The Execution of Private Slovik

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The Execution of Private Slovik
The Execution of Private Slovik poster.jpg
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Produced by Richard Dubleman
Written by William Bradford Huie
Lamont Johnson
Richard Levinson
William Link
Starring Martin Sheen
Mariclare Costello
Ned Beatty
Gary Busey
Charlie Sheen
Music by Hal Mooney
Cinematography Bill Butler
Edited by Frank Morriss
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • 1974 (1974)
Running time
120 Mins
Country United States
Language English
Budget $180,000

The Execution of Private Slovik is a nonfiction book by William Bradford Huie, published in 1954,[1] and an American made-for-television movie that aired on NBC on March 13, 1974. The film was written for the screen by Richard Levinson, William Link and by Lamont Johnson who was the director, the film stars Martin Sheen,[2] and also features Charlie Sheen in his second film in a small role.[3]


The book and the film tell the story of Private Eddie Slovik, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War. The film starred Martin Sheen as Private Slovik, a performance for which he received an Emmy Award nomination for Best Lead Actor in a Drama. Sheen said he did not think actors should be compared, and made it clear he would refuse the award. Many critics and viewers consider this to be one of Sheen's finest performances. Among the other Emmy Award nominations, the film was named for "Outstanding Special".[citation needed] The film also won a Peabody Award.


In 1960 Frank Sinatra announced that he would produce a film adaptation of The Execution of Private Slovik, with the screenplay to be written by Albert Maltz, who was one of the Hollywood 10 blacklisted after they refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the McCarthy era. This announcement evoked tremendous outrage, with Sinatra accused of being a Communist sympathizer. As Sinatra was campaigning for John F. Kennedy for President, the Kennedy campaign became concerned and ultimately prevailed upon Sinatra to cancel the project.[4]

In 1949, a Pentagon source revealed to Huie a European graveyard containing the remains of unidentified American soldiers. Huie's investigation identified the grave and name of the only American soldier executed for desertion since the American Civil War. His account of Slovik is an example of Huie's reporting and his tendency to anger Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had authorized the execution as commander of the Allied Forces, tried to stop publication of the book. Award-winning filmmaker Richard Dubelman acquired the film rights from Sinatra. Some years later, he persuaded Universal Studios to help him produce it as a television movie.[citation needed]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The 1963 World War II film The Victors includes a scene depicting the Christmas Eve execution of a GI deserter modeled after Slovik, accompanied by a Sinatra Christmas recording.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim finds an abandoned copy of Huie's book about Slovik and reads through it while in a waiting room.[citation needed]
  • The Canadian TV film Execution tells a similar tale, based on the only execution of a Canadian soldier for desertion in World War II.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Execution of Private Slovik" by William Bradford Huie, ISBN 1594160031
  2. ^ The New York Times
  3. ^ The New York Times
  4. ^ Scott Allen Nollen, The Cinema of Sinatra, pp. 214-216 ISBN 1-887664-51-3

External links[edit]