14 November 2019 | boblipton
A Bottle Of Scotch
Korea, 1950: the Chinese have just joined the war. John Payne's company of marines is ordered to march parallel to the main force, covering their retreat to the sea. It's a gloomy, snowy fighting retreat, no walk in the sun.
Allan Dwan's 402nd is a tough war movie shot in the wintery Sierra Nevada, with a bottle of Scotch whiskey linking back to San Francisco, where Payne's girl, Mona Freeman gave him the bottle in 1942, telling him to save it for an important occasion. It's an important bit of relief, providing some emotions to counterpoint the tough fighting scenes.
Both Payne and Dwan were near the ends of their big-screen careers. Dwan would make five more movies through 1961. Payne four more over the next couple of years, and an outlier in 1968. Payne's career had begun in the middle of the 1930s, and for a decade or so, he played the handsome leading man, often in Fox musicals starring Betty Grable. In the latter half of the 1940s, he had moved into tough-guy roles, first in film noir, then in war movies as the increasingly grizzled veteran. In this one, he has a mix of half-misfits to lead, under conditions that cut his company to a couple of dozen wounded and exhausted men; the actors certainly look the parts, including Peter Graves as a lieutenant, Chuck Conners as his leading sergeant.