Though not one of Bogey’s best films, “Battle Circus” bears a number of distinctions. It is, as it turned out, one of his very last movies, and one of the few war films in which he actually wears a military uniform. “Battle Circus” is also the only MGM film Bogart had made; most of his films, especially his good ones in the 1940s (“Casablanca”), were produced at Warner.
Bogart’s Major Jeb Webbe, the commanding officer of a medical unit during the Korean War, runs his operation by the book, though occasionally he succumbs to sensitive compassion—and the bottle.
When nurse Lt. Ruth McCara (June Allyson, one of MGM’s most popular stars in the 1950s) shows up, he is initially irritated by her foolhardiness and by what he sees as excessive softness misplaced idealism.
Predictably, opposites attract and the two fall in love. Bogart gets a number of drinking scenes, an opportunity to redeem himself (and get rid of all the alcohol), and evenhave one or two romantic scenes with June Allyson, though she is not the type of star who’s suitable for him (she’s too saccharine and sentimental, and smiles a lot), like Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, or Ida Lupino.
Keenan Wynn plays a scene-stealing part as the camp’s wheeler-dealer, a character that would be further developed in Altman’s” sharper 1970 satire, “M*A*S*H,” also set during the Korea War.
Bogart liked the then writer-director Richard Brooks, whose liberal politics were close to his.
Running time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Released: March 6, 1953
DVD: March 7, 2000
Humphrey Bogart as Maj. Jeb Webbe
June Allyson as Lt. Ruth McCara
Keenan Wynn as Sgt. Orvil Statt
Robert Keith as Lt. Col. Hillary Whalte.
William Campbell as Capt. John Rustford
Perry Sheehan as Lt. Lawrence