Battleground (1949)


“[at an interfaith service for the soldiers] Now it’s nearly Christmas… and here we are in beautiful Bastogne enjoying the winter sports. And the $64 question is: “Was this trip necessary?” I’ll try to answer that. But my sermons, like everything else in the army… depend on the situation and the terrain. So I assure you this is going to be a quickie. Was this trip necessary? Let’s look at the facts. Nobody wanted this war but the Nazis. A great many people tried to deal with them, and a lot of them are dead. Millions have died… for no other reason except that the Nazis wanted them dead. So, in the final showdown, there was nothing left to do except fight. There’s a great lesson in this. Those of us who’ve learned it the hard way aren’t going to forget it. We must never again let any force dedicated to a super-race… or a super-idea, or super-anything… become strong enough to impose itself upon a free world. We must be smart enough and tough enough in the beginning… to put out the fire before it starts spreading. My answer to the sixty-four dollar question is yes, this trip was necessary. As the years go by, a lot of people are going to forget. But you won’t. And don’t ever let anybody tell you you were a sucker to fight in the war against fascism. And now, Jerry permitting, let us pray. Almighty God…[artillery drowns him out] The organist is hitting those bass notes a little too loud for me to be heard. So let each of us pray in his own way, to his own God.” – The Chaplain

Number of Times Seen – 2 (10 Oct 2001 and 7 Aug 2017)

Brief Synopsis – During World War II, a group of soldiers from the US Army have to deal with the fight against the Germans in the harsh winter conditions of the besieged area of Belgium known as Bastogne.

My Take on it – Having recently rewatched Band of Brothers (2001), I recalled enjoying this film a lot when I saw it years ago and since they both deal with the same battle, I was quite curious to once again see what they did here in order to compare similar stories made 50 years apart.

The thing that impressed me the most was the realistic feeling that this film gives us of the hardships that these men endured during the Battle of the Bulge.

We get to see both the physical and psychological effects of it on them multiple times and the fact that this film was made so soon after the war and is so honest about it all is great to see.

Since it was made during the 40’s, it’s quite understandable that they would show us a war film without much violence, but we still get a clear impression of the injuries these men receive.

Being able to compare this to Band of Brothers (2001) is quite unfair due to the way war films were made back then and how they have come to be made ever since.

I really enjoyed seeing the different views on similar events and I was able to fully appreciate what they were able to do here despite their obvious inability to show the violence aspect of it all which changes things a bit.

The cast is great with Van Johnson doing a great job since his sarcastic style helps to alleviate some of the harsh situation yet still gets things across as they should.

It was great seeing Ricardo Montalbon here in a small role, but his voice truly gives him away even so many years before he became well known.

This is one of the best of the five Best Picture nominees that year and might perhaps be THE best!

Bottom Line – Excellent portrayal of the Battle of the Bulge which is even more impressive since it was filmed just a few years after the events happened. The cast is quite good with Johnson giving a great performance. Great to see Montalbon is an earlier role, yet his accent truly gives away who he is.  This isn’t a very graphic war movie due to the time it was filmed yet it still managed to do an amazing job letting us feel both the physical and emotional hardships of these soldiers. Having seen Band of Brothers (2001) and that film’s depiction of similar events, it gives me an even greater appreciation for what they managed to do here.  One of the best (if not THE best) of the five films nominated for Best Picture that year. Highly Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – The white “card suit” stencils on the sides of the soldier’s helmets in the film are accurate. The WWII 101st Airborne Division used the different suits to identify their three parachute infantry (diamonds, hearts, and spades) and one glider infantry (clubs) regiments. A white “tic” at either the twelve, three, six or nine o’clock positions around the suit indicated Headquarters, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Battalions, respectively. The soldiers in this film wear the club suit of the 101st’s 327th Glider Infantry Regiment, with a “tic” at the nine o’clock position, indicating they belong to that regiment’s 3rd Battalion.  (From IMDB)

Rating – Oscar Worthy

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2 thoughts on “Battleground (1949)

  1. I love this movie. I’ve seen it many times. Oscar winner for best story and screenplay. Deserving. A terrific MGM cast as well. Recently, somewhere else – in a discussion about the merits – or lack thereof of DUNKIRK – which for the record – I did NOT like – and the more I think about it – the more I dislike it – I mentioned being a huge fan of WWII movies – both those based on real incidents and those which were more fictional (for example – Midway or Schindler’s List vs. Saving Private Ryan and The Dirty Dozen) – and if well done – I love both. I specifically mentioned BATTLEGROUND as a WWII movie that should be seen way ahead of Dunkirk – which I found to be a great disappointment. I had a laundry list of movies I thought were far better than Dunkirk – and Battleground was high on that list. It’s one of those stories where the platoon is filled out with “types” – the tough sergeant, the Italian kid from the Bronx, the Jewish soldier, the Latin soldier, the green lieutenant etc. – but in this script – they are far more than that – all finely etched. You relate to bits and pieces of all of them – so when one of them dies – you feel it. It’s very well done. And although not many of the soldiers are based wholly on real soldiers – they are close enough. We still get the “real” moments (when the American – offered a chance to surrender – tells the German “Nuts”. true story. The Germans trying to infiltrate behind the allied lines dressed as American troops and speaking perfect English – true. Tripping them up when they didn’t know American colloquialisms like a “can of corn” in baseball terminology – or weren’t carrying their “crickets” – true. This one is a keeper.

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