Its 12:09 pm
Back in 1962,ABC debuted two primetime war shows,”Combat!” which followed a squad of U.S. infantrymen fighting Nazis through France and Germany. It starred Rick Jason and Vic Morrow and it ran for five years to critical acclaim.
The other shows was “The Gallant Men” which portrayed a Ernie Pyle like reporter named Conley Wright embedded with a U.S. platoon in Gen Mark Clark’s 5th Army which was fighting its way up Italy. While “Combat!” was well received and ended up with a five year and 152 episode run,”The Gallant Men” lasted just one year and 26 episodes.
So why are the cheetah and I reviewing the “The Gallant Men” instead of the more well known “Combat!”? That is a fair question to ask and I’m glad you asked it.
When I reviewed the second season of the western “Lawman“,I commented on a pair of brilliant guest spots by character actor Robert McQueeney. I really didn’t know who McQueeney was but as I often do,I often look at a actor’s IMDb page to see what else they have done. So I was cruising the Warner Brothers Archives website with Paladin and he tapped me with his paw and pointed out the cover of “The Gallant Men”,looking back at us was Robert McQueeney. Now I have seen hundreds of war films and TV series including “Combat!” but I had never heard of this series…..ever!
So I clicked the linked and was instantly blown away. “The Gallant Men” is a true hidden gem….not only did it star McQueeney but also Robert Ridgely who also did a great guest turn on “Lawman“.
But it was William Reynolds who plays Captain Jim Benedict that caught my attention as well….he played a police chaplin who went undercover with Sgt. Joe Friday to bust a bookmaking ring on a classic episode of “Dragnet”.
I sent a note to our deep cover asset at Warner Brothers Archives and soon the cheetah and I were riding along with Capt. Benedict,Conley Wright and the rest of the platoon of these Gallant Men.
Conley Wright opens each show with a voice over telling the viewers where in Italy the 5th Army is at and how brutal the fighting is. The pilot episode showcases the main cast..McQueeney as Wright,Reynolds as Capt. Benedict,Ridgely as Lt. Frank Kimbro,John X. Slattery as 1st Sgt. McKenna,Roland La Starza as Pvt. Lucavich and Eddie Fontaine as Pvt. Pete DeAngelo,who not is only a crafty gambler but also speaks Italian which comes in handy quite often.
Following in most Warner Brothers shows at the time,the story is often built around that week’s guest star. This was often a contracted Warner Brothers performer so you’ll see a lot of familiar faces. In “Pilot” which was directed by Robert Altman,we meet the cast and Wright recognizes a man he served with in North Africa but who is calling himself a different name and a lower rank. The soldier (William Windom) begs Wright to keep his secret but his tactical skills draw the attention of Capt. Benedict. Its a strong start to the series.
In the next episode “Retreat to Concorde”,Peter Breck plays a sniper who stays to himself and refuses to volunteer to any duty,he has to be ordered…he has lost his faith and has lost too many friends in combat,he feels staying alone will protect him from further horrors. When a small village with a lot orphans is attacked by the Germans,he has to make a choice…..
In the action packed episode “And the End of Evil Things” a young Pvt who gets a chance to fight turns out to be a poor soldier and causes serious issues between Benedict and Kimbro. This episode features Eric Braden who would go on to star in another classic World War 2 show, “The Rat Patrol”. Buck Kartalian played Pvt. Joey Lopuschok who just wants to do his part but in doing so risks the lives of the platoon.
In “A Place To Die” Michael Parks plays a paratrooper whose desire to kill as many Germans and Italian soldiers possible is driven by plain hatred again shows what war does to a soldier’s soul..it’s a timeless and sober look that carries over even to this day.
As shown in many of movies and newsreels,whenever the Allies liberated a town held by the Nazis,the citizens welcomed them as heroes and many G.I.s were welcomed back on a more emotional level by the women. In the episode “Advance and Be Recognized”- this issue is addressed as after liberating a small village,Pvt. DeAngelo meets an old pal and they go into the town….while his friend treats the women casually,DeAngelo finds himself falling in love with one.
The same theme is addressed in the next episode but this time through the eyes of a G.I. who risks the lives of his friends just so he can hook up with a woman purely for sex. When the chase leads to tragedy,the soldier (Paul Carr) in “To Hold Up A Mirror” is indeed left to do that.
Peter Brown does a guest turn in “The Bridge” Lt. Kimbro leads an all volunteer squad in blowing a bridge and in doing so,stop a large German counter-attack.
Family played a large part in “The Gallant Men” and in “The Leathernecks”,Conley Wright travels to the South Pacific to try and find his brother,who is a pilot, goes missing after a mission. Van Williams who went on to fame as “The Green Hornet” a few years later guest starred in this episode.
One very unique aspect of this show was that series contained the whole Italian Campaign,show ended with the Germans surrender in 1945.
For sharp eyed Warner Brothers fans,several writers and director names will be well known to them….
The writing was solid but relied a little too much on gimmicks,it seemed like the man cast was meeting family members in just every other episode and while I enjoyed “The Leathernecks” logistically,it was a farce. It would have taken Wright MONTHS to be ferried one way to the South Pacific under the best conditions but as a war reporter,yeah…he would still be trying to come home.
The core cast was very good and you really got invested with the platoon. McQueeney and Reynolds were the standouts of course but the supporting cast had their moments to shine. Reynolds went on to become a big TV star when he landed on the long running “The FB.I.” while McQueeney left acting to and joined the priesthood where he served until his death at age 83.
The guest stars were a nice hook as several well known names like John Dehner,George Takei,Mako and DeForrest Kelley all popped up….but strangely enough,Lee Van Cleef did not!!
The action pieces all were decent with stock footage from other Warner Brothers war pictures being blended in with new footage especially the series. Production values are pretty solid,you definitely feel you are in Italy in every episode. The picture quality is outstanding as well.
The cheetah and I throughly enjoyed this show and are so glad that Paladin spotted it.
You can get your copy by going to the website of Warner Brothers Archives.
We give “The Gallant Men” a huge thumbs/paws straight up.
What was your favorite military themed TV show? Drop a comment below and share it with us.