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The Devil's Brigade (1968) Poster

Trivia

The Devil's Brigade actually existed; its formal military designation was the First Special Service Force (FSSF), and alternatively known as the 'Black Devils.' It was indeed a joint American-Canadian unit, was comprised of three regiments of two battalions each, and was envisioned for difficult, cold-weather, mountain-warfare missions. The members were known as 'Forcemen.' Initially earmarked for Northern Europe, the FSSF was first sent to the Pacific, and then to the Italian campaign, before finishing its service in Southern France in 1944. During World War II, the brigade suffered casualty rates of 39%. Upon disbandment in 1944, each nations' Forcemen was incorporated into their national armies. Veterans of the Devil's Brigade have been meeting each year, since 1945, in Montana, at the former training facility depicted in the movie, although in the movie, filming took place in Utah, as a stand in for Montana.
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When O'Neill arrives his regiment patch on his shoulder reads PPCLI. This stands for the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, a real regiment, named for Princess Patricia of Connaught, originated in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in August 1914, later based in the area of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and which continues as an active unit as of 2015. The "Patricia's" celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2014.
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Robert T. Frederick, the commander of the Devil's Brigade, had a mustache in real life, but William Holden, who reportedly did not like his own image on film with a mustache, refused to grow or wear a false one, so the film's Frederick is clean lipped. Just one year later, Holden did agree to wear a mustache (a false one) in The Wild Bunch (1969) after several arguments with Sam Peckinpah.
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On February 5 2015, surviving members of the "Black Devils" upon which this movie was based--all in their 90s--received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award, for their service in WWII.
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According to the DVD back cover, "The U.S. Department of Defense provided 300 members of the Utah National Guard to play soldiers in the mass battle scenes filmed on Wasatch Mountain."
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This movie has some of Utah's most famous boxers. Gene Fullmer who was a world Middleweight champion famous for beating Sugar Ray Robinson twice. Gene's brother Don who was an American Middleweight Champion, and Rex Layne who once challenged Rocky Marciano for the World Heavyweight Championship.
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On several of the movie posters, the American contingent is referred to as "Spit," contrasting with the Canadian contingent, which is referred to as "Polish".
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The two actors who play the senior Canadian officers had both previously played future Presidents of the United States in military service. Harry Carey Jr. played Dwight D. Eisenhower as a West Point cadet in The Long Gray Line (1955), and Cliff Robertson played John F. Kennedy as a World War II Navy lieutenant in PT 109 (1963).
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Nearly all the actors were too old to play soldiers.
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The first of four films directed by Andrew V. McLaglen in which Jack Watson appeared.
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Claude Akins also appeared in Merrill's Marauders (1962) Both pictures were based on the experiences of real life military units.
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William Holden was on Variety's list of Top 10 Overpriced Stars of 1968.
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Ski scenes were filmed at Solitude Ski resort using the Brighton National Ski Patrol and some of their family members.
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The Green Bay Packers famous running back Paul Hornung was one of the lumberjacks in the bar during the brawl scene. He was the second lumberjack to enter the bar, wearing the red flannel shirt.
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William Holden and Claude Akins also appeared together in "The Proud and Profane" where Akins had an bit part as "big soldier"..
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The film was widely panned as a poor imitation of "The Dirty Dozen".
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William Holden was 15 years older than his character.
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At the start of the film, the airfield in England was actually R.E.U. Henlow in Bedfordshire. The control tower had been built out of wooden packing cases during WW2.
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The First Special Service Force is considered to be the predecessor organization to the U.S. Army Special Forces, i.e. the Green Berets.
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Much is made of LTC Fredericks' lack of combat command experience, but the fact is that prior to the invasion of North Africa in November 1942 there were very few officers in the US Army who had been in combat. In terms of his experience Fredericks was no different than the vast majority of battalion and regimental commanders who were given commands in 1942.
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Richard Jaeckel also appeared in The Dirty Dozen (1967), which has a similar plot: Criminal soldiers being gathered to form a military unit during WW 2.
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Carroll O'Connor, Tom Troupe and Karl-Otto Alberty also appeared together in Kelly's Heroes (1970).
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