Pork Chop Hill

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For the Korean War battles, see Battle of Pork Chop Hill.
Pork Chop Hill
Pork Chop Hill - 1959 - Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLewis Milestone
Gregory Peck
Produced bySy Bartlett
Screenplay byJames R. Webb
Based onPork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action
1956 novel
by S. L. A. Marshall
StarringGregory Peck
Rip Torn
George Shibata
Woody Strode
Harry Guardino
George Peppard
James Edwards
Music byLeonard Rosenman
CinematographySam Leavitt
Edited byGeorge Boemler
Production
company
Melville Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 29, 1959 (1959-05-29) (USA)
Running time
97 min.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$ 3 million [1] or $1,750,000[2]
Box office$2.1 million (est. domestic)[3]

Pork Chop Hill is a 1959 American Korean War film starring Gregory Peck, Woody Strode, Rip Torn and George Peppard. The film, which was the final war film directed by Lewis Milestone, is based upon the book by U.S. military historian Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall. It depicts the first fierce Battle of Pork Chop Hill between the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division and Chinese and North Korean forces in April 1953.

The film features numerous actors who would go on to become movie and television stars in the 1960s and the 1970s such as Woody Strode, Harry Guardino, Robert Blake, George Peppard, Norman Fell, Abel Fernandez, Gavin MacLeod, Harry Dean Stanton, and Clarence Williams III. It is also the screen debut of Martin Landau and George Shibata, who was a West Point classmate of Lieutenant Joe Clemons, who also acted as technical adviser on the film.

Plot[edit]

In April 1953, during the Korean War, a company of American infantry, led by Lieutenant Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) and Lt. Suki Ohashi (George Shibata) are to recapture Pork Chop Hill from a larger Communist Chinese army force. They succeed in taking the hill, but their number are depleted; only 25 of a 135-man company are left. They prepare for a large-scale Chinese counter-attack which they know will overwhelm and annihilate them.

Meanwhile, at nearby Panmunjeom, cease-fire negotiations continue, and U.S. Army High Command are unwilling to reinforce the hill because its value is not worth further losses. Yet they will not abandon the hill either, because it is a point of negotiation in the cease-fire talks. Eventually, American negotiators come to the conclusion that the Chinese are pouring soldiers into the battle for a militarily insignificant hill to test the resolve of the Americans in the negotiations. Thus, the decision is made to reinforce the hill, saving the lives of the survivors of Clemons's unit.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was based on Marshall's book Pork Chop Hill published in 1956.[4] The New York Times called it "unforgettable".[5]

In August 1957 the film rights were bought by Melville Productions, the film company of Gregory Peck. Sy Bartlett was to produce and James Webb was to write the script.[6] It was Webb who recommended the project to Melville. He decided to focus the action on Company K, who took up a chapter in the book, "All the King's Men", over a 24 hour period.[7]

S.L.A. Marshall reportedly disliked the fact that he had sold the movie rights to his book for next-to-nothing, and vowed not to make the same mistake again.[8]

In January 1958 Lewis Miilesone agreed to direct.[9] He and Bartlett wanted to cast unknowns in support of Peck and saw over 600 actors for 83 speaking parts.[10]

Strode and Edwards' portrayal of African American soldiers is based on the 24th Infantry Regiment, which was still racially segregated in Korea. Like its cinematic portrayal, the real regiment was poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led.[11] More than once when this all-black unit was placed on the front lines, a unit in reserve was positioned directly behind because they were expected to break. The regiment was finally considered so unreliable it was disbanded. Its personnel were reassigned to other combat units just as in the film, which portrays Edwards' character - with good leadership - becoming an effective soldier.

Casting Choices[edit]

George Shibata, who stars at Lt. Suki Ohashi, became the first Nisei appointed to West Point through the sponsorship of Sen. Elbert D. Thomas. Shibata would become the first Asian American graduate of the United States Military Academy, Class of 1951 and he was commissioned in the United States Air Force later in that same year (1951).[12] During the Korean War he flew an F-86 Sabre out of Taegu Air Force Base. The film Pork Chop Hill was about Shibata's classmate Joseph G. Clemons, who was also a 1951 West Point graduate. This came about when Clemons accidentally bumped into his old friend Shibata at a drugstore when Clemons was in California acting as a technical adviser for the forthcoming film. He convinced Shibata to try out for the role of the Hawaii born Japanese-American Executive Officer, Lt. Tsugio Ohashi when Hollywood was having a problem casting the role.[13] During the production Clemons decided to play a joke on his Air Force pilot classmate whose accommodations during the war were more comfortable than Clemons' by ensuring that Shibata wore the only actual flak jacket in the film; the other cast members wearing foam rubber reproductions.

Filming[edit]

Filming started 19 May 1958. Some of the location shooting was conducted in California near Westlake Village and in San Fernando Valley. Two months before filming the unit moved into an Albertson Company Ranch where the bulk of the film was to be shot and created a series of trenches.[14]

Peck, although not credited, directed a few scenes despite protests by Milestone.

