Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Schlesinger|
|Produced by||Joseph Janni
|Screenplay by||Colin Welland
|Story by||Colin Welland|
|Music by||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Edited by||Jim Clark|
CIP Filmproduktion GmbH
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures (US)
United Artists (UK)
Yanks is a 1979 period drama film set during World War II in Northern England. The film was directed by John Schlesinger and starred Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Lisa Eichhorn and Tony Melody. It was Schlesinger's first British film since Sunday Bloody Sunday which he directed in 1971. Despite being set during the Second World War, the film is a character study which features no combat or fighting scenes.
The film depicts the relationships between American soldiers stationed in semi-rural Northern England and the local population during the build-up to Operation Overlord in 1944. In particular, three romances between US service personnel and local women are shown, in order to explore the effects of the cultural differences between the brash GIs or "Yanks" and the more reserved British population.
This film opens with the narration: "From early 1942 until the invasion of Europe over a million Americans landed in Britain. They came to serve on other battle fronts or to man the vast U.S. bases in England. Hardly a city, town or village remained untouched."
A small northern town soon finds out that a large U.S. Army base is being established for the build-up to the Normandy Landings. Soon thousands of rambunctious American troops, or "Yanks" as they are known to the British, descend upon the area. On leave in the town, an Arizona man, Sergeant First Class Matt Dyson (Richard Gere), encounters Jean Moreton (Lisa Eichhorn) while out to the cinema. She is the fiancée of Ken, a British soldier fighting overseas, and initially rebuffs Matt's advances. He is quite persistent, and she, doubtful about her relationship with Ken, eventually accepts him. The handsome, brash American sergeant is in stark contrast to the restrained Englishmen she has known. Soon, she is keeping company with Matt, though it is largely platonic at first.
For her part, Helen (Vanessa Redgrave) is a bit more worldly in her affairs. Captain John (William Devane) comes to her estate often, and a relationship develops. They are both married, but her husband is away at sea, and his wife is thousands of miles distant.
Eventually, the kind-hearted Matt Dyson is accepted by the Moreton family, notwithstanding Jean's engagement. They welcome his visits, when he, as an army cook, often brings hard-to-find foods normally on wartime rationing and other presents. But when news of Ken's death in action arrives, Jean's ailing mother (Rachel Roberts) condemns their relationship as a kind of betrayal.
Jean and Matt travel together to a Welsh seaside resort, where they make love but without completion. Jean is crushed, although Matt says "not like this." She feels spurned, and that her willingness to risk everything has not been matched by him, concluding that he is "not ready" for her.
Shortly afterwards, the Americans ship out by troop train to Southern England to prepare for D-Day. A characteristic last-minute gift and message from Matt prompt Jean into racing to the railway station. With the town and station a hive of activity, hundreds of the townswomen, some of them pregnant from liaisons with men they may never see again, scramble to catch one last glimpse of their American boyfriends before the train leaves. Matt shouts from the departing train that he will return.
- Richard Gere as 1st Sgt Matt Dyson
- Lisa Eichhorn as Jean Moreton
- Vanessa Redgrave as Helen
- William Devane as Captain John
- Chick Vennera as Sgt Danny Ruffelo
- Wendy Morgan as Mollie
- Rachel Roberts as Mrs. Clarrie Moreton
- Tony Melody as Mr. Jim Moreton
Much of the filming took place on location in Northern England between April and August 1978. Scenes were shot on location in Oldham, Glossop, Stalybridge, Stockport and other surrounding areas. The opening shot of the film is the war memorial in Stalybridge town centre. Other scenes were filmed at the town hall in Hyde and outside a pillbox attached to a former Royal Ordnance Factory in Steeton, West Yorkshire. However the cinema sequences were shot at the Davenport cinema in Stockport which was chosen due to a period Art Deco interior as well as the presence in the orchestra pit in front of the screen of a Compton 3Manual/6Ranks theatre organ on a rising platform to the left of the stage which was used in the film for scenes involving an audience sing-along to such songs as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and exterior shots of the unnamed Welsh resort were filmed along Happy Valley Road, Llandudno, North Wales.
The ending, where the troops board their train to head to the front, were filmed at Keighley railway station on the line belonging to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. An authentic World War II locomotive, which is preserved by the heritage railway, was used for the scene.
- Phillips, Gene D. Major Film Directors of the American and British Cinema, Volume 1999. Lehigh University Press, 1999. 238. Retrieved from Google Books on January 30, 2012. ISBN 0-934223-59-9, ISBN 978-0-934223-59-1.
- "Bradford people get a taste for big screen". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. June 26, 2009. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- History Enthusiasts Launch Campaign to Save Rare Pillbox.