RED BALL EXPRESS 1952
This Universal International production, is about a lesser known part of the battle for France after D-Day. After slogging it out with the German Army in Normandy for 6 weeks. The Allies have broken out of the bridgehead and are pursuing the Germans across France. The British and Canadians battle north towards Antwerp and its vital port. The Americans give chase across France to the retreating Germans. Until the port at Antwerp is captured and put into service, the further the Army advances, the further the supplies must travel to reach the front.
The RED BALL EXPRESS is the story of the men who fixed the supply issue. The Army rounded up as many trucks as possible (over 5,000) along with drivers and had the supplies moving 24/7.
Jeff Chandler is a Lt. in charge of a small part of the Red Ball Express. He was a truck driver in civilian life. His men include, Charles Drake, Bubber Johnson, Hugh O'Brian, Davis Roberts, Jack Kelly, Sidney Poitier and Alex Nicol. There is tension right from the start between unit Sgt, Nicol and Chandler. The two know each other from the States. Nicol, also a trucker, blames Chandler for his brother's death in a truck crash.
The trucks are loaded and sent off on the 200 plus mile trip to the front outside Paris. The men are warned to keep their weapons handy, as they could run into pockets of German troops along the route. This happens and men are killed. There is a brisk firefight and the convoy moves on.
Now, being a 1950's film, the makers throw in some female types. There is a pair of Red Cross workers, Cindy Garner, Judith Braun, as well as French lass, Jacqueline Duval.
The trucks are manned by two man crews that spell each other during the trip. Once offloaded, they head back to the beach outside Cherbourg. More supplies, then back on the road to the front. A lack of sleep soon causes a number of wrecks. Tempers grow short as the men start to get on each other's nerves. Inflaming matters is Nicol who is always crapping on commanding officer, Chandler.
The men though, take a shine to Chandler after several incidents where he defends his men against complaints from higher ranks. He tells them that his men are beat and need a break.
Things smooth out as more drivers are added to the RED BALL EXPRESS. This allows the men to get time off to get some sleep, not to mention flirt with the Red Cross females.
The group is at the front on another supply run, when they are asked to make a dangerous detour through the German lines. They are to supply a unit of tanks that has been cut off after running out of fuel, The trucks are driven right through the middle of a burning French village in order to make it to the tankers. The fuel is delivered and the tanks can continue their advance. Chandler even manages to rescue Nicol from a burning truck.
This is a decent mid budget actioner that was directed by the soon to be famous helmsman, Budd Boetticher. He does good work here keeping up a quick pace which only slows when the women are involved. Boetticher would score with a string of excellent westerns starring Randolph Scott. These include, RIDE LONESOME, THE TALL T, COMMANCHE STATION, WESTBOUND, BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE, DECISION AT SUNDOWN and 7 MEN FROM NOW.
The actual RED BALL EXPRESS was about 75% African American. These men were drawn from a various non-combat roles and sent into action as drivers. The men showed that they were just as capable of fighting and dying as anyone else.