Battle Circus (1953): Brooks’ Korean War Romance, Starring Bogart and June Allyson

Richard Brooks wrote and directed this Korean War romantic story, starring Humphrey Bogart (in his only MGM film) and June Allyson.

Bogart plays a surgeon and commander of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) 8666 (“66” in the dialogue) and Allyson is the newly arrived nurse.

Despite their initial handicaps, their love flourishes against a background of war, enemy attacks, death and injury.

Lieutenant Ruth McCara initially experiences a distant welcoming by Bogart’s Major Jed Webbe, the unit’s hard-drinking, no-nonsense chief surgeon.

Jed engages in a helicopter rescue of army casualties while under fire, and Orvil Slatt (Keenan Wynn), a former circus roustabout, is tasked with the constant dismantling and re-pitching of the tent hospital.

Jed is impressed with the risks Ruth takes, and while courting her, he also cautions that he favors a “no strings” relationship. Ruth is warned by the other nurses of Jed’s womanizing ways. When she asks him about his love life, he refuses to answer, and they separate.

When a Korean child needs special care, Ruth asks Jed to perform open-heart operation.  Later on, Ruth disarms a dangerous North Korean soldier with her persuasive words.

Traveling cross-country, Jed sets out on a perilous journey, trying to meet up with the nurses who have already left. In the end, Jed and Ruth are reunited.