Indiana University
The Indiana University School of Journalism Ernie Pyle
Pyle writes about the "The Story of GI Joe," a movie based on Pyle's columns.

In the Movies

IU Archives
Pyle with nurses at an air raid shelter.

SAN FRANCISCO – And now about the movie which is being partly based on these columns from the war fronts over the last two years.

Well, the movie is finished at last. I mean the shooting is finished. But there are a lot of things we laymen don’t know about the movies, and one of them is that a film isn’t ready to show for about three months after they’ve finished shooting. So I don’t expect you’ll be seeing it till April or May.

They are still calling it "The Story of G.I. Joe." I never did like the title, but nobody could think of a better one, and I was too lazy to try.

It is a movie about the infantry. There isn’t much of a story to it, and there’s no conventional love interest running through it. The War Department co-operated and furnished two companies of soldiers, who were moved to Hollywood, plus lots of equipment such as trucks, tanks, guns and what not.

The soldiers all grew beards, and although they got awfully itchy, the boys said the girls in Hollywood sure do go for a soft, flossy beard. The only tragedy was when one soldier’s beard caught fire one day and he got pretty badly burned. I don’t know whether he got a Purple Heart.

***

The six main soldier characters in the picture were played by professional actors. But the run-of-the-mill soldiers were played by real soldiers. As was expected, a couple of the real soldiers turned out to be "finds" as actors. By the time you see the picture, practically all the soldiers in it will be fighting overseas.

I spent a week in Hollywood nosing into the picture in October, another week in December. I still don’t know whether it will be a good picture or not, but I think it will.

If it isn’t a good picture, it will not be for lack of good intentions. They have worked a year and a half on it, and spent more than a million dollars. They’ve slaved to avoid "Hollywooding" it. They’ve sought, and listened, to advice from men who know what war is.

They’ve had at least one veteran war correspondent there all the time. The army has kept never less than three overseas veterans of combat out there constantly. As I left Hollywood, one of these veterans said, "I think it’s going to be a good picture. At least I think it will be the most authentic war picture ever made."

***

My own part in it is very minor. My part is played by Capt. Burgess Meredith. The makeup men shaved his head and wrinkled his face and made him up so well that he’s even uglier than I am, poor fellow.

The picture was directed by "Wild Bill" Wellman, one of Hollywood’s top men. The picture was produced by Lester Cowan, an independent, through United Artists. If it’s a lousy picture, poor Lester will have to face the wrath of about two million irate soldiers. If it isn’t a lousy picture, then he can float on air for years.

An almost anonymous person whose hand bore strongly on the picture is an old Indiana school friend of mine named Paige Cavanaugh. Being one of my closest friends, he quit whatever he was doing last spring and went to work for Lester Cowan, largely to insure, as Lester puts it, that "Cowan didn’t louse Pyle up."

But as time went on Cavanaugh’s innate good sense began to make an impression around Hollywood, and in the end they have leaned heavily on his judgment. Cavanaugh, being a farmer at heart, still sneers at Hollywood, but he’s got a gleam in his eye that looks permanent to me.

***

When the picture is finally ready for release, they hope to fly a print across the Pacific and let me have a little world premiere of my own before a few hundred fighting infantrymen somewhere in the Far East.

But there won’t be any single premiere in America. It will open simultaneously in 100 cities. My little old hometown of Dana, Ind., and my new hometown of Albuquerque will, of course, be among them.

The theater manager in Dana has volunteered to let my father and Aunt Mary in free on opening night. They think that’s sure mighty nice, and they’ll probably take him up on it.

Ernie Pyle
Source: Rocky Mountain News, February 14, 1945: from a scrapbook given to Indiana University by Mrs. Henry Schoon. Pictures courtesy of The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana
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