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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 Local Sheriff."

Combat! episodes:

Read Burt Kennedy's Autobiography:

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.

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Selig J. Seligman
Robert Blees
Georg J. Fenady
Michael Caffey
Burt Kennedy
Bernard McEveety
John Peyser
Robert Pirosh


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File last updated December 21, 2015

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