Friday, April 13, 2018

"Cease Fire!"

June 1953, near the 38th Parallel. The Korean War has just completed its third year. These men are both U.S. Army soldiers and actors.  They are the cast of the film "Cease Fire!" conceived by Owen Crump and produced by Hal Wallis (whose catalogue would eventually include Elvis films, of all things).

The premise of "Cease Fire" was as startling as it was unique:  to make a feature-length film about a war currently underway, filmed at the actual battle front of that war, using the real-life soldiers as actors.  On top of that, the film would employ the then-emerging concept of 3-D projection.

The plot was simple: It was during the waning days of the war when an armistice was anticipated by all parties.  A squad of men were assigned a patrol to secure a strategic portion of the front line from enemy encroachment.  Everyone anticipated returning home. Men from the U.S. 7th Infantry Division were tapped for the project.  Almost all portrayed characters using their real names.  While the acting is a bit wooden, and the voices over-dubbed in post-production, you still have to admire these men for the fact that battle scenes were filmed using live ammunition.

A couple of the men had flashes of acting talent.  One was Private Ricardo Carrasco of El Paso, Texas. His character was scripted to succumb to a mortal wound in one scene.  When the rushes (raw, unedited film) made their way back to Hollywood for review, the producers took notice of Carrasco, then age 19.  There was talk that this boy had "it." They spoke of a future film contract for him.

Fate intervened.  Filming wrapped up in late June, and many of the actors returned to combat before the end.  One of them was subsequently killed in combat on July 6, 1953. That was Ricardo Carrasco.

The cease fire became effective on July 27, 1953.

A fine backstory about the film's origin, production, and impact is found online.

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