The Secret War of Harry Frigg

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The Secret War of Harry Frigg
Directed by Jack Smight
Produced by Hal E. Chester
Screenplay by Peter Stone
Frank Tarloff
Story by Frank Tarloff
Starring Paul Newman
Sylva Koscina
Music by Carlo Rustichelli
Cinematography Russell Metty
Edited by J. Terry Williams
Albion Film Corp.
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • February 29, 1968 (1968-02-29)
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,500,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

The Secret War of Harry Frigg is a 1968 comedy film set in World War II. It was directed by Jack Smight and starred Paul Newman.


Several brigadier generals (American, British, and French) are unexpectedly taken prisoner by the Italians while arguing military tactics in a sauna - which is a public relations disaster. They are held in an Italian villa run as a top level prison camp by benevolent Italian Colonel Ferrucci. Being all of the same rank, none is in command and they are forced to plan escapes by committee, with predictably ineffective results.

Headquarters devises a plot to free them by sending in Harry Frigg (Paul Newman). Frigg is a private in the U.S. Army who is forever escaping from military stockades; he is usually put inside them as he does not want to be a private in the U.S Army. As an incentive, he is promised a promotion to sergeant after the generals have been freed. Accepting the mission, Frigg is promoted to major general so that he will outrank all the prisoners, assume command and lead the resultant breakout. Parachuted behind enemy lines, Frigg allows himself to be captured, and is imprisoned in the same jail as the brigadiers. While they are initially skeptical of his rank, he has been given a few personal secrets about them that only a senior officer might be expected to know.

Frigg discovers a secret passage from his bedroom to the gatehouse outside the villa's fence, which he intends to use to escape with the other generals; but Frigg's plan is put on hold when he becomes romantically involved with Countess Francesca De Montefiore (Sylva Koscina), the owner of the castle where they are imprisoned. Eventually, after a romantic interlude the escape plan is reactivated.

On the eve of the group's intended escape, Colonel Ferrucci announces that due to the low escape rate in the complex he is to be promoted to general at midnight the following night The group decide to put their escape plans off by a day to ensure the Colonel gets promoted to general at least once, despite knowing that his rank will be stripped once they do escape. During the celebration a Nazi Major arrives and after midnight announces that Italy has surrendered to Germany, and all present are now his prisoners...

The Germans take the generals to a high-security prison camp for officers. Escape seems hopeless; however, Frigg confesses to being only a private, and is separated from the rest to be delivered to a basic holding camp for NCOs. Escaping his guard he then breaks back into the officers camp, eventually freeing them all and capturing the Major in the process.

The film concludes with Frigg ending the war as a second lieutenant in charge of a radio station, using the countess's castle as its base.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.

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