Memorial Day Marathon of classic war films has become a TCM staple these last several years and this year in no exception. This three day Memorial Day marathon of 39 films runs from Friday May 27th to Monday May 30th and includes some of the greatest war films ever made. Naturally, it would be impossible to show every great war film ever made — Lewis Milestone’s All Quite on The Western Front(1930) and Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H(1970) come to mind — but the films they are showing represent a pretty good cross-section of some of the best and most intense war films of all time. Driving home the point is a well-written Memorial Day Marathon essay that can be read here.
Most of these Memorial Day Marathon films I’ve seen (several times), while some I’m very much looking forward to seeing for the first time, such as the underrated Jeffrey Hunter in Hell to Eternity (1960) in the true story of a Marine veteran at the Battle of Saipan. Those interested in Lee Marvin’s experience at Saipan and the USMC’s Island hopping campaign in the Pacific can read it in his own words in Lee Marvin Point Blank.
Lee Marvin & fellow Marines in the Pacific during WWII.
All times listed below for the TCM Memorial Day Marathon are Pacific Standard Time….
FRIDAY, MAY 27
5:00 PM Twelve O’Clock High (1949) The head of a World War II bomber squadron cracks under the pressure. Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Gary Merrill.
7:30 PM The Young and the Brave(1963) Three American POWs fight to escape from North Korea. Rory Calhoun, William Bendix, Richard Jaeckel.
9:15 PM Battleground (1949) American soldiers in France fight to survive a Nazi siege just before the Battle of the Bulge. Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore.
11:30PM Go for Broke!(1951) The true story of World War II’s all Japanese-American Nisei unit. Van Johnson, Lane Nakano, George Miki.
Saturday, May 28th
1:15 AM Torpedo Run (1958) A submarine commander is forced to blow up a Japanese prison ship carrying his family. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Diane Brewster.
3:00 AM Darby’s Rangers (1958) An Army Major leads his men behind enemy lines during World War II. James Garner, Etchika Choureau, Jack Warden.
5:15 AM Flying Leathernecks (1951) A World War II Marine officer drives his men mercilessly during the battle for Guadalcanal. John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor.
7:15 AM Thunder Afloat (1939) An old sailor is duped into joining the Navy, where he runs into a longtime rival. Wallace Beery, Chester Morris, Virginia Grey.
9:00AM For Me and My Gal (1942) Judy Garland (in her first adult role) and Gene Kelly (in his film debut) star in the classic WWI-era musical directed by Busby Berkeley. Judy Garland, George Murphy, Gene Kelly.
11:00 AM See Here, Private Hargrove (1944) A green recruit has a series of madcap adventures in the Army. Robert Walker, Donna Reed, Keenan Wynn.
1:00 PM Up Periscope (1959) A U.S. frogman infiltrates a Japanese-held island during World War II. James Garner, Edmond O’brien, Andra Martin.
3:00 PM Attack! (1956)
Lee Marvin as Col. Clyde Bartlett & Eddie Albert as Capt. Erskine Cooney in Robert Aldrich’s Attack!
Based on the play “Fragile Fox,” a cowardly captain leads his men into danger in WWII Belgium. Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Willian Smithers, Buddy Ebsen, Richard Jaeckel, Robert Strauss.
5:00 PM From Here to Eternity (1953) Enlisted men in Hawaii fight for love and honor on the eve of World War II. Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine.
7:15 PM Fighter Squadron (1948) A dedicated flyer pushes himself and those around him during a perilous World War II campaign. Edmond O’brien, Robert Stack, John Rodney.
9:00 PM Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Henchmen Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin watch as Spencer Tracy gets off the train and prepare to confront him in John Sturges’ Bad Day at a Black Rock.
A one-armed veteran uncovers small-town secrets when he tries to visit an Asian-American war hero’s family. Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Dean Jagger, John Ericson.
10:45 PM Breakthrough (1950) An American infantry unit moves from basic training to combat in Europe. David Brian, John Agar, Frank Lovejoy.
Sunday, May 28th
12:30 AM Hell to Eternity(1960) A young man adopted by Japanese-Americans becomes a hero in World War II. Jeffrey Hunter, David Janssen, Vic Damone.
3:00 AM Ace of Aces (1933) After he’s branded a coward, a sculptor travels to France to help fight World War I. Richard Dix, Elizabeth Allen, Ralph Bellamy.
4:30 AM They Were Expendable (1945) After a demonstration of new PT boats, navy brass are still unconvinced of their capability. Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed.
7:00 AM Bad Day at Black Rock(1955) Repeat of Saturday’s broadcast.
8:45 AM The Great Escape (1963) Drama based on Paul Brickhill’s factual account of the efforts of Allied P.OW.s daring escape. Richard Attenborough, Steve McQueen, James Garner, David McCallum, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Donald.
11:45 Am The Steel Helmet(1951) Americans trapped behind enemy lines fight off Communists during the Korean War. Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Sid Melton.
1:15 PM Action in the North Atlantic(1943) A Merchant Marine crew fights off enemy attacks at the start of World War II. Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale.
3:30 PM December 7th (1943) After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. fights to survive the early days of WWII. Walter Huston, Harry Davenport, Dana Andrews.
