Darby’s Rangers (1958): Wellman’s War Film, Starring James Garner

Darby’s Rangers is a war film starring James Garner as William Orlando Darby, who organized and led the first units of the Army Rangers during World War II.

Darby’s Rangers

Original poster

William Wellman shot the movie in black and white to match wartime stock footage. The film was based on the 1945 book Darby’s Rangers: An Illustrated Portrayal of the Original Rangers by Major James J. Altieri, a vet of Darby’s force.

When the Army decides to form an elite strike force similar to the British Commandos, Major William Darby (Garner) gets command of the 1st Ranger Battalion, to be made entirely from volunteers.

On June 19, 1942 the 1st Ranger Battalion was sanctioned, recruited, and began training with British commando units in Dundee, Scotland.

Darby and Master Sergeant Saul Rosen (Jack Warden), who narrates the film, select men for training in Scotland by British Commando veterans. Darby tells his men the Commandos are the best soldiers in the world, but in time the Rangers will be.

The Americans are quartered in Scottish homes and some of the Rangers pair off with local femmes: Rollo Burns (Peter Brown) with Peggy McTavish (Venetia Stevenson), daughter of fearsome Scottish Commando instructor Sergeant McTavish (Torin Thatcher), and vagabond Hank Bishop (Stuart Whitman) with Wendy Hollister (Joan Elan).


Directed by William Wellman
Produced by Martin Rackin
Written by Guy Trosper, based on Darby’s Rangers: An Illustrated Portrayal of the Original Rangers
Narrated by Jack Warden
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography William H. Clothier
Edited by Owen Marks
Distributed by Warner

Release date: February 12, 1958

Running time: 121 min.


TCM showed the movie on May 29, 2021.