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]
Box office$2.1 million (est. domestic)[2]

Pork Chop Hill is a 1959 American Korean War film starring Gregory Peck, 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, 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 recapture the hill, but are depleted, only 25 of a 135-man unit are left. They prepare for a large-scale Chinese counter-attack which they know will overwhelm and kill them in vicious fire fights and hand-to-hand fighting while the Panmunjeom cease-fire negotiations continue.

Higher command is shown as being unwilling to either abandon or reinforce the hill. They will not reinforce the hill because the value of the hill is not worth further losses. They will not abandon the hill because it is a point of negotiation in the cease-fire talks.

The 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. The decision is then made at the last minute to reinforce the hill.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Writing[edit]

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.[3]

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.[4] 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.

Filming[edit]

Some of the location shooting was conducted in California near Westlake Village and in San Fernando Valley. Peck, although not credited, directed a few scenes despite protests by Milestone.

Reception[edit]

Release[edit]

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.[5]

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".[6]

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).[7] 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.[8] 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.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Variety, 5 October 1959 p. 12
  2. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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...
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ "Pork Chop Hill (1959) Pork Chop Hill'; War Drama Directed by Lewis Milestone". New York Times. May 30, 1959. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  7. ^ http://historytogo.utah.gov/people/ethnic_cultures/the_peoples_of_utah/japaneselifeinutah.html
  8. ^ pp. 77-78 Rubin, Steven Jay Combat Films: American Realism, 1945-2010, 2nd edition McFarland, 1 Jan 1981

External links[edit]