Cry of Battle

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Cry of Battle
Original film poster
Directed by Irving Lerner
Produced by Joe Steinberg
Eddie Romero
Written by Bernard Gordon
Based on Fortress in the Rice 
by Benjamin Appel
Starring James MacArthur
Van Heflin
Rita Moreno
Leopoldo Salcedo
Music by Richard Markowitz
Cinematography Felipe Sacdalan
Distributed by Allied Artists
Release dates
  • October 1963 (1963-10)
Running time
99 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Cry of Battle is a 1963 American coming of age war film based on the 1951 novel Fortress in the Rice by Benjamin Appel who was a journalist and special assistant to the U.S. Commissioner for the Philippines from 1945-46. The film stars Van Heflin, James MacArthur, Rita Moreno, Leopoldo Salcedo and Sidney Clute. Set during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the working title was To Be a Man.[1]


The film begins on December 8, 1941 with the Japanese attacking the Philippines. Dave McVey Jr., the son of a rich American who lives and owns many business interests in the Philippines, is attempting to escape to safety when he is attacked by murderous bandits. He is rescued by Careo, a Filipino patriot who has put together a group of anti-Japanese Filipino guerrillas, though Dave has trouble differentiating between the two groups. Carero places Dave with an elderly Filpino and his granddaughter who teach Dave Tagalog as he waits for news.

Careo returns again to tell Dave that his father has left the Philippines, but Dave is joined by a fellow American, Joe Trent, a rough merchant sailor who was Third Mate on a cargo ship that was sunk by the Japanese. Joe's ship was one of a merchant line owned by Dave's father and Joe schemes that Dave's wealthy father will reward him for keeping his son safe. Joe repays the Filipino family's hospitality by raping the granddaughter and advises Dave to flee with him as Joe tells him the angry locals will kill him first and ask questions later. Faced with the hysterics of the raped granddaughter, Dave flees with Joe to join an American guerilla unit led by Colonel Ryker.

On the way they meet a band of armed Filipinos led by Atong and the English-speaking woman Sisa. The quick-thinking Joe tells the band that if they bring them to Colonel Ryker, Ryker will reward them. After being brought to Ryker, he asks for proof of Dave's identity and tells him that the Japanese would probably give him a comfortable existence and also might repatriate him to the United States on a neutral ship due to his father's business dealings with Japan. Dave replies that his collaboration with Japan was before the war and he would rather fight with the guerillas. The group join Ryker's guerillas and over time participate in many operations against the Japanese.

Joe is promoted to Lieutenant and is to accompany a Filipino Captain on a raid against the target of a Japanese held sugar refinery and railway. Joe brings Dave, Atong, Sisa and a group of their original armed band on the mission led by the Captain. After the Captain is killed, Joe sizes up Atong when Atong kills one of his own men over the ownership of the dead Captain's pistol. Joe demonstrates his control by making Atong give the pistol to Dave. Not wishing to complete their mission, Joe sends Dave and Sisa into a village to ask the locals for food. As they are negotiating, Joe's band massacres the villagers to steal their rice, with Joe shooting Atong during the raid. Sisa quickly switches her loyalties to Joe.



Producer Joe Steinberg had a wealthy brother named Harry Stonehill in the Philippines who assisted with the financing of the film. He hired his friends Irving Lerner to direct and Bernard Gordon to write the screenplay. Gordon saw the opportunity to use the screenplay as a comment on American attitudes towards Third World people and attitudes towards masculinity explaining the film's working title of To Be a Man.[2] During the film, Dave asks Joe if raping his host's granddaughter made him feel like a man. Joe responded that fighting when you have to and having a woman when you can was feeling like a man. Joe also initiates Dave into manhood by using his winnings in a poker game to give Dave a night with a prostitute. In Dave's first battle, Dave captures a panicked Japanese soldier with Joe grabbing Dave's hands holding his rifle with bayonet that he thrusts into the prisoner.

Rita Moreno's scenes were shot around her flying back to Hollywood to accept her Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story. A Filpino designed her dress for the Awards ceremony with Edith Head voting her dress the most original of the night. She returned the Philippines the next day.[3]

Moreno's planned nude bathing scene in the film attracted a great deal of publicity.[4] She eventually filmed the scene wearing a dress.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

Cry of Battle was the first of two features (along with War Is Hell) playing at the Texas Theatre in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald snuck into this theater without paying. After box office cashier Julie Postal received a tip on Oswald from nearby shoe store employee John Brewer, she called Dallas Police. While War Is Hell was in progress, Oswald was arrested, though not before he attempted to shoot the arresting officer.[6] Oswald was fatally shot two days later while being transferred to another jail by club owner Jack Ruby.[7]


  1. ^ Goble, Alan, ed. (1999). The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film. Walter de Gruyter. p. 12. ISBN 3-110-95194-0. 
  2. ^ Gordon, Bernard (2001). Hollywood Exile, Or How I Learned to Love the Blacklist. University of Texas Press. pp. 88–89. ISBN 0-292-72833-6. 
  3. ^ Crooks, Pete (March 2010). "Q&A with Oscar-winner Rita Moreno, win tickets to West Side Story and dinner from Pizza Antica!". 
  4. ^ (Gordon 2001, p. 144)
  5. ^ Suntree, Susan (1993). Rita Moreno. Chelsea House Publishers. p. 64. ISBN 0-791-01247-6. 
  6. ^ Johnson, Donald (February 21, 1964). "'Lee was the leader of our playground'". Life (Time, Inc.) 56 (8): 80. ISSN 0024-3019. 
  7. ^ Flowers, R. Barri; Flowers, H. Loraine (2004). Murders in the United States: Crimes, Killers and Victims of the Twentieth Century. McFarland. p. 84. ISBN 0-786-42075-8. 

External links[edit]