Fixed Bayonets! (1951) is a war film written and directed by Samuel Fuller and produced by Twentieth Century-Fox during the Korean War. It is Fuller’s second film about the Korean War. In his motion picture debut, James Dean appears briefly in the film.
The film is set in the first winter of Korean War. The story follows the fate of a lone 48 man platoon left as a rear guard to defend a hill in hostile territory, to cover the withdrawal of their division over an exposed bridge. The subplot explores the psychological makeup of the individuals charged with leadership of the platoon, and therein examines the nature of service and valor. Ultimately command of the platoon falls upon Cpl. Denno (Richard Basehart), who has an innate aversion to responsibility for the lives of others.
• Feature film debut of James Dean. Uncredited, Dean played Doggie. This movie represents the first ever appearance of Dean in a motion picture.
• The technical advisor, Raymond Harvey, US Army, was awarded the Distinguish Service Cross (second only to the Medal of Honor), two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts, during WW II and won the Medal of Honor in the Korean War. While working on this film he became close friends with the director Samuel Fuller. Apparently, the US Army assigned Harvey as technical adviser to the production after they had had issues with Fuller’s earlier movie about the Korean War, The Steel Helmet.
• Apparently, one of this film’s working titles, ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’, was inspired by a 1951 speech made by ‘General Douglas MacArthur’. The title is derived from the line “old soldiers never die, they just fade away” from the Barracks Ballad. MacArthur made the speech just prior to his retirement at a Joint Session of the US Congress.
• The 14th May 1951 edition of ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ stated that this picture would not directly be based on the life of ‘General Douglas MacArthur’ despite the film’s then working title ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’ being used, a phrase associated with MacArthur.
• ‘Time’ magazine reported in July 1951 that the working title of this movie, ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’, would be dropped as it was “not suitable” anymore for the picture.
• This film’s opening prologue states: “This is the story of American troops in Korea early in 1951. It is dedicated to the Queen of Battles-the United States Infantry. We give our grateful thanks to the Department of the Army for its encouragement, advice and active cooperation in the preparation and production of this picture”.
• This movie was originally going to be cast starring Rory Calhoun, Jeffrey Hunter, Gary Merrill and Robert Wagner according to a May 1951 edition of ‘The Hollywood Reporter’.
• This movie was the first film in a seven picture deal between writer/director Samuel Fuller and studio Twentieth Century-Fox.
• Second movie about the Korean War which was directed by Samuel Fuller. The first had been The Steel Helmet.
• Gene Evans replaced Gary Merrill according to the 16th July 1951 edition of ‘Daily Variety’. Director Samuel Fuller had previously collaborated with Evans on the earlier Korean War movie, The Steel Helmet.
• Feature film debut of Paul Richards. Uncredited, Richards played Ramirez.
• Writer/director Samuel Fuller wrote the part of Paddy for actor Patrick Fitzgibbon according to an August 1951 edition of trade paper ‘The Hollywood Reporter’. The two had served together during World War II.
• According to media reports, a number of movie companies were interested in using this film’s working title, ‘Old Soldiers Never Die’.
• A number of actors were once announced as going to appear in this picture according to ‘the Hollywood Reporter’. These included: Frank Belt, Patrick Holmes, William Lundmark, Jack Morrow, Greg Rogers, Dudley Ross, Tommy Walker and Steve Wayne.
• The production had difficulties in casting extras for the opening retreat sequence. A product assistant located some dancers in a musical and they were able to be fitted out in costumes for the opener. Director Samuel Fuller had them feign battle weariness by stacking their military packs and uniforms with weights.
• This picture is set in 1950 during the first winter of the Korean War.