5:00 PM Destination Tokyo(1943) A U.S. sub braves enemy waters during World War II. Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale Sr., Dane Clark, Robert Hutton.
7:30 PM The Red Badge of Courage(1951) A young Union soldier fights to atone for a moment of cowardice during the Civil War. Audie Murphy, Andy Devine, Robert Easton Burke, Douglas Dick.
9:00 PM The Big Parade(1925) In this silent film, a young innocent enlists for World War I service but soon learns the horrors of war. John Gilbert, Renee Adoree, Hobart Bosworth.
11:45 PM The Cranes Are Flying (1957) A Russian woman is tormented by fears that her boyfriend has been killed in World War II. Tatyana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasili Merkuriev.
3:00 AM Till the End of Time (1946) A returning World War II veteran falls for a troubled war widow. Dorothy Mcguire, Guy Madison, Robert Mitchum.
5:00 AM Battle of the Bulge (1965) A crack Nazi unit holds off the Allies during World War II. Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, Pier Angeli, James MacArthur, George Montgomery.
8:00 AM One Minute to Zero (1952) A U.S. colonel in Korea tries to evacuate American civilians. Robert Mitchum, Ann Blyth, William Talman.
10:00 AM Merrill’s Marauders (1962) Burma, 1944: The 5307th commanded by Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill is deep behind Japanese lines in the Burmese jungle. Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown, Claude Akins.
12:00 PM The Naked and the Dead(1958) A green lieutenant comes up against incompetent officers and a sadistic sergeant. Aldo Ray, Cliff Robertson, Raymond Massey. L.Q. Jones.
2:30 PM Sergeant York(1941) True story of the farm boy who made the transition from religious pacifist to World War I hero. Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias.
5:00 PM The Longest Day (1962) The Allied forces launch the D-Day invasion of German-occupied France. John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Henry Fonda, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Sean Connery, Sal Mineo, Richard Burton, Richard Beymer, Robert Ryan, Rod Steiger, Red Buttons, Stuart Whitman, Steve Forrest, Mel Ferrer, Roddy McDowell.
8:15 PM Bataan (1943) Thirteen U.S. soldiers risk their lives to hold a bridge against the Japanese. Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Nolan, Desi Arnaz.
10:30 PM The Dirty Dozen (1967)
An Angry Col. Breed (Robert Ryan) confronts rebellious Col. Reisman (Lee Marvin) in The Dirty Dozen.
A renegade officer trains a group of criminals for a crucial mission behind enemy lines. Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Robert Webber, Richard Jaeckel, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez.
Tuesday, May 31st
1:15 AM Take the High Ground!(1953) A tough drill sergeant prepares green recruits for service in the Korean War. Richard Widmark, Steve Forrest, Maurice Jara, Robert Arthur, William Hairston.
3:00 AM Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) General Jimmy Doolittle trains American troops for the first airborne attacks on Japan. Spencer Tracy, Phyllis Kirk, Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Tim Murdock, Robert Mitchum.
5:30 AM The Letter (1940) A woman claims to have killed in self-defense, until a blackmailer turns up with incriminating evidence. Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Gale Sondergaard.
7:30 AM Objective, Burma!(1945) An elite team of paratroopers lands deep behind Japanese lines in the jungles of Burma. Errol Flynn, James Brown, William Prince, Henry Hull.
10:00 AM The Bridge on the River Kwai(1957) The Japanese Army forces World War II POWs to build a strategic bridge in Burma. William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Geoffrey Horne, Sesue Hayakawa.
There you have it, TCM’s Memorial Day Marathon salute via some terrific films. Think of it as just one way to commemorate the holiday by honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. As they say in The Dirty Dozen: “Those ho gave their lives in the line of duty.”
Memorial Day is obviously more than just big sales and backyard barbecues, especially in reference to Lee Marvin. In wracking my brain trying to come up with an appropriate post for this important holiday, it dawned on me that in spite of all that I have already posted here, I can still comb my research files in search of an all encompassing image and possibly discover SOMETHING new.
Indeed I did. When I made my first trip to Lee’s postwar home near Woodstock, New York, while researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I pored over old copies of the local paper, The Daily Freeman (still very much in print, by the way). In doing so, I came across the photo below. I Xeroxed it immediately and kept it prominently in my files. When the book was going to press many years later, I sought out the rights to the photo and discovered it belonged to the same newspaper. My publisher and I inquired as to the rights, expecting to pay an exhorbitant fee for publication. Much to our delight, they merely required proper identification: “Photo courtesy of The Daily Freeman, Kingston, NY.” God bless small town newspapers!
The reproduction from the original that’s in the book is much clearer but I thought it appropriate for Memorial Day to post the first version of the image as I saw it years ago. The look of pride and determination on Marvin’s face still comes through. Keep in mind, not ony is this the last time he probably he wore his Class A Marine Corp. uniform, it’s also less than a year after the war had ended in Sept, 1945. Marvin was only one of seven of the men in his outfit to survive. For Memorial Day, I do beleive you can see it on his face. Click the image to enlarge and read the caption…
Memorial Day, 1946 image from The Daily Freeman reprinted in 1971.