Director for TV Series Combat!
Director Robert Altman claims credit for forming the character of the TV series Combat!
But I disagree. Altman established the visual look and feel of the show: the style. But I
believe we owe the heart and the soul of both Saunders and Combat! to the
writer/director Burt Kennedy. For Altman, Saunders was a living martyr to war--a perpetual
victim. It was under Kennedy that Saunders developed his moral integrity. Kennedy's
Saunders searched for something larger and greater to come out of the tragedy and death
that surrounded him. With Kennedy, even when Saunders was not in control of his situation,
was always in control of his own soul, and ultimately, his own destiny.
The three scripts written by Kennedy ("Far From the Brave," "The Walking
Wounded," and "Next In Command") deal with the theme of soldiers coming to
grips with life and death. The three episodes show men walking the edge, determining for
themselves whether they will be destroyed or strengthened by war. Kennedy's strongpoint is
"character" and character-interaction. His shows shine best when dealing with
internal conflict and the themes of duty and friendship. His scripts cemented the
relationship between Billy and Littlejohn and gave Combat! fans what we lovingly call the
standard Saunders' PPT (Patented Pep Talk).
Kennedy enjoyed an active career as a director of Westerns for both television and the
movies. He directed often on "How The West Was Won" and "The Wild, Wild
West", directing that show's two TV reunion films. He also directed for "Magnum
P.I." For the big screen he wrote and directed "The Train Robbers", starring John
Wayne, among many other films. He often cast Dick Peabody in his films, including
"Sidekicks" and "Support Your
Read Burt Kennedy's Autobiography:
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.
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