Lee Marvin as Maj. John Reisman, taciturn and independent U.S. Army officer
England, Spring 1944
Film: The Dirty Dozen
Release Date: June 15, 1967
Director: Robert Aldrich
Tomorrow is the 71st anniversary of the Normandy landings. On June 6, 1944 – now known as D-Day, 156,000 troops from 13 Allied nations conducted the largest seaborne invasion in history, beginning the invasion of German-occupied western Europe that led to the liberation of France, and – eventually – an Allied victory to win the war within a year. Although the Allies failed to achieve their goals on the first day, the tremendous fighting spirit of the soldiers in the face of unbelievable odds led to the foothold needed by the Allies that would catapult them to victory.
Many excellent films have focused on the Normandy landings, including The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan. The Dirty Dozen used a different approach, sending a renegade OSS officer behind the lines with twelve ex-soldier convicts to create chaos for the Nazis and distract them from the upcoming landings. The film, which WWII veteran Lee Marvin had originally dismissed as “just a dummy moneymaker”, has gone on to become a classic piece of badass cinema that even received recognition in Sleepless in Seattle during a scene where Tom Hanks and Victor Garber hilariously ad-lib about what movie could make a man cry:
Jim Brown was throwing these hand grenades down these airshafts. And Richard Jaeckel and Lee Marvin – (begins mock crying) were sitting on top of this armored personnel carrier, dressed up like Nazis… and Trini Lopez… he busted his neck while they were parachuting down behind the Nazi lines…
Gene Hackman as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, rough but dedicated NYPD narcotics detective
Brooklyn, December 1970
Film: The French Connection
Release Date: October 9, 1971
Director: William Friedkin
Costume Designer: Joseph Fretwell III
Car chases have been engrained in American cinema since the early days of the Keystone Kops. As the interest in cars grew, auto manufacturers began highlighting their most innovative products through on-screen action. The James Bond franchise innovated the use of car chases with Goldfinger‘s gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 and a conveniently placed Ford Mustang convertible. The Mustang poked its head out again for the seminal chase in Bullitt as Steve McQueen faced off against a black ’68 Dodge Charger in his Mustang GT-390. After Bullitt, filmmakers began exploring the possibilities of cars on film. New, exciting cars were showcased like the new Dodge Challenger in Vanishing Point to the new Mustang Mach 1 in Diamonds are Forever.
For The French Connection, William Friedkin’s 1971 film based on Robin Moore’s book about intrepid NYPD cops Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, the car chase formula was injected with something new. Rather than the super-cool hero coolly chasing a villain in his super-cool car, the film places its ragged protagonist off-duty cop in an ordinary sedan commandeered from a civilian. Not only that, but this villain isn’t in a car; rather, he has hijacked an elevated train as Popeye is forced to race the train to each stop. Continue reading