The Red Beret (1953)

#1 by Robert Crewdson , Mon May 21, 2018 5:57 pm

I did not take any screenshots for this film. There are some screenshots in an earlier post which accompanied the sale. I will discuss the film first, then talk about my copy.

'The Red Beret', known in America as 'Paratrooper', was made in 1953, at the time Alan Ladd was leaving Paramount Studios over his contract. At that time, a number of American actors came to make films in the UK for tax purposes, among them Richard Widmark , George Raft, and Scott Brady, to name just three. 'The Red Beret' was one of three that Alan Ladd made for Warwick Pictures, and was the first for producer Cubby Broccoli, and the team that went on to make the Bond films. Richard Maibaum, who wrote several Bond screenplays, was brought in as writer at the request of Alan Ladd. They had worked together before, with Maibaum writing the script for 'O.S.S.' (1946).

It is reported that the lead role was first offered to Richard Todd, who turned it down as being 'Too far fetched'. Alan Ladd was paid $200,000 for eleven weeks work, plus free accomodation and luxury trave for his family and their nurse. Ladd also received 10% of the gross box office receipts, over $2 million.

There were some complaints at the time, from some who thought an English actor should be given the part; the trouble over Errol Flynn in 'Objective Burma' was still fresh in people's minds. Ladd was warned before he came over that there could be some hostility. He hoped that having an English mother would make a difference. He need not have worried, as the fans turned out to greet him.

This film has always had a special place for me as it was partly filmed just 5 miles down the road at the then RAF Abingdon Paratrooper Training School. They spent two weeks here. Later, 'Operation Crossbow', starring George Peppard was also shot here. While filming in Abingdon, Alan and his family stayed at the Randolph Hotel Oxford.

Alan Ladd joined the Airborne Division of the British army to undergo commando training before making the film . The orders went out at Abingdon Barracks: 'Make no changes to the commando battle course. Private Ladd has to pass out on it as it is'. An Army spokesman announced 'Private Ladd will have to keep on racing over one of the toughest courses until he does it to perfection'. It was later announced that Private Ladd had passed with flying colours. Very good for a man who would have been older than the the genuine soldiers on the course. UK members may remember actor Bryan Moseley, who played shopkeeper Alf in 'Coronation Street'; he was in the service at the time and trained Ladd.

Alan Ladd plays Steve "Canada" McKendrick, a former officer in the American military who joins Britain's special Parachute Regiment as a private in 1940. McKendrick, who had once been an officer, blames himself for the death of his co pilot while on a training mission. Mortified, he had quit the military and moved to Canada, where he enlisted in the armed services to train as a paratrooper in Britain. His exceptional skills, sense of responsibility, and leadership ability make him stand out from the other troops, but he refuses the commission to become an officer. He insists that he doesn't want to give orders, only take them. Haunted by his experience, McKendrick keeps to himself, earning a reputation as a loner. His attitude prevents him from bonding with his fellow soldiers and interferes with his budding romance with Penny Gardner, one of the women who pack the parachutes for the paratroopers.
After training, his unit is sent on a variety of special operations, where they learn to work together. On a dangerous mission to Tunis, North Africa, they are trapped in a mine field while under fire from the Germans. Quick on his feet, McKendrick figures out how the unit can escape their predicament, proving himself a valuable leader.

Interior scenes were shot at Shepperton Studios, and the Ladds lived in a luxury house nearby in Wentworth, Surrey part of the time. There was also a golf course there, where Alan could indulge in his latest passion. Other parts of the film, the military missions, were filmed near Trawsynydd, North Wales. About 50 National Service men were used as extras. In an interview, one said “We were doing National Service in 1950-2 at Tonfanu Camp, near Towyn, North Wales, when we were told extras were needed for a film being made farther up the coast. We spent about two weeks travelling back and forth by army lorry. Our army pay went up slightly. The surprise was that we all played the part of German soldiers, with uniforms down to the last detail. The beach where filming took place had lots of bombs which they set off, so we had to charge across marked out areas – sometimes the bombs went off a bit close'

One of the Regiment's key missions is a fictionalized version of the Bruneval Raid, also known as Operation Biting, in which combined British forces staged a raid on a German radar installation in Bruneval, France. The names of the British characters are thinly disguised versions of the names of the real participants in the raid. Calm, collected leading man Leo Genn starred as Major Snow, who was based on the real-life Major John Frost, whose paratroopers executed Operation Biting. In a smaller role, John Boxer portrayed Flight Sgt. Box, a reference to Sgt. Cox, and Anthony Bushell appeared as General Whiting, who is supposed to be General Browning. The screenplay was based on The Red Beret, the nonfiction account of Operation Biting by Hillary St. George Saunders.

