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Subject: War Films: The pivotal role of the sergeant rss

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kevin halloran
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In many of my favourite war films it is the sergeant character that performs a pivotal role, stoic, hard but fair, cool under fire. The enlisted men are often a bit flaky and the officers frequently rather hapless if not hopeless.
Favourite portrayals of sergeants are;
James Whitmore in "Battleground"
Gene Evans in "The Steel Helmet"
Frank Lovejoy in "Home of the Brave" - hard to find 1949 movie with Lloyd Bridges set in the Pacific
James Coburn in "Cross of Iron"
Richard Todd in "The Long and the Short and the Tall"
Harry Andrews in "A Hill in Korea"

In short, if you want a good war film make sure you cast the sergeant right.
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Jeff Saxton
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After all, gas can is my middle name. Eh, not really.
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Donnie Wahlberg as 'Carwood Lipton' in "Band of Brothers".
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Etien
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Saving Private Ryan

Sergeant Horvath - Tom Sizemore
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Lee Marvin as (literally) "The Sergeant" in The Big Red One.

Oliver Stone brilliantly took this trope and split it, reflecting a division in the American psyche with TWO sergeants: the good Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe) and the bad Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger), who fight for the soul of the platoon.
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Carl Fung
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We Were Soldiers - 1st Sgt Basil Plumley - Sam Elliott
Sands of Iwo Jima - Sgt. Stryker - John Wayne
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Todd McMurray

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smic wrote:
Saving Private Ryan

Sergeant Horvath - Tom Sizemore


A phenomenal role and job by Sizemore. If his life was just that film role, he would be batting above .400
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Jeff Saxton
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After all, gas can is my middle name. Eh, not really.
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Gary Sweet as 'Gunny' Haney in "The Pacific".
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Rob Stevenson
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Nigel Green as Colour Sergeant Bourne in Zulu.

Interestingly, in reality Frank Bourne was a lot younger than he is portrayed in the film - he was only about 24 at Rorkes Drift, and a few years before he was the youngest person to hold his rank in the army, contrasting rather with the "veteran sergeant" casting.
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Jason Sadler
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Colour Sergeant Bourne from Zulu is a personal favorite depiction of the solid enlisted fellow in the sea of chaos. "Because we're here, lad. Nobody else. Just us."

Barnes from Platoon is another favorite, but for very different reasons. "The only thing that can kill Barnes is Barnes."

Brad "Iceman" Colbert, from Generation Kill, is a great example of the modern ideal for NCOs.

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Etien
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rosie_187 wrote:
Nigel Green as Colour Sergeant Bourne in Zulu.

[ImageID=wargamingmiscellanybackup.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/bayonetcharge08-04-13-031.jpg]

Interestingly, in reality Frank Bourne was a lot younger than he is portrayed in the film - he was only about 24 at Rorkes Drift.


Here you go:
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Rob Stevenson
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Thanks for that

I also like the ensemble of the Sergeant's mess in Guns at Batasi:

Percy Herbert, David Lodge, John Meillon, Bernard Horsfall, Graham Stark and Richard Attenborough as the RSM.

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Hunga Dunga
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R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket.

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Brian Korreck
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John Finn as Sgt. Mulcahy in "Glory"
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Andy Daglish
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BeatPosse wrote:
Brad "Iceman" Colbert, from Generation Kill, is a great example of the modern ideal for NCOs.

What about the grooming standard?

I recall Col. Sgt. Muir [RM] in An Ungentlemanly Act. Very rough moustache.
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Jeremy Renner as Sergeant First Class William James in The Hurt Locker.

One of my favorite contemporary war movie sergeants -- the psychologically complex, f'd-up anti-hero.

Sergeants are usually that Font of Combat Wisdom. Perhaps their depictions reflect the wars they fight, or what the creative team wants to "say" about "the war."
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Hunga Dunga
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John Banner as Sgt. Schultz.

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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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I suspect this expresses a fundamental building block in human social organizations. The Romans had much the same stories about centurions.

(And when I think of sergeants, the first that comes to mind is Sgt. Rock.)
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Phil Garland
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William Hartnell as Sgt Fletcher in The Way Ahead
Burt Lancaster as 1SG Warden in From Here to Eternity
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Brian Train
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All good examples!
An early role for Daniel Craig was The Trench, where he played a sergeant just before the start of the Somme:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0161010/

Brian
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John New
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Sergeants Peachy Carnehan and Daniel Dravot:



And Sergeants MacChesney, Cutter, and Ballantine:



And that is all you need to know
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Brian Train
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Sphere wrote:
I suspect this expresses a fundamental building block in human social organizations. The Romans had much the same stories about centurions.

(And when I think of sergeants, the first that comes to mind is Sgt. Rock.)


The size of human tribal and social organizations seem to coalesce at around 8-15 for an "in-group" unit with close relationships suitable for hunting, working or a slightly extended family.
Hence a section or squad of 10-12, under a sergeant.

The maximum size for an "outer group" unit in which everyone knows everyone personally and can work together easily under the direction of one person is 100-150 or so.
Hence a company, under a captain or major and a sergeant-major.
Or a standard centuria, under a centurion (60-80 legionaries plus contubernia to make up 100 or more).
Or a Hundertschaft found in ancient German warbands.
Ore the sotnia of Ukrainian and Russian armies in the past.

and so forth...

Brian
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John New
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Sphere wrote:
I suspect this expresses a fundamental building block in human social organizations. The Romans had much the same stories about centurions.

(And when I think of sergeants, the first that comes to mind is Sgt. Rock.)


Given that a Roman century consisted of about 80 men, I'd always considered a centurion to be closer to a captain, than a sergeant.

And who doesn't love Sergeant Rock?

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J.D. Hall
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blueshark wrote:
[q="Sphere"]And who doesn't love Sergeant Rock?



Sergeants have key roles in movies because they straddle the two spheres of the military -- enlisted and officer. As a non-commissioned officer, the sergeant is frequently in the company of both. So he can swing between both worlds and emulate the rough edges of the enlisted and the polish of the officer.

And Sgt. Rock!!!! I still have 30 of those comics lovingly stored away. Plus a couple of "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos."
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Bob Zurunkel
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Telly Savalas as Big Joe in "Kelly's Heroes"; he was the voice of reason.
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Scott Gillispie
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Nice movie topic thread!

A couple of counterexamples - my starting point in war movies was the two Cornelius Ryan epics - The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far.

1) In TLD, Almost all of the POV characters are either officers (Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, John Wayne, Richard Todd, Peter Lawford) or privates (Red Buttons, Robert Wagner, Sean Connery). Looking at the very long cast list on the Wikipedia article, there are very few NCO characters listed.

2) ABTF is even more heavily biased towards the officer corps; with the very prominent exception of James Caan's character (who is a classic backbone of the army sergeant), there are basically no enlisted man characters.

I would assume these two cases are probably more due to Ryan's interview sources than anything else.

Anyone want to propose a taxonomy of types of war movies sergeants?
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