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Review: Stars In The Corps

October 22 2002 at 7:14 PM
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Dick G  (Login Dick Gaines)
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From: H-Net Reviews <books@h-net.msu.edu>
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Editor's Subject: Kolb on Wise and Rehill, Stars in the Corps
Author's Subject: Kolb on Wise and Rehill, Stars in the Corps
Date Written: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 13:51:20 -0500
Date Posted: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 13:51:20 -0500


Published by H-PCAACA@h-net.msu.edu (November, 1999)

James E. Wise, Jr. and Anne Collier Rehill. _Stars in the Corps:
Movie Actors in the United States Marines_. Annapolis: Naval
Institute Press, 1997. x + 246 pp., Bibliography, photographs, and
index. $28.95 (cloth), ISBN 1-55750-949-2.

Reviewed for H-PCAACA by Charles C. Kolb <ckolb@neh.gov>, National
Endowment for the Humanities

Hollywood Stars and Their Service in the Marine Corps

This unique, well-written, and fascinating volume is a companion to Wise
and Rehill's Stars in Blue: Movie Actor's in America's Sea Services,
published by the Naval Institute Press in 1997, which was also assessed by
your current reviewer. See
http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=12705884375164 Like its predecessor, Stars in the Corps is a valuable resource for
scholars and aficionados of motion picture films, military buffs and
historians, and students of American popular culture. This volume is the
equal to and in several ways surpasses its earlier companion and is itself
a valuable reference. Structurally, the volume contains a preface and
introduction, two parts comprising 28 short biographies, four appendices,
and 101 black-and-white images. A very useful Bibliography lists 92 books
and periodicals, thirteen reference works, twelve interviews or
correspondence, five major official records or archives, and five other
sources. A six-page double column index lists, in the main, proper nouns
and is an appropriate finding aid.

The senior author, James Wise, a retired captain in the U.S. Navy, served
as a naval aviator and intelligence officer, and is the author of four
other books concerning naval topics. His co-author, Anne Rehill, a
magazine writer and editor, is a former acquisitions editor for the Naval
Institute Press, and professes English at Penn State University. In his
initial remarks, Wise reminds us that the USMC was founded in 1775 and
since that time has participated in 171 wars and expeditions (with 40,000
Marines killed and 189,000 wounded), and that since 1862, 301 Marines have
been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The authors also point out
that many of the actors they interviewed were extremely proud of their
Marine experience and that their service had benefited them in their
professional lives -- indeed Semper Fidelis ("always faithful") to the
Corps. Actor Hugh O'Brien and comedian Jonathan Winters are exemplars.

Some of the biographies are upbeat and heart warming and others pensive
and melancholic. Known to many film fans as actors rather than as Marines
are actors Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Tyrone Power, and George C. Scott.
Perhaps less well know are Sterling Hayden, Peter Ortiz, Lee Powell, and
Tad Van Brunt. There were troubled youths (Hayden, Marvin, and McQueen);
Yale scholars (Bradford Dillman and George Roy Hill); Hollywood and
Broadway stars before their service (Hayden, Louis Hayward, Powell, and Ty
Power); OSS -- Office of Strategic Services, predecessor of the CIA --
operatives (Hayden and Ortiz); combat photographers (Hayward and Bill
Lundigan); aviators (Jock Mahoney, Ed McMahon, and Power); and aircrew
(Brian Keith). Several earned high-school equivalency diplomas in the
Corps (Gene Hackman and Harvey Keitel), others went to OCS - Officer's
Candidate School -- (Dillman, Dale Dye, Hayden, and Power), or took
advantage of the GI Bill for acting school (Dillman, George Peppard, and
Robert Ryan). On the negative side, military service resulted in several
nervous breakdowns (Hayward and Jonathan Winters), alcoholism (Macdonald
Carey, Powell, Power, and Van Brunt), or lung disease and death from chain
smoking (McQueen and John Russell).

