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GO FOR BROKE! (director/writer: Robert Pirosh; cinematographer: Paul C. Vogel; editor: James E. Newcom; music: Alberto Colombo; cast: Van Johnson (Lt. Michael Grayson), Lane Nakano (Sam), George Miki (Chick), Akira Fukunaga (Frank), Ken K. Okamoto (Kaz), Henry Oyasato (Takashi/Ohhara), Warner Anderson (Col. Charles W. Pence), Don Haggerty (Sgt. Wilson I. Culley), Dan Riss (Capt. Solari); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dore Schary; MGM; 1951)
“… sensitively and intimately directed and written by Robert Pirosh.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This rarely seen WW2 film was sensitively and intimately directed and written by Robert Pirosh (“Valley of the Kings”/”Washington Story”), but despite its human interest story it’s still a routine war programer. Pirosh wrote the screenplay for “Battleground,” as this film resembles that in its formulaic use of the soldiers. To its credit it tells the little known true story of a World War II all Japanese-American unit, who were led into battles in Italy and France by a white Texan officer, Lt. Michael Grayson (Van Johnson), who at first questioned their loyalty and wanted a transfer. The Texan is a bigot who by the film’s end overcomes his racism when witnessing how his Nisei troops fight with valor on the battlefield. The unit wanted to fight in the Pacific, but had to settle for the European theater.

It pays tribute to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a new combat unit composed entirely of Japanese-Americans, with many of the actual combat soldiers appearing as actors in the film. Their presence was welcomed as adding realism, but their limited acting range did not help in the dramatics. The regimental slogan, “Go for Broke,” is pidgin English for “shoot the works,” and serves as the film’s title.

After Lt. Grayson learns not to call his troops “Japs” but Nisei, about the Japanese-Americans in the internment camps, and the differences between the Hawaiian and State-side Japanese (Kotonks and Kanakas), he begins to understand the troops under his command and professionally takes charge training them in a rigorous manner to become the best they could be. The troops seem to be the standard issue ones found in all wartime films of that period. Sam (Lane Nakano) is the all-knowing top sergeant; Chick (George Miki) is the indolent PFC.; Ohhara (Henry Oyasato) is the company gadfly; and pint-sized Tommy (Henry Nakamura) is the soft-hearted sharpshooter. It ends with a ceremony on the White House lawn, as President Harry S. Truman and General Mark W. Clark honor them for protecting the 36th Division, a Texas National Guard unit, in a battle in France. They are also honored with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”