The cast and crew of Combat! were a congenial bunch. Though not all the actors were close friends who
socialized after hours together, they all were friendly and have developed lifelong
relationships. That feeling of camaraderie was extended to the guest stars.
At the 1996 Combat! reunion, the actors reminisced about the family feeling on the set. Jack
Hogan said, "There was something macho about the show, everyone would love to do
Pierre Jalbert recalls, "One of our great pleasures was, on Friday night, we'd
say to the Assistant Director, 'Who's coming next week?' meaning, who's the
guest star. We were installed, so we didn't have any anxiety. Our game was to
make the guest star as comfortable as we could. Invite him in our trailer and put
him on — put 'em in a barrel. As Peabody would say, we'd throw a bone on the
table to see if they would go with it."
"We'd all have our director's chair," said Jack Hogan. "We'd sit around
between shots and role play. One of us would be the psychiatrist and we'd have
different roles and discuss world situations, but you couldn't keep a straight face."
"That's how we'd entertain ourselves, while the guests would entertain us,"
said Pierre. "You must understand we respected these guys, these guys had
reputations, they were stars."
"And we were the show to be on," added Rick Jason. "And they were happy to be
Part of what made the set so pleasant was a fabulous caterer. "Millie catered
the food," says Tom Lowell. "I started the show at 165 pounds. I weighed 187
when I left the show two years later." Conlan gained about thirty pounds. Millie
was wife to a grip and started cooking for Gene Autrey's films. Rick met her at
ZIV as she catered out of the back of a station wagon for the "Bat Masterson"
series. Rick arranged for Millie to cater Combat!
Georg Fenady also enjoyed the cooking. "May and Millie, who were our caterers,
were unbelievable. They'd lay out a banquet every day. Ours was the only show
that, during the hiatus, they'd lose weight. During the season they'd gain
The actors were happy to be associated with the series, and with Vic Morrow.
"As we relaxed into our parts and the show took off," says Rick Jason, "I
discovered his sense of humor. It was quite dry. Quite often, while shooting a scene,
he'd throw an ad lib at me to see if I was listening. The first time he did
it, I just stared at him and the director yelled, 'Cut!' After that, realizing
what he was doing, I'd throw an ad lib back at him, and we'd do this for six or
seven lines (all in character). Sometimes we could hear crew members stifling
laughs. Our script supervisor was going crazy, riffling through the script for
pages he thought he might be missing. Eventually, he'd whisper to the director
that what we were saying wasn't in the script. 'CUT!' he'd shout. 'C'mon fellas,
we have a lot of stuff to shoot today,' or something to that effect. I
understand a lot of those were printed as out-takes and saved on a special reel by our
head editor. I have no idea where they are, or if they still exist.
"You know Vic hated firearms," continued Rick. "Guns of any kind. He could
also break me up any time he chose; a very funny man, he was. One rare afternoon
we were wrapping early, perhaps about 4:00 pm. I had a couple of shotguns in
back of my station wagon, so I said to him, 'Hey, wanna go shoot some skeet?' He
said, 'Nah, I can't stand to kill clay.' He made me laugh."
In an issue of TV Collector, Dick Peabody said, "Vic was an extremely generous
guy and he shared everything he had. His motor home (was) the best dressing
room, so that was our clubhouse. And he got ABC to keep each of us stocked with
our favorite brand of liquor for five years . . . Vic was the most misunderstood
person in the world, very shy guy, he wasn't good around large groups. He
appeared one way to people who knew him only casually, and he was an entirely
different person to those who knew him well. He had, probably, the wildest sense of
humor of anyone I've ever known."
To break the monotony of filming, Vic came up with the idea of a jazz band.
"We were just goofing off," says Pierre Jalbert. "You know, after six years, from
six o'clock in the morning until maybe sometimes twelve at night, you get a
little tired of reading and playing or goofing off. So we had to find something
to do . . . sometimes we had a six o'clock call at the studio, and many times we
wouldn't work until four o'clock in the afternoon. But you were paid, so you
had to be there." Vic had always wanted to play the saxophone."All of a sudden,
Vic said, why don't we get some instruments and try to play. Of course, nobody
knows how to play. So we went to a music store very close to the studio. He
bought a saxophone. I used to play a little piccolo, a little 25-cent piccolo. And
he said that wasn't good enough. So I bought a flute. Somebody else had a
trumpet . . . we'd get on the piano and one of us on the drums and then we would
tape whatever came out that we used to call music. I still have those tapes on
the old quarter-inch. And those sections, there are moments that it sounds pretty
damn good. But we used to roll on the floor with all that. We were like a
bunch of kids. We used to call that our musicales."
Tom Lowell says, "Nobody ever threw a temper tantrum, as far as the players
were concerned, the actors on the set. There were little things that went on
regarding dressing rooms and this and that, and little snit fits every once in
awhile. It was never one actor against another, it was usually the actors against
the front office."
Friendly rivalry developed for screen time. With six actors vying for the
attention of the camera, each would develop tricks to be noticed in their scenes.
They all tried to personalize their costumes to make them distinctive.
"Bernard McEveety caught me," says Tom Lowell. "He was a wonderful director.
He was given those kind of scripts that were always very action-filled and we
all had one lines and you know, you pop in there, and come down on one knee and
everybody would be sitting around saying 'Where are the Krauts?' 'They're over
there' 'Okay, let's go.' And that's it. ... Everyone is looking for camera time,
you know, everybody's always doing little schticks to try to get themselves
noticed. One day we came into this little clearing, and it was a close shot on
all five of us sitting there, and I turn and took my helmet off — all the other
guys are doing schtick, looking around, you know — I took my helmet off and
turned right toward the camera and Bernie stopped, said, 'Cut! Tom, the Krauts are
Dick Peabody used his height to good effect. "I used to bump into things. Any
opportunity to bump my head on a low doorway, I would do it — a kind of a
schtick that would be useful to gain attention. Though I was probably the most
schtick-free actor on the show. Mostly because I didn't know if I could handle the
schtick very well. I remember in Support Your Local Sheriff, Walter Brennan and Gene Evans and I are sitting at a table in a bar and all
three of us have drinks in front of us. And Brennan and Gene Evans are, from
time to time, taking a sip out of their shots. And I didn't touch my glass,
because I didn't know if I could remember exactly at what point that I picked up the
glass and took a sip of it, you know. So, I decided I'm gonna play it safe and
not touch that glass. You know, most actors, give 'em a prop and they'll go
crazy with it. But I had this strange kind of ego that nobody — I think Vic was
the only person who understood this, I don't think any of the production people
at Combat! knew — they thought that I was just too insecure to do anything. Only Vic
knew that the reason I didn't feel any compulsion to play with props or move
around or scratch my nose, as actors will do, or any of those attention-getting
things, because my ego told me that I didn't have to. That my presence there was
"[Littlejohn's] character sort of evolved. Part of it just came out of my
natural awkwardness. I think all of our characters evolved. I don't think they were
set to begin with. Saunders was not the same Sergeant Saunders he was at the
beginning. There was a tremendous evolution. In all of us."