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Gregory Peck: An Agreeable Gentleman

Saturday, June 16, 2012
6:30 p.m. Pork Chop Hill
Lewis Milestone (U.S., 1959)



Korea, 1953: while officials gather at Panmunjom to negotiate a truce, Lieutenant Joe Clemons of the U.S. Infantry receives orders to counterattack Chinese forces at Pork Chop Hill. So Clemons (Gregory Peck) leads 135 reluctant infantrymen into what they believe may be the final battle of the war. It will be the last battle for most of them: exposed, outnumbered, and cut off from central command, Clemons’s company is decimated in defense of what the negotiators call an “insignificant little hill,” a position whose only value lies in the number of lives each side is willing to sacrifice for it. Yet, an exhausted but unwavering Peck tells one of his men, “There’s no use trying to figure it out. You just have to keep on going.” Director Lewis Milestone, a veteran of both combat films (All Quiet on the Western Front, A Walk in the Sun) and actual combat (World War I), delivers a blunt and brutal assessment of the relationship between military strategy and battlefield reality. Although a concluding voiceover talks of defending freedom, the film stands as a monument not to heroic achievements but to persistence in the face of futility.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by James R. Webb, based on a book by S. L. A. Marshall. Photographed by Sam Leavitt. With Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, George Shibata. (97 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Park Circus)