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Combat! Season 1
Combat! Season 2
Combat! Season 3
Combat! Season 4
Combat! Season 5



Season 4
COMBAT! episodes:

[A Day in June]
[Any Second Now]
[Just for the Record]
[The Squad]
[Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherd]
[Forgotten Front]
[Missing In Action]
[Rear Echelon Commandos]
[The Chateau]
[The Prisoner]
[Escape to Nowhere]
[The Celebrity]
[Far from the Brave]
[The Quiet Warrior]
[Cat and Mouse]
[I Swear by Apollo]
[The Walking Wounded]
[The Medal]
[The Volunteer]
[No Time for Pity]
[Next in Command]
[Night Patrol]
[Off Limits]
[No Hallelujahs for Glory]
[Battle of the Roses]
[Hill 256]
[The Sniper]
[One More for the Road]
[High Named Today]
[No Trumpets, No Drums]

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reviews by Jo DavidsmeyerEpisodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets

(012) The Celebrity

* * * 1/2

3.5 bayonets

Guest Star Tab Hunter

Story by Tom Sellers and Art Wallace
Teleplay by Art Wallace
Directed by Burt Kennedy
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 Company’s 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 buddy’s flank, and Billy winds up paying the price for Del’s fears.


Tom Lowell auditioned for Combat! during his lunch break from filming an episode of "The Twilight Zone." He said, "There’s nothing better for an actor than to do in makeup and costume. It makes them feel that this guy’s a working actor, we don’t 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. He’s got a private war to fight and it’s not with the Germans. The strong script, aided by Kennedy’s 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 Baker’s second appearance as smart-alecky Private Kelly.

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; Hanley’s 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" aired.

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 man’s 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


  • 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 "Survival."

  • 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. Packer’s 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 basics.

  • 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 Billy’s 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 Billy’s "death."

  • 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

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Related Reading about Baseball and WWII


POW Baseball in World War II: The National Pastime Behind Barbed Wire by Tim Wolter
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Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield
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Baseball Goes to War by William B. Mead
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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