I just watched a movie that I should have seen many years ago. It's a WWII movie called Hell is for Heroes that came out in 1962. Here's why I should have seen it before now: not only do Bobby Darin and Steve McQueen star in it, but it's written by Robert Pirosh! Ye who read this blog may not know it, but Robert Pirosh is the creator of my favorite show, Combat!. He only wrote the pilot and then left (maybe to make this movie?), but still, he came up with the main concept of a show about American GIs in France.
Hell is for Heroes has a lot of similarities to Combat!. Bobby Darin's character, "Corby," is basically a skinnier version of Braddock...the Italian scrounger/conman/comic relief. Steve McQueen's "Reese" is Saunders all crabby and no cuddly...he's blond, he got busted down from a higher rank, he has lots of combat experience. Fess Parker's character "Sgt. Pike" is a combination of Sgt. Saunders and Lt. Hanley: he's got Hanley's tall-dark-and-handsome thing going on, but Saunders's patience and understanding too.
Some of the similarities are more obvious, like using stock footage of artillery units firing exciting large weapons. Oh, and the music for Hell is for Heroes is by the same guy that did the music for Combat!, Leonard Rosenman. But the movie does have the one thing that I've always felt C! lacks (at least, in the eps that I've seen, which admittedly is only about half...): a flamethrower!
One other thing I noticed: the title of the two-part C! ep that's generally considered the finest of the show is extremely close to the title of this film. It could be coincidence, since Robert Pirosh was only involved in the pilot ep. And the two-part ep is in Season 4, so it was made several years after Hell is for Heroes. But the title of that ep is Hills are for Heroes...and both that ep and this movie center around soldiers trying to take a Nazi-held pillbox. Could be coincidence. Or the title could be deliberate homage...I'm not sure. If I find out from any of my C! friends, I'll let you know...