The biographies begin with six Marines who made various contributions in
Hollywood, then, in alphabetic order, 22 others - some well known to film
or television devotees. The authors lead off with Dale Dye, an enlistee
who served two tours of duty in Vietnam (Bronze Star and three Purple
Hearts), became a Chief Warrant Officer, attended OCS, and was a Captain
in Beirut in 1982-1983. Dye has written five military novels, and because
of his expertise became a motion picture technical advisor for Oliver
Stone, Brian DePalma, and Steven Spielberg, and also appeared in more than
15 films -- notably Platoon (1986), The Last of the Mohicans, (1992),
Forrest Gump (1994), Outbreak (1995), and Saving Private Ryan (1998).
Sterling Hayden (1916-1968), a schooner commander at age 22, was
established film star and a graduate of the British Commando Training
School, but was injured in a parachute jump and discharged. He then
enlisted as a boot in the Corps in 1942, changed his name to John
Hamilton, and served in the Balkans during World War II commanding 400
Yugoslav partisans in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis. A flirtation
with Marxism nearly ended his movie career but he cooperated with the
House Unamerican Activities Committee, and had a distinguished career in
motion pictures, including the role of General Jack D. Ripper in Dr.
Strangelove (1964).

Louis Hayward (1909-1968), a star of swashbucklers in the 1930s who became
a naturalized American citizen on 6 December 1941, joined the Corps in
1942 and became a combat cinematographer, filming With the Marines at
Tarawa (1944), the Academy Award best documentary for that year. The
trauma of that invasion led to depression and a complete physical
collapse, but Hayward starred in twenty films and three television series.
Child actor Brian Keith served as a rear gunner in a SBD Douglas Dauntless
dive bomber during missions against the Japanese naval base at Rabaul
during World War II, and returned to the stage, radio, films, and
television. He has made fifty films and starred in nine television

Lee Marvin (1924-1987), a true "wild one," enlisted in August 1942, served
in the Marshall Islands (Eniwetok and Kwajalein), and was in the June 1944
Saipan invasion force. His company was ambushed and only six of 241 men
survived. Marvin was, as he stated "shot in the ass" (a 9x3x3-inch
wound), hospitalized 13 months, and discharged. Disabled and
underemployed, he discovered summer stock acting, and progressed to
Broadway plays, and motion pictures. For Cat Ballou (1965) he earned the
best actor Academy Award, starred in television's M-Squad, and the classic
war films The Dirty Dozen (1967), director John Boorman's Hell in the
Pacific (1968) with Toshiro Mifune, and The Big Red One (1979). He is
buried in Arlington National Cemetery beside Joe Louis, the world
heavyweight boxing champion.

Multilingual Pierre "Peter" Ortiz (1913-1988), of French-Spanish
parentage, had an extraordinary military record and was the most decorated
man to serve in to OSS. He spent five years with the French Foreign
Legion in North Africa in the 1930s and rejoined the Legion in 1939,
although his ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic before he reached Morocco.
Captured by the Germans in North Africa in 1941 he became a POW in
Austria, escaped, made his way through Portugal and back to the United
States, enlisting in the Marine Corps in June 1942. Ortiz was sent to
Morocco where he was wounded and promoted to Captain before being sent to
France by the OSS to work with the maquis in 1944. A German battalion at
Centron, France trapped Ortiz and four of his men, but he negotiated his
own surrender in order to spare retribution by the Gestapo against the
village. Again he escaped, was recaptured, escaped again and finally
"liberated himself" in April 1945. Ortiz was in training for OSS work in
Indochina when the war ended. Two films (13 Rue Madeleine, 1946, starring
Jimmy Cagney, and Operation Secret, 1952) were modeled after his exploits,
and he worked in a dozen films prior to his death in 1988.

World War I Marine veteran and comedian Bob Burns (1891-1956), inventor of
an unusual musical instrument he called the "bazooka," had that name
"commandeered" by the U.S. Army in 1943 to designate its new, portable
antitank rocket launcher. Macdonald Carey (1913-1994), known in the
post-war era as a stage, radio, and television soap opera star, appeared
in the 1942 film Wake Island. Inspired, he and other cast members
actually joined the Corps immediately thereafter, and he served in the
South Pacific. Barry Corbin, son of a Texas state senator, served as a
Marine from 1962-1963 but "never left California." His distinguished
theater, film, and television career as an actor is enhanced by his
screenwriting abilities, and he has fond memories of the Corps. Brian
Dennehy, a student-athlete at Columbia University, joined in 1962 and
served on Okinawa; he later discovered acting in theater, motion pictures,
and television. Actor and writer Bradford Dillman, a Yale literature and
drama graduate, enlisted in the USNR in 1948, was selected for OCS, and as
a Marine 2nd Lieutenant was assigned to teach communication skills to
Marine veterans rather than being sent to Korea in 1951.

