The Private War on Lot 2
June 15 - 21, 1963
Copyright 1963 by TV Guide.
(Scanned from the collection of Rick Jason)
The attraction of Combat the hour-long war show which,
unlike the ill-fated Gallant Men, has been picked up for another season
would sometimes seem to be based on the clash of opposites. The film-making team
responsible for the show has held such diverse opinions of how the war should be treated
that the battle has often appeared to be taking place not so much in Normandy as in the
front office. Indeed, even the show's two stars, Vic Morrow and Rick Jason, have seemed at
times to be locked up in noisy battles of their own very different personalities.
Morrow, a product of the Bronx, is intense, brooding, deadly serious
a Method actor personified. Jason, a New York stockbroker's son, is a likable
poseur who likes to play movie star.
On the set, while Morrow broods, Jason holds court. Morrow's director's
chair is covered with tattered yellow canvas on which is rather dimly painted "Vic
Morrow." Jason's name is resplendently fashioned in hand-tooled leather.
Morrow whips around town in a small Morgan sports car that needs washing.
Jason has on order a new Mark X Jaguar.
Morrow will argue with the director on the basis of character in relation
to scene. Jason is concerned strictly with him own image.
Morrow drinks gin. Jason sips cocktails. Morrow is a rumpled man of
rumpled mood, married to a journeyman actress, Barbara Turner. Jason is a professional
enthusiast whose enthusiasms range from coking to karate (the "in" form of
Judo); from tropical fish to his new wife, Jutta, a former Miss Germany.
Morrow likes to spend his off-hours writing musical comedy with composer
Elmer Bernstien, directing little theater and making pickup film.
Surprisingly, desite all the differences, the two actors have an
instinctive liking for each other.
The tome of the relationship was set the first time they met at
4:30 a.m., the first morning of shooting. The company, uncoffee-ed and chilled to the
bone, was about to leave for Malibu for the landing sequences in a studio station wagon.
Everybody piled in except Jason who, buffing up his nails on the lapel of his
battle-soiled combat jacket, said he thought he'd wait for the limousine. "You've
gotta but I mean you've really gotta love a guy like that," says
Morrow. "Vic's a helluva guy and a helluvan actor," says Jason.
Not only do they dig each other," says a crew member incredulously,
"they love the show. It helps."
And Combat has needed all the help it could get. Considering the
constantbickering in management, it is a wonder that there is any show left at all. In the
beginning, Selig Seligman, the executive
producer, onetime Nuremberg Trial lawyer and old friend of ABC network chief Leonard
Goldenson, hired Robert ("Battleground") Pirosh to make a pilot. Pirosh turned out a
film which was later to be described by his successors as "The Rover Boys in
When Pirosh wisely retreated to the comparative safety of the movie wars,
Seligman replaced him with Robert Blees, the
first permanent producer, and Bob Altman, the first
writer-director, both distinguished, if controvesial, alumni of the notorious Fabian Bus
Tension began to develop almost immediately. Morrow was an actor of some
reputation who had first come into prominence in 1955 as the knife-wielding juvenile
delinquent in "The Blackboard Jungle" and he was expected to dominate the
action. Jason, it seemed, had pulled a surprise. Despite numerous movie roles and a fling
as star of a syndicated TV series (The Case of the Dangerous Robin) he was a
relatively unknown quantity. Yet the mail response after the early episodes of Combat
indicated that Jason has scored an unexpected hit.
Subsequently, Jason had been given a segment called "Escape to Nowhere" in which Morrow did
not figure at all. It turned out to be a personal triumph for Jason. ABC put out ads for
the show which failed to mention Morrow. Morrow began to fume inwardly as only an actor
Blees quickly pushed in a segment called "Cat and Mouse" which performed a similar
function for Morrow. Vic was fine in it. Unfortunately, coming as it did right on top of
"Escape," it passed virtually unnoticed.
The tension around the set heightened as the production team began to
differ on concept. Blees and Altman wanted to get away from the platoon to tell individual
stories. But Seligman preferred to stick close to the troops, vetoing stories abot
anything which took the action away from that endless succession of French villages which
were systematically demolished by his crack team of explosive experts.
"We shot up Lot 2 [at MGM where the series is filmed] pretty
good," says Morrow wryly. "Then moved on to Lot 3. When we get through
decimating this well, I figure the Thalberg Building is next."
The MGM administration building was indeed rocking. One particularly
bitter fight developed when Seligman saw the script of "Escape to Nowhere."
"You can't shoot this," Altman reports him as saying. "Our guys surrender
in the first reel." [Webmaster's note: the episode most likely
referred to here is the Altman-directed episode "Survival,"
not "Escape to Nowhere." Survival opens with a surrender, you never see
anyone surrendering in Escape.]
Altman shot the script anyway. "Somebody had to havea point of
view," he explains today. "Selig wanted action. I wanted to do the war stories
you couldn't do in 1946."
Though "Cat and Mouse" managed to preserve Morrow's and Jason's
regard for each other, it did not cool the production situation any. It was a story of the
futility of war, a Kind of petit "Grand Illusion." It took Morrow and another
sergeant (played by Albert Salmi) on a dangerous mission to obtain vital information
behind enemy lines. They sacrifice human life to get it, including Salmi's. Morrow returns
to find that the attack is now in another sector and the information is useless.
Seligman's objections rttled chandeliers all the way to Santa Monica. Blees was the first
There followed an assortment of interim producers Altman; Dick
Maibaum, an old movie hand; Bert Kenedy, whose real talent lay in writing; and the
presentincumbent, Gene Levitt, a reformed writer pressed into service at the last minute.
Thus Selig became a kind of a traffic cop directing the administrative talent in and out
of offices, while cutting off the press when it inquired about his show's troubles
with a curt "No comment."
Yet one has to hand it to Seligman. His show is, by dint of is renewal for
next season, a success. But the victory may yet prove to be Pyrrhic. With no one quite sure
who will be coming out those swinging doors next, a certain unrest and apprehension for
the future has set in.
"It's like this crazy ship, see?" says Morrow. "Half the
time the sails are on cockeyed and you're never quite sure who's going to try to put 'em
on next. But the wind it's blowing fine."
Combat! Collectible Books
Combat! TV Series Pictures and Posters
COMBAT Photos From Steve Schmidt
WWII Toys - World War II Toys
Combat! Gum Cards