Milestone called it his "most interesting job in a long time."[15]

The film had an allocated shooting schedule of 40 days and ended up needing another 15 days.[16]

Clash between Peck and Milestone[edit]

Peck and Milestone clashed during filming over Peck's performance; the director wanted Peck to play his character as more insecure while Peck wanted a more conventional approach. Before the film's premier in May 1959, United Artists cut the film by nearly 20 minutes. Director Lewis Milestone claimed changes were made because Veronique Peck, the wife of star Gregory Peck, felt her husband made his first entrance too late into the picture. While that claim stands as unconfirmed, the film does show signs of post-production editing, with segments of several excised scenes showing up under the main title credits.[17]

Milestone's version reportedly featured more cross cutting between the fighting and the peace conference and made Peck's character less of a conventional hero. The director says it also featured more scenes involving the Chinese.[18]

Release[edit]

The film opened in Chicago and Detroit in the week ended May 26, 1959.[19] It opened at the Roxy Theatre in New York City on May 29 and became number one in the US.[20]

The film was a minor box office hit.[21]

Critical response[edit]

The New York Times applauded the film's "grim and rugged" style, the way it captured the "resentment" of the American GIs, and how it "tacitly points the obsoleteness of ground warfare".[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Variety, 5 October 1959 p. 12
  2. ^ Fishgall p 206
  3. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  4. ^ Books and Authors New York Times 17 Oct 1956: 33.
  5. ^ Books of The Times: Unflinching Under Fire Only a Squad Holding a Hill By CHARLES POORE. New York Times 24 Nov 1956: 17.
  6. ^ 'THE DRAGON TREE' COMING TO SCREEN: New York Times 28 Aug 1957: 22.
  7. ^ Director Talks About War: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor 17 Feb 1959: 5.
  8. ^ Hackworth, David H.; Sherman, Julie (1989). "Ch. 16: Box Seat". About Face. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 568. ISBN 0671526928. LCCN 88036235. Retrieved 2013-12-03. He'd given them away for Pork Chop Hill and often talked about how, as a result, he felt sick every time the film of his Korea story played on the tube and he didn't get a red cent. "I'll never let that happen again," he'd vow each time he wound up his lament on the subject.
  9. ^ LEWIS MILESTONE TO MAKE WAR FILM: Director Named for Peck's 'Pork Chop Hill' New York Times 1 Feb 1958: 13.
  10. ^ Director Talks About War: Hollywood Letter By Richard Dyer MacCann. The Christian Science Monitor 17 Feb 1959: 5.
  11. ^ Hackworth. About Face. pp. 92–93. ...the 24th, was an all-black outfit and as a fighting force it was sorrier than any unit I'd ever seen. It had not always been that way; in fact, the Deuce-Four had been responsible for the first significant American ground victory of the war, at Yechon, in July of 1950. But the regiment had been badly bloodied since then, and with the attendant loss of many of its fine black NCOs (too many of whom were replaced by white NCOs who were unable or unwilling to bond with the troops—and vice versa), it seemed the 24th had gone to hell in a hand basket. Individually, many of its members were great... but its leadership was too thin...
  12. ^ http://historytogo.utah.gov/people/ethnic_cultures/the_peoples_of_utah/japaneselifeinutah.html
  13. ^ pp. 77-78 Rubin, Steven Jay Combat Films: American Realism, 1945-2010, 2nd edition McFarland, 1 Jan 1981
  14. ^ HOLLYWOOD CANVAS: San Fernando 'Korea' -Versatile Widmark By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD. New York Times 15 June 1958: X7.
  15. ^ Milestone Films Realities of War: Milestone 'Veteran' of Three Wars Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 7 Sep 1958: E1.
  16. ^ Fishgall p 207
  17. ^ "Pork Chop Hill (1959) - Articles - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2013-12-03. Nevertheless, Pork Chop Hill was still cut by nearly twenty minutes, supposedly because the wife of star Gregory Peck felt that her husband made his first entrance too late into the picture. While that claim remains unconfirmed, the film does show signs of post-production editing, with segments of several excised scenes showing up under the main title credits.
  18. ^ Higham, Charles; Greenberg, Joel (1971). The celluloid muse; Hollywood directors speak. Regnery. p. 192.
  19. ^ "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. May 27, 1959. p. 7. Retrieved June 16, 2019 – via Archive.org.
  20. ^ "National Boxoffice Survey". Variety. June 3, 1959. p. 4. Retrieved June 16, 2019 – via Archive.org.
  21. ^ Fishgal p 208
  22. ^ "Pork Chop Hill (1959) Pork Chop Hill'; War Drama Directed by Lewis Milestone". New York Times. May 30, 1959. Retrieved February 1, 2014.

Notes[edit]

  • Fishgall, Gary (2002). Gregory Peck. Scribner.

External links[edit]