1940s

Published on July 23rd, 2010 | by Chris

5

Battleground (1949)


Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On July 23, 2010
Last modified:October 5, 2012

Summary:

Battleground is one of the most frank and grueling pictures depicting what it must have been like

Battleground (1949)The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944.  Movies have tried and failed (the aptly named but poorly executed Battle of the Bulge) and succeeded (Band of Brothers, countless others)....  But few manage to combine the two into a wildly excellent, yet kind of disappointing picture such as Battleground.

What do I mean?  Well, let's get the good out of the way right now.

The 101st Airborne is sent to the lines just prior to the German's infamous push into the Ardennes.  They're stranded, cut off, surrounded, without supplies and with dwindling morale and personnel.  Yet the manage to persevere, and (as we know) manage to hold the line until the weather breaks and air support can resume.

In this respect Battleground is one of the most frank and grueling pictures depicting what it must have been like, for its time that is.  It actually reminded me of the couple of Band of Brothers episodes set in the Ardennes.  Slightly (OK considerably) less graphic in language and injury, but with the same amount of tension, fear, desperation and courage going on.  Everything about it, even the triumphant march back off the line at the end, should make you proud of these guys.  And it does.

But.  (here it comes)  It's like some higher-up mucketymuck at the studio got a hold of the script and said, "This is too serious.  Add some corny gags and jokes.  Really corny ones."  And they did.  Gack, what a nightmare.  It's like someone superimposed I Love Lucy over the top of Bastogne at times.

Screen icon Van Johnson seems to carry the bulk of these, much to his character's detriment.  What could have been a very well done study of the guy thrust into the crap, put in charge, and ultimately (yet forcefully) overcoming his fears....  well, its kinda ruined by the silly gags.  All of them.  From the false-teeth-clicking (way overdone) to the Arnez-ish "oh noes!" by Johnson....  ack.  Keep an eye out, though,  for a few "racey" bits and gags that I'm surprised passed the censor types, mainly based around the French girl Denise (Darcel) and Holley.

There are a few familiar faces, such as the late Van Johnson, Richard Jaeckal (Dirty Dozen), a very young Ricardo Montalbon, and a suitably grisly James Whitmore, but mostly unfamiliar ones, at least to me.

A true near-classic, mired by gags, Battleground still carries a lot of weight.  It also took 2 Oscars in 1950 for best B/W Cinematography and Writing(!) believe it or not.

IMDB: Battleground (1949)
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Description

Battleground (DVD)This hard-hitting drama follows a company of war-weary World War II infantrymen trapped behind German lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Homesick and shivering in snow-covered foxholes, the soldiers endure misery, agony and grief with irrepressible humor and dauntless mockery...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: JOHNSON,VAN
Manufacturer: WarnerBrothers
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Van Johnson
  • John Hodiak
  • Ricardo Montalban
  • George Murphy
  • Marshall Thompson

Features

  • ACTION/ADVENTURE
  • Run Time: 118
  • Release Date: 2/14/2006
  • NR
  • VAN JOHNSON RICARDO MONTALBAN

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Battleground (1949) Chris

Summary: Battleground is one of the most frank and grueling pictures depicting what it must have been like

4.0


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



5 Responses to Battleground (1949)

  1. Henry Shaffner says:

    Hello! whoever you are who reviewed “Battleground.”

    You are so off-base. This is certainly the best of the
    WWII films, and Van Johnson holds it together with his abundant
    talents, humorous ways and spirit and looks of the All-American
    Boy!
    That you, reviewer anon, could not fathom this is just
    symptomatic of your unperceptive views.

    The Battle Of The Bulge veterans, a hardy breed, still
    around, loved this movie, and continue to watch it to this day.
    Every one of the players is a credit to his craft, and, thanks to
    producer Dore Schary, and his persistance to make the film, it
    exists, today, as a legacy of the Golden Age of MGM.

  2. Chris says:

    Henry, The first part of my review I clearly say that I really liked the movie, and I agree that it is a great tribute to the Battle of the Bulge vets….

    BUT I really felt that well-meaning tribute was “cheapened” (for lack of a better word) significantly by the comedy that was injected into it in what I perceived to be an effort to make the overall package more “mainstream.”

  3. jdk says:

    Just read an article on this movie…turns out that many of the “gags” you disliked were included because they actually happened to Pirosh. The false teeth is specifically mentioned.

  4. Chris says:

    Hm. It really doesn’t change my view on it though. My problem wasn’t specifically with the humor, just the way it was done. I expected there to be a “wah-wah-wah” and cheesy TV-laugh-track played on some of the jokes….

  5. Chris Glover says:

    Hello,

    Have just come across this site, Battleground is one of my favourite war movies, hell, I have 2,000 favourite war movies.

    I see you’ve been hammered a bit over your dislike of the humour injected into this movie, and whilst I understand how some people can find it a distraction from the narrative, it really is a true reflection of what the troops were up to.

    My father fought in New Guinea in WW2. He generally disliked talking about it too much, he disclosed to me the atrocities he saw, but one thing he did come back to was the jokes & pranks the guys used to play on each other. He said without them they all would have gone stark raving mad, seeing what they saw, losing a pal when he had half his head shot off, fighting hand to hand using anything to win that little private war.

    The humour was their release valve, one which I understand and am happy to see portrayed in a sympathetic manner.

    I’ll look over this site now I’ve found it and hope to further contribute where I can

    Cheers

    Chris
    South Australia.

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