Working from Ernie Pyle’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columns about the lives of military men fighting in World War II, director William A. Wellman created one of the most authentic war movies ever made. Restored by the Academy of Film Archive with support from The FIlm Foundation. Producer Lester Cowan came up with the idea to make the film about Pyle’s love of the infantry, focusing on his relationship with a company he met in North Africa and reconnected with during the invasion of Italy. Then Wellman and the writers, with advice from Pyle and other war correspondents, created the narrative by drawing on incidents and characters in Pyle’s columns. Wellman chose Burgess Meredith to play Pyle because he was less well known than other character actors up for the part. When United Artists executives wanted a more conventional leading man type, Wellman cast Robert Mitchum in one of his first major roles, as the company’s captain. The role made Mitchum a star and earned him his only Oscar nomination. To guarantee authenticity, Wellman cast actual GIs en route to the Pacific from the Italian front and then had the actors train with the soldiers. Many of the extras were killed in the Okinawa landing, as was Pyle, who did not live to see the film. (d. William A. Wellman, 108, 35mm)
Restored by the Academy Film Archive with support from The Film Foundation.