Battle Cry (1955): One of WWII Ambitious, if Not Great, Films, Directed by Raoul Walsh, Starring Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Ann Francis, Dorothy Malone

Adapted by famed writer Leon Uris (“Exodus”) from his own novel, Battle Cry centers on a group of World War II marines, from Basic Training to Battlefield in the South Pacific.

Grade B

Battle Cry
Battle Cry DVD cover.jpeg

Battle Cry DVD cover

Van Heflin is cast as the Major Sam Huxley, a man who knows that his men are spoiling for a real fight.  Aldo Ray plays Andy Hookens, a tough leatherneck who falls in love with Nancy Olson.

James Whitmore as Sgt. Mac (who also narrates), Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone (typecast as a woman on the prowl), and Raymond Massey co-star.

The film is vigorously directed by pro Raoul Walsh, overcoming some of the problems of the screenplay, which was compromised by the censors of the Production Code due to the raunchy talk and realistic violence which prevailed in Uris’ book.

Extremely popular at the box-office, Battle Cry was the year’s fourth top-grossing picture.

Composer Max Steiner’s musical score earned him an Oscar nomination (see below).

Narrative Structure


In January 1942, as young men respond to the call for Marine Corps recruits, All-American athlete Danny Forrester (Tab Hunter) boards a train in Baltimore, Maryland, parting from family and girlfriend.

The train picks up other recruits en route to Marine training camp near San Diego.  They represent a diverse gallery of types: womanizer lumberjack Andy Hookans, bookish Marion Hodgkiss, Navajo Indian Shining Lighttower, troublemaking “Spanish” Joe Gomez, Justus E. McQueen of Arkansas, Speedy of Texas, and Philadelphian Ski eager to escape the slums, but upset to leave girlfriend Susan.

After arduous training of boot camp, the men are accepted into radio school and assigned to battalion commanded by Maj. Sam “High Pockets” Huxley. The Marines get rigorous instruction from Sgt. Mac, and on weekends go to San Diego.

In a sleazy bar, Ski drowns his sorrows in alcohol and women to forget Susan’s marriage to another man. Mac and his fellow Marines go to the bar, and get in a brawl with others.

Danny is saved from excessive drinking by married USO worker Elaine Yarborough, and begins relationship with her. Mac, noticing change in his performance, arranges for his call to Kathy long-distance. Mac and Huxley grant him furlough to Baltimore, during which Danny elopes with Kathy.

The meditative Marion, who hopes to write about his wartime experiences, meets the beautiful and mysterious Rae on the Coronado ferryboat. Although she seems to admire him, she will not share details about her life. But Marion finds out her real identity, when she shows up with B-girls at party for the regiment’s orders to ship out.

The men are sent to Wellington, New Zealand. Andy, who respects no woman, tries to woo the married Pat Rogers. After Pat tells him her husband died in action, Andy apologizes.

Pat invites the reformed Andy to visit her parents’ farm, where they agree to remain friends only. After Christmas, the Sixth Regiment, known as “Huxley’s Harlots,” is sent to Guadalcanal after the invasion to “mop up” a resistant band of Japanese soldiers.

The battle-weary men, except for Ski (who was killed by sniper) return to New Zealand, where Pat nurses the malaria-stricken Andy.

To restore the men’s stamina, Huxley orders them to compete in brutal 60-mile hike, blistered and near collapse, but in record-breaking time.

Huxley is frustrated when they are not ordered to Tarawa, but held back to clear out Japanese resistance. With Huxley’s assistance, Andy and Pat marry, but when the men are to ship out, Andy considers deserting to stay with Pat. Instead of arresting him, Huxley asks Pat to convince Andy to return voluntarily.

At Tarawa, Huxley’s men fulfill their mission, but Marion and others are killed. Huxley receives word that other battalions are being moved out for combat. Huxley risks court-martial to convince Gen. Snipes that his battalion is wasted.

Snipes assigns the battalion to the invasion of Red Beach, the most dangerous mission in the Saipan campaign. The men suffer heavy casualties from artillery fired above them. Huxley is killed, and Danny and Andy are injured. However, the battalion holds out until Navy destroyer pins down the Japanese, freeing the Marines to complete the mission.

While recuperating from loss of a leg, Andy gets demoralized to communicate with Pat or his friends, but Mac makes him realize that Pat still loves him. Andy returns to her and his baby son after completing rehabilitation. Danny is also given a medical discharge and returns to Baltimore, accompanied by Mac, who is visiting families of men killed in action.

Symmetrical Ending

The story ends in Baltimore, where Danny reunites with the waiting Kathy.

A new cycle begins as fresh recruits board the train.

Films of Similar Interest:

From Here to Eternity, 1953


Van Heflin as Major-Lieutenant Colonel Sam “High Pockets” Huxley, Com Officer, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment
Aldo Ray as Private First Class Andy Hookens
Nancy Olson as Pat Rogers-Mrs. Pat Rogers
James Whitmore as Master Technical Sergeant Mac
Tab Hunter as Private First Class-Corporal Danny Forrester
Mona Freeman as Kathy, Danny’s Girl-Mrs. Danny Forrester
Dorothy Malone as Mrs. Elaine Yarborough, USO Manager
Raymond Massey as Major General Snipes
Anne Francis as Rae, Party Girl
William Campbell as Private First Class “Ski” Wronski
John Lupton as Private-Corporal Marion “Sister Mary” Hotchkiss
Justus E. McQueen (later L. Q. Jones) Private L. Q. Jones
Perry Lopez as Private Joe “Spanish Joe” Gomez
Fess Parker as Private “Speedy”
Willis Bouchey as Mr. Forrester
Jonas Applegarth as Private Lighttower, Navajo Phonetalker
Felix Noriego as Private Crazy Horse, Navajo Phonetalker
Rhys Williams as Pat, Rogers’s Father
Allyn Ann McLerie as Ruby, Waitress in Diner


Directed by Raoul Walsh
Screenplay by Leon Uris, based on Battle Cry, 1953 novel by Leon Uris
Produced by Jack L. Warner, Raoul Walsh
Narrated by James Whitmore
Cinematography Sidney Hickox
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Music by Max Steiner
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: February 2, 1955

Running time: 149 minutes
Box office $8 million (US rentalsO

Oscar Nominations: 1

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Max Steiner

Oscar Awards: None

 Oscar Context:

The Scoring Oscar went to Alfred Newman for the romantic melodrama, “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.”

Released on February  2, 1955

DVD: May 13, 2003