RED BALL EXPRESS
(director: Budd Boetticher; screenwriters: Billy Grady, Jr/John Michael Hayes/story by Marcy Klauber; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; editor: Edward Curtiss; music: Milton Rosen/Frank Skinner; cast: Jeff Chandler (Lt. Chick Campbell), Alex Nicol (Sgt. Kallek), Charles Drake (Pvt. Ronald Partridge), Judith Braun (Joyce McClellan), Sidney Poitier (Cpl. Andrew Robertson), Jacqueline Duval (Antoinette Dubois), Frank Chase (Pvt. Higgins), Bubber Johnson (Pvt. Taffy Smith), Howard Petrie (Maj. General Gordon), Robert Davis (McCord), Hugh O’Brian (Pvt. Wilson); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Universal-International Pictures; 1952)
“Routine but solid old-fashioned WW II war story.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Budd Boetticher(“Bullfighter and the Lady”/”7 Men From Now”/”The Tall T”) energetically directs this routine but solid old-fashioned WW II war story, that successfully blends together action, melodrama and comedy. It’s based on the story by Marcy Klauber and is written byBilly Grady, Jr and John Michael Hayes. It tells of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps, an integrated unit in the segregated army, who in July 1944 are required to supply gas and ammo to General Patton’s fast moving 3rd Army tanks roaring through German-occupied territory in France that reaches as far as the outskirts of Paris during the Allied advance from the Normandy beachhead.
Lt. Chick Campbell (Jeff Chandler), a hard-nosed trucker from Colorado, is in charge of the Red Ball Express outfit, an unruly company of clerks, misfits, goldbrickers and many blacks who are whipped into line by the stern taskmaster. The trucking detail’s name is derived from a railroad term for high priority freight. The outfit’s top sarge, Kallek (Alex Nicol), was friends with Campbell in Colorado where they were truckers, but now hates him because he blames Campbell for not freeing his late brother from a burning truck that jackknifed off the road. In the climax, while delivering gas to a tanker outfit Campbell’s men must cross a burning town and in the film’s most contrived moment the Lieutenant rescues the Sergeant from his burning vehicle and all is forgiven between them. The sensitive black corporal, Andrew Robertson (Sidney Poitier) unfairly resents Campbell because he believes he’s insensitive to the black soldiers under his command, until he learns otherwise. The other soldier who sticks out is big talker Pvt. Ronald Partridge (Charles Drake), who comically finds romance with a French girl (Jacqueline Duval) on a bike and later performs an heroic deed in taking out a German tank that had his company pinned down on the road.
REVIEWED ON 7/10/2012 GRADE: B