Combat! reviews by Jo Davidsmeyer
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(001) A Day in June
Written by Robert Pirosh
Directed by Boris Sagal
First aired 12-18-62(Episode 11 of Season 1)
Rain stalls the American advance through Normandy, allowing Saunders time
to reminisce with the squad about the events leading to D-Day. While waiting
in England for the assault order, raw nerves among the untried troops leads
to fights in the barracks. Braddock is jubilant when he learns he’s won the
platoon’s $800 D-Day by drawing the June 6th date. But his happiness is
brief, when he learns their platoon is in the first wave in the assault.
ABOUT THE EPISODE:
The pilot episode, with a new opener tacker on, was recycled as a flashback
and originally aired as the eleventh episode. In syndication, it’s always
aired first. The new opening features new squad member Kirby, as well as an
uncredited appearance by Tom Skerritt. In the opening dialogue, they mention
that this happened before Hanley got his battlefield commission, explaining
why the Lieutenant is suddenly a Sergeant, but no attempt is made to explain
why Caje has a different name.
Robert Blees derided the pilot as "The Rover Boys in
Normandy," but I think "a Day In June" is a perfect pilot for Combat!
Yes, the episode shows a side of both Saunders and Hanley little seen
elsewhere in the series, but this was their
pre-D-Day personality. As in real-life, the D-Day experience changed them
all — Caje more than anyone else, since he had a total name change after
that day, from "Caddy" Cadron to Paul "Caje" LeMay.
"A Day In June" offers an incredibly tight script by Academy
Award–winning screenwriter Robert Pirosh, great interlacing of original
footage with war newsreels, and a beautiful Omaha Beach recreation. The
pilot captures the indomitable humor, spirit, and bravery of the American
fighting man, along with his fears, failings, and frailty. The scenes in the
barracks in England seem to ring particularly true, having been written by a
man who also had spent bone-chillingly boring and terrifying weeks waiting
for orders that might get everyone killed. Pirosh drew on personal
experience in creating the characters of Caddy and Theo, the Cajun soldiers.
Pirosh's unit in France had two Cajun soldiers. Quiet men who spoke little
and did their jobs well, according to Pierre Jalbert, who played Caddy in
the pilot. "I played my character," says Jalbert, "as someone who did not
like to kill, but who did his job the best way that he could."
FILMING THE PILOT:
Veteran film director Boris Sagal directed the pilot episode. His extensive
list of credits spans three decades. He has directed TV series, TV films,
mini-series, and theatrical releases. A short list includes: "The Man From
U.N.C.L.E.," "Night Gallery," The Thousand Plane Raid, Hauser's Memory,
The Omega Man,
"Rich Man, Poor Man," and "The Awakening Land."
The pilot took six days to shoot, including one day of location shooting
on Zuma Beach, which stood in for Omaha Beach. The stars of the show, Rick
Jason and Vic Morrow, met on the second day of filming. Rick Jason recalls
the excitement he had from the very first, working with Vic. "We rehearse
the scene and this guy gives! I mean, he is playing
the scene. He almost leads me. We start soaring on each other’s characters.
We’re getting energy from each other. And I realize there’s a chemistry . .
. Don’t ask me what it is. Movie makers have been trying to figure it out
since the beginning of film. It was the first indication I had that this
show might just go."
Pierre Jalbert, too, recalls that Vic’s generous acting style and
dedication to his craft was evident from the beginning. "One day we were
having lunch during the pilot and Vic said to me, without being facetious,
‘You really aren’t an actor, are you, Pierre?’ I said, ‘We’re all actors.’
But, to be truthful, I understood his question. I wasn’t a professional
actor, I was and am a professional editor. I’m a technician." Vic told
Pierre that if the series survived, he wanted to direct some episodes. "He
said, ‘Why don’t we exchange knowledge?’ Wasn’t that nice? From then on,
when I had something important to do, like a scene that needed some acting
knowledge, he would take me apart and he taught me the ropes of the job. And
he was a very, very good teacher."
the pilot began filming, the Hollywood Reporter printed an ABC publicity
release about the show that described it as having three stars: Jason,
Morrow, and comedian Shecky Greene. "I seldom read the trade papers, so I
didn’t see it," remembers Rick Jason. "Dick Irving Hyland, my agent, called
and said everything was taken care of. I asked what had been taken care of,
and he explained about the item. And that he had telephoned ABC and reminded
them of my contract. That there was only one other star in the show and
everything was shared equally between us, including (if the pilot sold)
alternate first billing on each segment. I think my only comment was, ‘Okay,
but when am I going to meet Shecky Greene? I’m a fan of his!"
Though the cast formed a quick rapport, many had reservations about the
project. "We were fighting a script so loaded with cliches," says Rick
Jason, "and burdened with stale dialogue and predictable characters, that it
threatened to sink the project. I think Vic thought so, too, although we
didn’t discuss it until almost a year later."
Filming on "A Day in June" finished on December 23, 1961. The wrap party
was held on a sound stage at MGM. By 1:00 am, over 300 people were still
celebrating the successful conclusion of the pilot, when in strutted
executive producer Selig J. Seligman. He thanked everyone for an outstanding
effort and then, according to Rick Jason, proudly announced on the
microphone, "Tonight, at 10:55 pm, you finished your last shot. At exactly
11:00 pm, my wife, Muriel, gave birth to a son. We’re calling him Adam.
Thank you, all."
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
- Unlike other soldiers,
Caje wears a turtleneck.
- This is only instance
where Saunders smokes cigar (he is seen with a cigar in "The
Squad," but never lights up).
- Saunders hits the beach
with an M1 rifle, using
it up to the end of show. In final sequence as he is marching off, he has
appropriated an automatic weapon.
- The platoon wades ashore
in chest deep water, but no one is wet when they hit the beach.
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley
(appears as a Sgt., but still billed as Lt.)
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Shecky Greene as Braddock
Steven Rogers as Doc
Pierre Jalbert as Caddy
Pat Dahl as Hazel
Montell as Marcelle
Harry Dean Stanton as Beecham (billed as ‘Dean Stanton’)
Henry Daniell as Minister
Brad Weston as Lt. Crowley
Max Dommar as Theo
Frankie Ray as Gardello
Jack Hogan (uncredited)
Tom Skerritt (uncredited)
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