What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?
|What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Blake Edwards|
|Produced by||Blake Edwards|
|Written by||William Peter Blatty|
|Story by||Maurice Richlin
|Music by||Ray Evans
|Cinematography||Philip H. Lathrop|
|Editing by||Ralph E. Winters|
|Studio||The Mirisch Company|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||123 minutes|
|Budget||$ 7,000,000 USD|
|Box office||$2,650,000 (est. US/ Canada rentals)|
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2011)|
In 1943, during Operation Husky, when asked by General Bolt (Carroll O'Connor) about the little Italian village called Valerno, his hitherto adjutant Captain Lionel Cash (Shawn) insists on attacking and immediately finds himself in command of Charlie Company to carry out the operation. The war-weary company, led by Lieutenant Christian (Coburn) and Italian-American Sergeant Rizzo (Aldo Ray), is not overly fond of another mission.
The company proceeds cautiously towards its assigned target only to find the supposed-to-be enemies holding a soccer match. Capitano Fausto Oppo (Sergio Fantoni of Von Ryan's Express), the Italian officer in command, is all too willing to surrender but for one condition: the annual village wine festival scheduled tonight must be held. No festival, no surrender, basta!
Persuaded by Lt. Christian, the inexperienced Capt, Cash reluctantly gives in. To disguise the delay, Christian sends a wire to the brass detailing "minor resistance". The fiesta is a great success lasting well into the night.
The next morning, Headquarters requires an urgent report of what's going on. Capt. Cash is out of action due to wine and woman (the mayor's pretty daughter Gina (Giovanna Ralli)), so Lt. Christian takes command, discovering that many of his men have exchanged uniforms with Italian soldiers during a drunken game of strip poker.
PR Office Major Pott (Harry Morgan) shows up to check on the reported "minor resistance." To prevent the truth from getting out, Pott is taken hostage by the "Italian soldiers" and locked up. He is accidentally rescued by two bumbling bank robbers, who spend the entire film digging underground looking for the bank vault. He then falls into the catacombs under town, where he gets lost and goes insane.
Pott being missing, and Oppo having discovered Gina (his mistress) in Cash's bed, all hell breaks loose. The surrender is called off, and a massive fistfight breaks out just as an American reconnaissance plane flies overhead. The personal fight is mistaken for actual hand-to-hand combat, so Cash and Oppo receive wires from their superiors to continue fighting, as sending back-up is impossible.
Everyone is stuck now, so the Italians and Americans must work together to stage a battle whenever a plane flies overhead, using blank ammunition. This state of affairs goes on for three days until the Nazis fly over, see what's going on, and decide to help out their Italian allies.
The Germans, led by Colonel Kastorp (Leon Askin of Hogan's Heroes) assault the town, discover Oppo and his men fraternizing with the enemy, and arrest everyone. Pott, still insanely wandering the catacombs wearing gladiator armour, pounds the ceiling with a trident, breaking a hole in the prison floor that sends Cash plummeting to the ground.
Cash, Christian and Oppo devise a plan to slip out of town and get help, which necessitates Cash dressing up as a woman, fending off the advances of an amorous German officer, and then pretending to be Colonel Kastorp, who has been accidentally killed by some local Communists. He discovers that the Germans are planning to shoot all the prisoners, which by now include the townspeople.
This leads to a wild change of plans as the Americans sneak out of the prison, attack German soldiers and steal their uniforms, returning their unconscious bodies, dressed in THEIR uniforms, as prisoners. At dawn, just as the execution is about to begin, the Americans surprise the Nazis, holding them hostage and taking the town for America.
General Bolt personally rides into town to congratulate Cash, now promoted to Major as the "hero of Valerno," only to learn that the Italians are hiding and will not come out unless they are given another festival. There the story ends, Cash and Christian entertaining the general with wine (and Gina) while enjoying one last day in Valerno.
- James Coburn as Lieutenant Christian
- Dick Shawn as Captain Lionel Cash
- Sergio Fantoni as Captain Oppo
- Giovanna Ralli as Gina Romano
- Aldo Ray as Sergeant Rizzo
- Harry Morgan as Major Pott
- Carroll O'Connor as General Bolt
- Leon Askin as Colonel Kastorp
- Rico Cattani as Benedetto (as Henry Rico Cattani)
- Jay Novello as Mayor Romano
- Ralph Manza as Waiter
- Vito Scotti as Frederico
- Johnny Seven as Vittorio
- Art Lewis as Needleman
- William Bryant as Minow
- Kurt Kreuger as German Captain
The title of the film came to Edwards when asked the question by his son Geoffrey. As Edwards was having marital problems at the time he didn't want to leave the United States so Mirisch Productions agreed to film the movie in Lake Sherwood, California for $5 million that included the construction of a large Italian village set. In his study of Edwards, Myron Meisel stated that Coburn imitated Blake Edwards' mannerisms throughout the film.
William Peter Blatty recalled that he and Edwards originally agreed to make the film grim and without comedy for the first twenty minutes. This idea was shelved when during the scene where Captain Cash visits Charlie Company at their chow line he holds out his hand and one of the GI messmen ladles beans into the Captain's hand.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 185
- "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
- Wasson, Sam A Splurch in the Kisser: The Movies of Blake Edwards Wesleyan University Press, 2009
- Meisel, Myron Blake Edwards Coursodon, Jean Pierre & Sauvage, Pierre editors American directors, Volume 2 McGraw-Hill, 1983
- 1994 Blatty Interview http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvKJCj6DM7g
- What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? at the Internet Movie Database
- What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? at allmovie
- What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? at the TCM Movie Database