Screaming Eagles (film)

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Screaming Eagles
Original film poster
Directed by Charles F. Haas
Produced by Samuel Bischoff
David Diamond
Written by Virginia Kellogg
David Lang
Robert Presnell Jr.
Starring Tom Tryon
Jan Merlin
Jacqueline Beer
Music by Harry Sukman
Cinematography Harry Neumann
Edited by Robert S. Eisen
Distributed by Allied Artists
Release date
May 27, 1956 (U.S. release)
Running time
79 min
Language English

Screaming Eagles is a 1956 black-and-white World War II film directed by Charles F. Haas and released by Allied Artists. It stars Tom Tryon, Jan Merlin and was the film debut of Jacqueline Beer a French Miss Universe 1954 runner up.

The story is set during the night of the Normandy Invasion where the 101st Airborne Division jumps into France. The title of the film refers to the nickname of the Division, based on its shoulder sleeve insignia.

The film is notable for its large cast of up-and-coming actors.


Prior to the Normandy landings, former Merchant Marines Mason (Tom Tryon) and Corliss (Martin Milner) are among three new recruits that are assigned to the 1st Platoon, "D" Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, the other being Talbot (Ralph Votrian). Mason gets off on the wrong foot with certain members of the platoon, mainly Sgt. Forrest (Pat Conway) and Cpl. Dreef (Paul Burke). Mason gets drunk as he reads a Dear John Letter from his girlfriend back home. The platoon's passes into town are canceled due to a stand-by for the invasion and are restricted to barracks. When the platoon returns to the barracks, they find it destroyed by a drunken Mason. Sgt. Forrest and Cpl. Dreef use Mason's drunk state as an advantage to fight him. Platoon Leader Lt. Pauling (Jan Merlin) decides to keep Mason in the platoon and give him a chance, despite his behavior. Lt. Pauling talks to the platoon about Mason's behavior and Corliss speaks positively about him. The men decide to take a chance on him, including Grimes (Alvy Moore), Dubrowski (Joe di Reda), and Foley (Paul Smith).

The 502nd find themselves boarding troop planes that will be flying over Normandy, marking the beginning of the invasion. Peterson (Robert Dix) begins to suffer from air sickness, forgetting to take his air sickness pills. Sgt. Forrest is the jumpmaster for the platoon's plane and he gives directions on what to do when preparing to jump and what to do on the ground. The platoon is tasked to set up roadblocks and hold the Douve Bridge along the Douve, with their drop zone being a mile beyond 2nd Battalion's. Only seconds after the planes fly over the coast, the Germans man anti-aircraft cannons and aim them towards the formation of planes. Peterson is killed when a flak hits the platoon's plane.

After the men jump out of the aircraft, they realize that they did not land in their drop zone but create a rallying point. The platoon heads out and Lt. Pauling gives out the order to not engage the enemy single-handedly. The men decide to split up into three groups and they scout the area. Mason decides to engage a German sentry near a random bridge, which results in a firefight that ends with Cpl. Dreef getting killed. After the platoon meets back at their rallying point, the platoon is outraged when Dubrowski informs them of Mason's stunt and Cpl. Dreef's death. A German soldier fires at Lt. Pauling, the bullet flash burning him. Sgt. Forrest selects Mason to take care of Lt. Pauling, who is now suffering from blindness.

The platoon decides to attack a German infested barnhouse later that morning, resulting in the deaths of Lambert (Mark Damon), Hernandez (Robert Blake), and Nolan (Wayne Taylor). After the firefight, the platoon raids the barnhouse, finding a German soldier by the name of Hans Schacht (Robert Boon) holding a French girl named Marianne (Jacqueline Beer) hostage. Hans is taken prisoner and Marianne volunteers to aid Lt. Pauling. Hans informs the platoon that there are 300 German soldiers between them and the Douve.

The platoon hijacks a German truck and forces the driver to take them to a tavern that is being used as a German headquarters. Hans double crosses the platoon when he leaves a German radio line open for the Germans to hear the platoon's chatter. The lot ditches the tavern when an enemy convoy raids the village. Hans is killed by friendly fire. Talbot, Foley, Smith (Edward G. Robinson Jr.), and Torren (Robert Roark) are killed while Mason is wounded in his arm.

The seven surviving members of the party (Mason, Lt. Pauling, Marianne, Corliss, Sgt. Forrest, Grimes, and Dubrowski) escape by truck. By midday the party links up with the rest of "D" Company at the very bridge that they were supposed to hold. Lt. Pauling bids a farewell to Marianne before he and Mason are driven to a field hospital.



Parts of the film were filmed at Fort Benning, Georgia.[1] The technical advisers were Richard Haynes Case, a D-Day veteran of the 101st [2] and Werner Klingler, a German film director who also had a role in the film. Case had also acted as an adviser to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in the same year.[3]

Jan Merlin recalled that originally he was supposed to play Private Mason due to his reputation for playing villains. As his character was to continually carry the blinded Lieutenant who was to have been played by the much taller Tom Tryon, the two agreed to switch their roles to make things easier.[4] As Tryon usually played heroes he welcomed the change in roles.

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