George Hamilton and Vince Edwards in The Victors (1963)

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Carl Foreman’s The Victors

The Victors is based on the 1953 short story collection The Human Kind by British author Alexander Baron. Carl Foreman (1914-1984) produced, wrote and directed The Victors for Highroad/Open Road Productions and Columbia Pictures. Foreman, a U.S. Army Signal Corps veteran of WW II, had been blacklisted during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s.

George Hamilton, Vince Edwards and George Peppard Head The Victors Cast

Vincent Edwards (Baker), George Hamilton (Trower), Albert Finney (Russian Soldier), Melina Mercouri (Magda), Jeanne Moreau (French Woman) and George Peppard (Corporal Chase) head the international cast. Other players include Maurice Ronet (French Lieutenant), Rosanna Schiaffino (Maria), Romy Schneider (Regine), Elke Sommer (Helga), Eli Wallach (Sgt. Craig), Michael Callan (Eldridge), Peter Fonda (Weaver), Jim Mitchum (Grogan), Senta Berger (Trudi) and Mervyn Johns (Dennis).

The Victors Filmed in Sweden, Italy, France and the United Kingdom

The Victors, which took nearly a year to complete, was filmed on location in Europe. Shooting began in Sweden, where knee-deep snow was put to good use to recreate the harsh European winter of 1944-45. That was followed by excursions to England, Italy and France.

In England, filming was delayed for two months because of a deep freeze of snow and ice. Things didn’t improve much in Salerno, Italy, where strong earthquakes damaged several large-scale sets and contaminated the drinking water. In order to guard against typhoid fever, cast and crew were given precautionary inoculations.

The Victors Movie Review

Filmed in stark black and white, The Victors follows a U.S. Army infantry squad, from its early days in England to the occupation of Germany in 1945. The GIs see their first combat in Sicily, followed by excursions into France and Belgium. In between battles, the Americans romance the women they meet along the way.

The Victors, Carl Foreman’s personal statement on the futility of war, is perhaps one of the finest World War II films ever made. The movie succeeds on all fronts – writing, directing, acting – with a string of powerful scenes dominating the action. The most memorable by far is the execution of an American deserter by firing squad as Frank Sinatra croons “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – a scene inspired by the real-life execution of Private Eddie Slovik in 1945.

Other memorable vignettes include an American race riot at a Belgium nightclub, a French officer’s personal battle with a group of surrendering Germans, the brazen shooting of a puppy by a battle-hardened GI and a deadly knife fight between an American soldier and a drunken Russian in occupied Berlin.

George Hamilton gives what may be the best performance of his career, with Vince Edwards, George Peppard, Eli Wallach, Michael Callan and an international contingent of beautiful actresses also up to the challenge. WW II buffs will especially enjoy this film, as strategically interspersed throughout are period newsreels, including one featuring the Rockettes trying their hand on an Army obstacle course.

The Victors Release, Reviews

  • The Victors – shown in theaters at nearly three hours-long with an intermission – premiered in the United Kingdom on November 22, 1963. The film was later released in the United States on December 19, 1963.
  • “Framed with a flair for panorama, a sense of our times, The Victors has pace, shock value, point of view…” reported Variety (10/30/63).
  • “Foreman has spent two and a half years producing a faintly vulgar medley nearly three hours long,” complained Time magazine (12/20/63).
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