A Grown-Up War Story for a Nation Weary of War





World War II was in its final stages when “A Walk in the Sun” was released in January 1945, and the film, in its honesty and ruefulness, already has the feel of a retrospective, postwar vision. The need for propaganda had passed — it was no longer necessary to convince audiences that the war was a cheerful romp, as in “This Is the Army” or “I Wanted Wings” — and certain things could now be acknowledged, like fear, panic and death.

Directed by Lewis Milestone from a well-received but now forgotten novel by Harry Brown, “A Walk in the Sun” follows a few members of an Army platoon as they land on the beach in Salerno, Italy, and make their way a few miles inland, where they are to blow up a bridge and take a farmhouse held by a German machine-gun crew. The action begins in the predawn darkness and ends in the blaze of noon; in between, war happens.

After the opening credits, a narrator (Burgess Meredith) introduces the main characters, who seem at first like the standard ethnic mix of a propaganda film: there’s the loquacious New Jersey Italian (Richard Conte), the wary New York Jew (George Tyne), the terse Midwestern farmer (Lloyd Bridges), the drawling Southern medical aide (Sterling Holloway)....


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