergeant. Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Did he give them so much hell because he had so much to give? See more »


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

25 December 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Az őrmester See more »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Simon Oakland campaigned hard to play the lead role and even told director John Flynn that he would do it for no salary. However, Rod Steiger was ultimately cast instead because he was a bigger name at the time. See more »


Featured in Vito (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

The Lonely Closet
26 January 2010 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

With the current debate over gays and lesbians serving in the military this 1968 film The Sergeant has a relevance undreamed of by the people who made this film a year before the Stonewall Rebellion.

Rod Steiger gives a brilliant performance as the tortured, self loathing, latently gay non-commissioned officer with whom the psychological bubble finally bursts. Steiger is a master sergeant assigned to a construction battalion in France. He's a professional soldier through and through and does take a rather lax company and whips into some kind of shape. Still there's an uneasiness to him that the men can't figure out. It isn't even on their radar screens, a gay man in the military just didn't compute back then.

It computes least of all to Private John Philip Law whose company Steiger seems to crave incessantly. The fact that Law is seeing local French girl Ludmila Mikael doesn't make any difference, Steiger intrudes on their relationship even more as it gets more serious between Law and Mikael.

It all breaks out in a devastating and dramatic climax where Steiger bursts forth from the latent closet. I assure you that you will not forget it once you've Steiger's self destruction.

In the time Steiger was brought up being gay was the most loathsome thing there was. Brokeback Mountain covered the same things and Steiger did not even have an idyllic summer to look forward to as did Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal. Another military film that covered latent homosexuality was Reflections In A Golden Eye where Marlon Brando as an officer was crushing out on a private in his company played by Robert Forster. That however was only one of many issues covered in that film, whereas this is the central and only theme of The Sergeant.

For those interested in gays in the military I would commend you reading Nigel Hamilton's book on the life of Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery. Although it's a small part of the story, Hamilton attributes Monty's well known prickly personality to the fact that he was latently gay and never came to terms with it. Rod Steiger's character would have known exactly what Montgomery was feeling.

This is one of Rod Steiger's best screen roles, but the timeliness of the topic means this film could use a remake. Try casting this film with some of today's players. I could see Al Pacino or Robert DeNiro in the part of The Sergeant with maybe some teen heartthrob like Zac Efron as the recruit.

Still it would be extraordinary if it topped this one.

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