Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(012) The Celebrity
Guest Star Tab Hunter
Story by Tom Sellers and Art Wallace
Teleplay by Art Wallace
Produced by Robert Blees
First aired 27-Nov-1962 (Episode 8 of Season 1)
The squad is pulled back from the front for a well-deserved rest in the destroyed town
of Avranche. The squad conman, Kelly, discovers that King Companys new replacement
is famous baseball pitcher Del Packer. His squad members are awe struck at having the
baseball star among them, unaware of his crippling fear that he might get a
million-dollar-wound that sends him home and destroys his million-dollar-arm. That fear
causes him to freeze when Saunders orders him to protect a buddys flank, and Billy
winds up paying the price for Dels fears.
ABOUT FILMING THE EPISODE:
Tom Lowell auditioned for Combat! during his lunch break from filming an episode
of "The Twilight Zone." He said, "Theres nothing better for an actor
than to do in makeup and costume. It makes them feel that this guys a working actor,
we dont have to teach him anything. I went over and met with Bob Blees and Burt
Kennedy. I felt this automatic rapport when I walked in, especially with Burt Kennedy.
Burt was a delight to work with, charming man. I just knew that I had the part the minute
I walked out the door. [...] I was Billy Nelson. I was nineteen years old when I
got the part. I was terribly naive, not only about show business but about life in
general. Dick loved to tease me. But he also respected my intellect and the discipline I
had as an actor. We got along famously from day one."
Joby Baker and Tom Lowell
Burt Kennedy, in his first script written for Combat!, redefined the characters
and the series. In "The Celebrity," thought battles feature prominently in the
story, the action and real struggle is within the soul of a man, not on the battlefield.
Del Packer comes to realize that the enemy is himself and his own fear. Hes got a
private war to fight and its not with the Germans. The strong script, aided by
Kennedys deft direction, reveals the dark terror of a new recruit, provides human
details that round out the regular characters, and introduces Billy Nelson into the Squad.
Tab Hunter and Joby Baker shine in this episode about a major-league pitcher terrified
that he'll be maimed for life. This is Joby Bakers second appearance as smart-alecky
This episode provides solid entertainment, acting, and direction throughout and new
insights into the characters. Defining moments include: Saunders reacting to his own
self-doubt and recriminations; Hanleys great PPT (recycling Saunders own PPT
back to him); and the first hints of a charming personal relationship between Littlejohn
and Billy. The show lets the audience learn quite a bit about Billy Nelson: that he has a
kid brother and mother waiting for him at home, that his father died recently (rather odd,
since his father is writing to him the following season in "Bridgehead"), and
that Billy apparently has nine lives. Though his character seems to die in the episode,
the actor had filmed several more episodes as Billy by the time "The Celebrity"
The scene between Saunders and Hanley where the Sergeant confesses to his misjudgment
about Packer captures the essence of the series. In simple, unvarnished words and in words
not said, the fear of men fighting on the front is revealed, fears that a mans
decisions made under fire could cost both his own life and the lives of the men he leads.
The response of the Lt. Hanley, though cold comfort, is the only comfort that war offers.
Tab Hunter, Joby Baker, Tom Lowell
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
Like Saunders opening narration for "Just for the Record," this opening
narration does not work.
The opening montage has a look of being hastily put together, as if the episode ran
short and they needed filler. It includes footage from from "Lost Sheep, Lost
Shepherd," "Far from the Brave," "Battle of the Roses," and
The winery the squad takes at the end of the episode is the same hilltop wreckage where
Grady Long was killed in "Far from the Brave" and used for the destroyed convent
in "Just for the Record."
Why is it night when they leave for the winery and broad daylight when they arrive? That
OP must have been a long walk.
Details about the squad members: If Littlejohn could pick anyone in the world to join
the outfit it would be Rita Hayworth. Saunders saw Packer pitch his first no-hitter.
Pitching last year in the majors, Packer made $40,000 per year. Now making $50 per month
like rest of squad. Packers record: lifetime earned run average of 2.04. He led both
leagues in strike outs and shut outs in 38, 39, 40, and 41 and had five twenty-game
winning seasons out of the last six.
Caje has improper grip on baseball bat in some shots. Canadian-born actor Pierre Jalbert
had never learned to play the American game of baseball and needed to be taught the
A favorite among the ladies for the Saunders shower scene and Caje in that muscle shirt.
Bernard Fox, who played Dr. Bombay on "Bewitched," has a brief non-speaking
role as Billys doctor. Hans Gudegast (aka Eric Braeden) plays the German leading the
attack against the American transport.
Odd that Littlejohn shows no concern for Billy after his wounding and is stoic after
For a change, the squad gets to ride, not walk, as they are part of a convoy heading for
the front after their rest break. Lots of trucks and heavy equipment in this episode.
Nobody checks the winery to make sure all the Germans are dead? Sheesh!
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley e Jalbert as Caje
Steven Rogers as Doc
Guest Star Tab Hunter as Del Packer
Joby Baker as Kelly
Tom Lowell as Billy Nelson
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Virginia Stefan as Nurse
Dennis Robertson as Baker
Tony Mordente as Sgt. Kurawicz
Hollywood Trail Boss:
Behind the Scenes of the Wild, Wild Western
by Burt Kennedy
At RECON '98 (the Combat! cast reunion) we were fortunate to have Combat!
director Burt Kennedy as a guest. He shared great anecdotes of the series and of
Hollywood. Read in this book his experiences as a director in the heydey of the Hollywood
western. The book is as charming and fascinating as the man himself, and gives insight
into the man who defined the character of Sgt. Saunders.
Order Hollywood Trail Boss