Kings Go Forth
(1958) Following the D-Day invasion allied troops are fighting to remove the Germans from southern France. In one particular unit are a Lieutenant and a Corporal played by Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis. They just happen to both fall in love with the same young girl, an American who grew up in France. And that role went to Natalie Wood. Well, that was enough to keep me interested.
The movie was based on a 1956 novel of the same name by Joe David Brown. According to Wikipedia Brown was one of the first men to parachute into Normandy for the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion. In Kings Go Forth there was a racial conflict that might not mean much today but obviously did in 1958 to the author who hailed from Alabama. Sinatra alludes to it in the trailer (see below.) I haven’t read the book but an Amazon reviewer has sparked an interest: “ … true to some of the morons in Hollywood who changed the story’s ending, the picture didn’t have the true impact of the book.”
This was one of my favorite Frank Sinatra/WWII roles. He was humble, sincere, and paying attention … all of which he was not in Never so Few. Frank looked good but Tony was gorgeous. No wonder Natalie couldn’t look away from him. Her character, by the way, reminded me of the one she played three years later in Splendor in the Grass, the movie that really launched her career.
Besides the three stars, the other thing that interested me was watching the guys take off from their battles for a 24 hour leave on the French Riviera. I’ve read that this was called the Champagne Campaign, and if you want to take a tour of the sites yourself with the Stephan Ambrose team, you can.
Now, my favorite WWII movie critic, Bosley Crowther with the New York Times, just didn’t like Kings Go Forth. The word he used was “juvenile twaddle.” I always like reading his reviews and I try to contrast what he was thinking then with what I am thinking now.
In 1958 Sinatra, Curtis and Natalie Wood were all well known but now I have the advantage of watching them in the context of what they became.