In the early part of the film, genuine paratropers were used as extras, and one doubled for Alan Ladd in the scene when he parachutes from a plane. Many were keen to have their photograph taken with him.

At the end of filming, Alan Ladd took a group of servicemen and their wives to lunch at the Randolph Hotel, picking up some of them in his cadillac. One of those servicemen who worked in the film said 'Alan Ladd may not have been very tall, but in the film world he was a giant'.

Now to my print. It's Kodachrome so has good colour that won't fade, and has minimal base scratches, which are no bother at all. Upon lubricating and checking the print I found a lot of splices. Upon examining these I found that after most of the splices there was a scene change, which you would not expect to find if the film had just broken or a small section had to be removed. There are two conclusions. Either a former owner removed scenes, rather than having jump cuts, or scenes were removed to restore another print. There are two scenes that I noticed missing; the first where Stanley Baker's parachute fails to open. In this print, Alan Ladd jumps, then after landing, runs over to the inert body. The second scene is where Leo Genn briefs his men on a forthcoming operation. In this print you see the men collecting their parachutes, then boarding the plane, but no explanation as to why. Having said that, unless you were very familir with the film, or found an online copy to check it against, you would have no idea that anything was missing, as it all makes sense. I'm still pleased to have this print, as the opportunity to purchase an Alan Ladd film with good colour won't come along very often. As an extra to the film, I managed to get an original printing plate for advertising the film in newspapers and magazines.









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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#2 by Eivind Mork , Mon May 21, 2018 6:14 pm

Seems to be a great piece of military related film. I liked the disguised names :-) I have only seen Kodachrome on home movies. A splendid film type for sure.


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#3 by Tim Duncan , Mon May 21, 2018 7:21 pm

Thank you for a great read Robert! That took you some time, and it's much appreciated! Those printing plates are very cool!


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#4 by Tom Photiou , Mon May 21, 2018 7:39 pm

Great write up there Robert. Some really interesting facts,


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#5 by Douglas Warren , Mon May 21, 2018 8:08 pm

Excellent review Robert. I really enjoy hearing the backstory associated with movies. Being a war movie buff, this is one I will seek out to watch.


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#6 by Robert Crewdson , Mon May 21, 2018 8:33 pm

Great Douglas, the picture of Alan Ladd and his wife on the beach was in North Wales, where all the action took place. Thank you Tom and Tim; it's the most detailed review I have ever written.



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Last edited 05.21.2018 | Top

RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#7 by David Ollerearnshaw , Mon May 21, 2018 8:51 pm

Glad this has gone to a good home. I was thinking about bidding myself but the lack of funds did me.


I still love the smell of film in the morning


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#8 by Greg Perry , Mon May 21, 2018 9:25 pm

Robert,
Glad you "published" this review here first as it is so well done that it is truly magazine quality!
When you posted about the small engraved printing plates recently, I took a look at what other ones the seller had listed and there were a couple for the movie "The Marriage Go-Round" with Julie Newmar that I seriously thought about...those plates are truly one-of-a-kind and a neat addition to the film.


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#9 by Robert Crewdson , Mon May 21, 2018 9:30 pm

Glad I was able to do it for you Greg. Some of those plates are quite reasonable in price, while others are expensive, but only one of each I should imagine.


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RE: The Red Beret (1953)

#10 by Eivind Mork , Mon May 21, 2018 10:00 pm

I have one single printing plate. Have you tried "printing" with yours adding ink and pressing it to a papar? I haven't got so far, but wanted to try.


 
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