THE BOLD AND THE BRAVE is worth checking out around the 45-minute mark, where Mickey Rooney earned his 1956 Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for a crap game scene that comes off as a little marvel of (possibly partly improvised) naturalism. Most of the rest of the short (84 minutes) WW2 story wobbles from okay to ridiculous. Apart from a absurdly unrealistic final action scene, it’s all a talky character piece about three GIs, notably different in outlook, “somewhere in Italy”.
The script, a first-time effort from Robert Lewin, based on his Army experiences, was also nominated, and it certainly strives to say a lot about cowardice, intolerance and survival choices. Trouble is that Lewis R.Foster’s direction goes clunk, with incident, atmosphere and staging shooting blanks. It starts with a lusty–and really cheesy–title song, written by Rooney & Ross Bagdasarian (aka David Seville of Alvin & the Chipmunks fame). It’s geared to be rousing, but instead of bringing to mind “Battle Cry of Freedom” you’re more likely to flash on “The Sons of Hercules” theme from old muscleman imports.
The Mick also helped with direction, and probably just followed his own instincts. He and co-star Don Taylor, at 36, and Wendell Corey, 42, just don’t make the cut as young soldiers, and the over-the-top work from Taylor, as a virginal fundamentalist “Preacher” with a murder streak–is a bit much. He gets some howler pieces of dialog that even Spencer Tracy would sound bad selling: to refugee-turned-prostitute (he’s too naive to notice) Nicole Maurey he offers “The war must be very difficult for you” and later, alone with her, after visiting a church, ignoring her plunging neckline and ironed-on skirt and asking for buttermilk(?)-–-he manages the clueless “What’ll we do today?” Quello che un difficiente! Maurey, to her credit, has one moving scene where she unloads about her tragic circumstances.
Maybe it was post-Korea fatigue, but along with Taylor’s morally uptight avenger here, all of the seven war movies released that year dealt with psychologically messed up officers—Attack (Eddie Albert, loony), Away All Boats (Jeff Chandler, losing it), Between Heaven And Hell (Broderick Crawford, brutish), D-Day the Sixth of June (Edmond O’Brien, sleazy), The Proud and the Profane (William Holden, hardass), The Rack (Paul Newman, turncoat), and The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (Gregory Peck, tormented). The only relief came from The Teahouse of The August Moon (Glenn Ford, flustered, fumbling and flummoxed). Audiences ducked for safety on TV, with the Nelson’s, Anderson’s and Ricardo’s. This one grossed $4,000,000, hitting 82nd place for the year.