Gene Hackman, a high-school dropout who served two hitches in the Marines
and left as a PFC in 1954, had the distinction of serving in China in
1948-1949 keeping Japanese war materiel out of Communist hands. He later
aspired to the office of U.S. Secretary of State in the film No Way Out
(1987). George Roy Hill, a Yale history and music graduate, joined the
Corps in 1943, earned aviator's wings, and piloted transports in the South
Pacific. Recalled to duty in 1951, he flew F4F Panther jet fighters
during the Korean War. As a story editor and film director, he is known
for his stellar direction of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) and
The Sting (1973). Harvey Keitel was a Marine enlistee in 1956 and served
in Beirut before embarking on his film career (15 so far, including Taxi
Driver, 1976, and Pulp Fiction, 1994). Bill Lundigan (1914-1975) had been
a pre-law student and radio announcer, and was a film star before joining
in 1943. He became a combat photographer and served in the bloody
invasions at Peleliu and Okinawa, where the Marines experienced
"staggering casualties." Renowned stunt man Jock Mahoney (1919-1989) was
a civilian instructor in the U.S. Army Air Corps but enlisted in the
Marines in 1943, earned his wings, and flew F4U Corsairs but missed out on
actual combat. He worked in many film and television Westerns, and is
known for starring in two Tarzan films (1962, 1963).

Better known as an announcer, straight-man and/or sidekick initially for
TV's Dick Clark and then for Johnny Carson (1958-1992), silvery-voiced Ed
McMahon started his career in the Navy's V-5 Program, transferred to the
Marines, and was a flight instructor in F4U Corsair fighters prior to his
discharge in 1946. While at Philadelphia's WCAU radio and television he
was recalled to active duty and Captain McMahon flew 85 reconnaissance
missions in an unarmed Cessna 180 observation plane in Korea (1951-1952).
Steve McQueen (1930-1980), a wild and rebellious farm boy from the Midwest
who had worked in brothels as a youth, enlisted in the Marines in 1947,
was a crewman on tanks and amphibious tractors, and served in the guards
assigned to President Truman's yacht, Sequoia. Odd jobs and Actor's
Studio led to Broadway and television (Wanted Dead or Alive, 1958-1961), a
distinguished career in motion pictures, and respect as a professional
motorcycle and racecar driver. The Magnificent Seven (1960), The War
Lover (1962), The Great Escape (1963), Bullitt (1968), and Papillon (1971)
are among his well-known films.

Hugh O'Brian, born Hugh Charles Krampe, son of a Marine captain, enlisted
in 1943 and became a Drill Instructor at age 18 when he met John Wayne who
became a life-long friend. O'Brien has the distinction of being the last
man Wayne "killed" in cinema (The Shootist, 1976), but had also starred as
television's Wyatt Earp (1955-1971) and is respected widely in Hollywood
for establishing HOBY - the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Program - in

Gerald O'Laughlin enlisted in 1942, was a commissioned officer, trained
for the invasion of Japan, and served in the occupation forces in Nagasaki
(1945-1946). Completing a degree in mechanical engineering, he attended
Actor's Studio and became a distinguished actor, director, and teacher.
George Peppard (1928-1994) enlisted in the Corps in 1946 and took
amphibious training. His interests in civil engineering were sidetracked
for drama and the Actor's Studio, leading to memorable television series
(Banacek 1972-1974, and A-Team, 1983-1987) and films (Breakfast at
Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn in 1961, and Operation Crossbow, 1965). Lee
Powell (1908-1944), who was the first Lone Ranger in pre-war serial films,
enlisted in 1942, served in the South Pacific as a Sergeant in the 2nd
Marine Division, but died of acute alcohol poisoning at age 35 on the
island of Tinian.

Tyrone Power (1914-1958) was already a Hollywood megastar (A Yank in the
RAF, 1942, and Crash Dive, released in 1943) when he joined the Corps as a
boot in April 1942. He, qualified for OCS, received his commission,
became an aviator, and served as a command transport pilot flying R4D
Dakotas and C47s in the Pacific, notably, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Returning
to his film career, he made Captain from Castile (1947) with former Navy
Chief Boatswain's Mate Cesar Romero, and a dozen other motion pictures
(Abandon Ship, The Sun Also Rises, Witness for the Prosecution, all 1957)
but died of a heart attack at age 44. Television's Lawman (1958-1962) at
six feet four inches, John Russell (1921-1991) was initially rejected for
service because of his stature, but he served on Guadalcanal as a Marine
2nd Lieutenant in 1942 before a medical discharge, and would make a dozen
motion pictures - many with Clint Eastwood. Holding a degree in English
literature, Dartmouth College-educated Robert Ryan (1909-1973) was also a
heavyweight boxing champion for four years before enlisting and becoming a
Camp Pendleton Drill Instructor. A committed pacifist after 1945, he
starred in films including The Dirty Dozen (1967) with fellow Marine Lee
Marvin, and Sam Peckenpaugh's classic, The Wild Bunch (1969).

