Hollywood Legends

Dana Andrews in A Walk in the Sun

July 24, 2012

Tags: Dana Andrews, World War II, A Walk in the Sun

I'm participating in the Dana Andrews blogathon at Classic Movie man. I've chosen to discuss his work in A Walk in the Sun. Dana plays a corporal taking over from his sergeant who has broken down under the stress of war. The director, Lewis Milestone, had different actors in mind for this ensemble of soldiers, similar to what he was attempting in The Purple Heart, another WWII film starring Dana Andrews. It was that experience with Dana that made Milestone never waver in his decision to put Dana in the pivotal role of leading the men after their sergeant collapses. Dana's matter of fact nobility is often a feature of his greatest work. Near the end of the film there are unforgettable closeups of Dana as he forges relentlessly ahead--but without the usual heroics and melodrama of war films. If there has ever been a better performance in such a film I don't know what it is.

Comments

  1. July 28, 2012 9:18 AM EDT
    Thanks for taking part in the blogathon event, Carl. Exciting to have you on board.
    - Stephen Reginald
  2. July 28, 2012 11:31 AM EDT
    My pleasure, Stephen. I'll be commenting on the posts on the blogathon, and can perhaps add a few details not already covered in my biography of Dana Andrews
    - Carl Rollyson
  3. July 29, 2012 10:10 AM EDT
    First watched this movie after reading about it in comparison to Saving Private Ryan, and have to say I liked this way more--in fact I love this movie, along with Battleground and a handful of others, this has to be one of the greatest troop movies ever made. As much as I like his acting approach for noir film, Dana was made for heroic, noble roles like this. Thanks!
    - kristina
  4. July 29, 2012 10:27 AM EDT
    Thanks, Kristina. I agree. A Walk in the Sun is pretty faithful to Harry Brown's novel, which I read while researching my Dana Andrews biography. As with The Purple Heart, Lewis Milestone, worked very hard at making his actors part of an ensemble. What do you think of the songs that punctuate the action? Some people like them; others find them distracting. Milestone did something similar with "The North Star," which the scriptwriter Lillian Hellman hated--all those folksy Russians singing was not what she had in mind.
    - Carl Rollyson
  5. July 29, 2012 2:42 PM EDT
    I have not seen this film, but I definitely want to. "Purple Heart" is among my 5 favorite Dana films, and if his character in "A Walk in the Sun" is as strong, noble, and honorable as in "Purple Heart," then I am quite sure I will love this film as well.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

    Also, thanks so much for your wonderful thoughts on my "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" post. I really appreciated your insight...and I definitely need to do another watch of the film just to take notice of the things you mentioned.
    - Patti
  6. July 29, 2012 2:50 PM EDT
    Thanks Patti. I don't think A Walk in the Sun will disappoint you. The director Lewis Milestone and Dana were very close friends. Milestone knew exactly how to use his actors. Even after watching Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Again, you may not agree with me. My interpretation only works, I think, after you've seen the film once and then wonder if you have missed something that sets up the surprise ending. I think I have a pretty good case, but it all depends on whether or not you SEE what I SEE. The ending reminds me a good deal of Coppolo's The Conversation, in which Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) is sure that his bugging devices have picked up a murder plot. They have--but not exactly the one he supposed was in the works. Both films, it seems to me, are about the assumptions we make when we perceive things a certain way.
    - Carl Rollyson
  7. July 29, 2012 6:16 PM EDT
    Given my weaknesses for both Mr. Andrews and WWII movies, I've added this to the queue.
    - Paula
  8. July 29, 2012 7:34 PM EDT
    Paula: These films, The Purple Heart, Wing and a Prayer, and A Walk in the Sun are far superior to the war epics Dana later appeared in like The Battle of the Bulge and In Harm's Way, although he is wonderful as a zany military man in The Loved One.
    - Carl Rollyson
  9. September 19, 2012 1:37 PM EDT
    In Brown's book Bill Tyne is Corporal Tyne. In the film he is Sergeant Tyne. Some years ago I discussed this with two WWII Army veterans and they both insisted that, as depicted by Andrews in the film (intelligent, sensitive, authoritative,) Tyne should rate at least a sergeant.
    - Bob Karam
  10. September 19, 2012 1:48 PM EDT
    Thanks for your comment, Bob. I see your point about the corporal/sergeant distinction. Brown's book is quite good and makes fascinating reading set beside the movie.
    - Carl Rollyson