George C. Scott's service on Arlington National Cemetery's grave detail in
the mid-1940s made a lasting impression. Graduating from the University
of Missouri, Scott taught at nearby Stephens College, and then moved from
stage to memorable screen and television appearances - especially as
General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (1964), as the
lead in Patton (1970), and portraying Hemingway in Islands in the Stream
(1977). Tad Van Brunt (1921-1977) was born and raised in Japan of
Dutch-American and British parentage so that his fluency in the Japanese
language led to assignments in Guam and Okinawa as an interrogator of
enemy troops. He was so popular among the native Okinawans that they
asked that he be allowed to stay as governor of their island in 1945.
This, of course, did not happen, and he had bit parts in three films
before rejoining the Marines in 1948 and participating in the Inchon,
Korea landings as an intelligence officer in 1951. A career in
advertising and sales preceded his death from alcoholism. Comedian
Jonathan Winters served on the Marine Detachment on the aircraft carrier
Bon Homme Richard off the coast of Japan in 1945 and was in the occupation
force at Yokosuka. After finishing high school and graduating from Dayton
Art Institute in Ohio, Winters parlayed a local humor contest into
features on the Jack Parr, Steve Allen, and Gary Moore television shows
and success in films and as a writer.

The authors also include brief essays on a number of Corps-related topics:
Parris Island, Saipan, Camp Pendleton, Peleliu, Okinawa, Camp Elliott, and
"Learning Japanese." The four appendices also provide enlightening
information. "A Few More Good Men" lists 36 other actors who served in
the USMC - quite a few comedians - from Don Adams to Burt Young, with
surprises such as Drew Cary, Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), and former
"presidential candidate" Pat Paulsen, to the not so surprising television
and cinema actors Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H), Glenn Ford, Scott Glenn (The
Right Stuff, 1983), Warren Oates, and Bo Svenson. James Whitmore is also
on this list but your reviewer wishes that he had been accorded a full
profile -- could anyone forget "Mac" in Leon Uris's Marine Corps classic
film Battle Cry (1955)? A second appendix, "Lillian Russell and Women in
the Marines" documents World War I Recruiting Sergeant Russell and traces
the history of women in Corps through 1997, noting that Marine second
lieutenant Sarah Deal became the first woman naval aviator in 1995. (What
ever happened to Ensign Casey "Sugar Britches" Seeger from the 1982 film
An Officer and a Gentleman who wanted to "fly jets"? She must have washed
out.) Another addition is "The Swinging Sounds of Bob Crosby's Bands"
profiles George Robert "Bob" Crosby, band director of the Fifth Marine
Division in the South Pacific, 1944-1945. Lastly, "Entertaining the
Troops includes 21 images and captions illustrating Hollywood stars who
assisted or visited the troops - from Marion Davies in World War I through
Charlton Heston in Vietnam. Mary Pickford, Joe E. Brown, Gary Cooper,
Randy Scott, Danny Kaye, Jane Russell, Bob Hope, Martha Raye, and even
John Wayne are among these luminaries.

The book is well written and very entertaining, and the biographies are
compelling, often revealing little-known facts, and are accompanied by
many never-before-published photographs, making the volume a worthy
companion to Stars in Blue as another "Who's Who" in Hollywood and the
USMC. A trip to the videotape rental store will be in order for some film
buffs, but scholars of military history will find much to enjoy and to


[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are those of the author
and not of his employer or any other federal agency.]

This review is copyrighted (c) 1999 by H-Net and the
Popular Culture and the American Culture Associations.
It may be reproduced electronically for educational or
scholarly use. The Associations reserve print rights
and permissions. (Contact: P.C.Rollins at the following
electronic address: Rollinspc@aol.com---US Marines, 1963-66)

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Dick G
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Stars In Khaki

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October 23 2002, 9:51 AM 

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Richard Roberts
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Hugh O'Brien

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October 23 2002, 3:29 PM 

I have coffee with a retired 2 stare AF general several times a week.
He went through boot camp with O'Brian.
He was a great intertainien even then. DIs from other platoons used to come in and watch his card tricks and BS.
Regards, RR

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