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Kelly's Heroes
File:Kelly's Heroes film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
by Jack Davis
Directed byBrian G. Hutton
Written byTroy Kennedy Martin
Produced byGabriel Katzka
Harold Loeb
Sidney Beckerman
StarringClint Eastwood
Telly Savalas
Don Rickles
Carroll O'Connor
Donald Sutherland
CinematographyGabriel Figueroa
Edited byJohn Jympson
Music byLalo Schifrin
Avala Film
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 23, 1970 (1970-06-23) (US)
Running time
146 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[2]
Box office$5,200,000 (rentals)[3][4]

Kelly's Heroes is a 1970 war comedy film directed by Brian G. Hutton about a group of World War II American soldiers who go AWOL to rob a bank behind enemy lines. The film stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O'Connor, and Donald Sutherland, with secondary roles played by Harry Dean Stanton, Gavin MacLeod, and Stuart Margolin. The screenplay was written by British film and television writer Troy Kennedy Martin. The film was a US-Yugoslav co-production, filmed mainly in the Croat village of Vižinada on the Istria peninsula.


During a thunderstorm in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the French town of Nancy. One of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons is ordered to hold their position when the Germans counterattack. The outnumbered platoon also receives friendly fire from their own mortars.

Private Kelly, a former lieutenant scapegoated for a failed infantry assault, captures Colonel Dankhopf of Wehrmacht Intelligence. Interrogating his prisoner, Kelly notices the officer's briefcase has several gold bars disguised under lead plating. Curious, he gets the colonel drunk and learns that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars, worth $16,000,000, stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont. When their position is overrun and the Americans pull back, a Tiger I kills Dankhopf.

Kelly decides to go after the gold. He visits the opportunistic Supply Sergeant "Crapgame" to obtain the supplies and guns that will be needed for the operation. A spaced-out tank platoon commander known as "Oddball" and his three M4 Sherman tanks from the 6th Armored Division invite themselves into the plan. With their commanding officer, Captain Maitland, busy pursuing opportunities to enrich himself and thus severely neglecting the welfare of his troopers, the men of Kelly's platoon are all eager to join Kelly. After much argument, Kelly finally persuades cynical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" to go along.

Kelly decides that his infantrymen and Oddball's tanks will proceed separately and meet near Clermont. Oddball's tanks fight their way through the German lines, managing to destroy a German railway depot, but their route is blocked when the bridge they need to cross is blown up by Allied fighter-bombers. This forces Oddball to bring a bridging unit in on the caper. An American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, destroying their vehicles and forcing them to continue on foot. They stray into a minefield, and Private Grace is killed. Kelly's troops engage an enemy patrol; Private Mitchell and Corporal Job, still stuck in the minefield, are killed.

The two units rendezvous two nights later. They battle their way across the river to Clermont, losing two of the three tanks and leaving the bridging unit behind. When intercepted radio messages from the private raid are brought to the attention of the gung-ho Major General Colt, he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patrols pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men find that Clermont is defended by three Tiger tanks of the 1st SS Panzer Division with infantry support. The Americans are able to eliminate the German infantry and two of the Tigers, but the final tank parks itself right in front of the bank and Oddball's Sherman breaks down, leaving them stalemated. At Crapgame’s suggestion, Kelly offers the German tank commander and his crew an equal share of the loot.

After the Tiger blows the bank doors open, the Germans and Americans divide the spoils and go their separate ways, just barely managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious General Colt, who is blocked from entering Clermont by the French residents who have been deceived by Big Joe into thinking that General Charles de Gaulle is coming. Not long after the freelancers have gone, Captain Maitland enters the bank, to find a Kilroy and the words "Up Yours, Baby" painted by one of Kelly's crew on the wall.


  • Clint Eastwood as Private Kelly
  • Telly Savalas as Master Sergeant "Big Joe"
  • Don Rickles as Staff Sergeant "Crapgame"
  • Carroll O'Connor as Major General Colt
  • Donald Sutherland as Sergeant "Oddball"
  • Gavin MacLeod as Moriarty
  • Shepherd Sanders as "the Turk"
  • Stuart Margolin as Private "Little Joe"
  • Jeff Morris as PFC "Cowboy"
  • Hal Buckley as Captain Maitland
  • Richard Davalos as Private Gutowski
  • Perry Lopez as Private "Pachuco" Petuko
  • Tom Troupe as Corporal Job
  • Harry Dean Stanton as Private Willard
  • Len Lesser as Tech Sergeant Bellamy
  • David Hurst as Oberst Dankhopf
  • George Savalas as First Sergeant Mulligan
  • Karl-Otto Alberty as Tiger tank commander
  • Ross Elliott as Colonel Booker


The project was announced by MGM in November 1968 under the title of The Warriors.[5]

George Kennedy turned down a role despite an offered fee of $300,000 because he did not like the part.[6]

The film was going to have a female role, but prior to filming, it was cut from the script. Ingrid Pitt, who was cast in the role (and had been in the movie Where Eagles Dare with Eastwood the previous year), revealed that she was "virtually climbing on board the plane bound for Yugoslavia when word came through that my part had been cut".[7]

Filming commenced in July 1969 and was completed in December.[2] It was shot on location in the Istrian village of Vižinada in Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) and London.[8] Yugoslavia was chosen mostly because earnings from previous showings of movies there could not be taken out of the country, but could be used to fund the production.[citation needed] Another reason Yugoslavia was selected was that in 1969, Yugoslavia was one of the few nations whose army was still equipped with operating World War II mechanized equipment, both German and American. This simplified logistics tremendously.[9]

The film was made and released during a time of great turbulence for MGM.[10]

There is a nod to the ending of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, right down to a very similar musical score, and the overdubbing of the sound of non-existent jangling spurs.[8]

Deleted scenes[]

Approximately 20 minutes were cut from the film by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before theatrical release. Eastwood said later in interviews that he was very disappointed about the re-cut by MGM because he felt that many of the deleted scenes not only gave depth to the characters, but also made the movie much better.[11][12] Some of the deleted scenes were shown on promotional stills and described in interviews with cast and crew for Cinema Retro's special edition article about Kelly's Heroes:[13]

  • Oddball and his crew pack up to go across the lines to meet up with Kelly and others while local village girls are running around half naked.
  • The platoon encounters a group of German soldiers and naked girls swimming in a pool.
  • While they wait for Oddball in the barn at night, Kelly and Big Joe talk about their disillusionment with the war and why Kelly was made as a scapegoat for the attack that resulted in his demotion. Another scene was deleted from this part where the platoon decides they do not want to continue with the mission, and Gutowski threatens Kelly at gunpoint, but Big Joe and Crapgame side with Kelly.
  • General Colt is in bed with some women when he gets a call that Kelly and others have broken through the enemy lines.
  • During the attack on the town, production designer Jon Barry had a cameo as a British airman hiding from the Germans.
  • One promotional still shows Kelly finding a wounded German soldier among the ruined houses during the final town attack.
  • Kelly, Oddball and Big Joe discuss tactics while standing on an abandoned Tiger tank before the scene where they negotiate with the German tank commander.
  • When Kelly and platoon drive off at the end, a bunch of soldiers yell at them that they are headed in the wrong direction.


The film received mostly positive reviews. It was voted at number 34 in Channel 4's 100 Greatest War Films of All Time.[14] The film earned $5.2 million in US theatrical rentals,[15] making it the 24th highest-grossing film of 1970.[16]

Musical score and soundtrack[]

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The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Lalo Schifrin and the soundtrack album was released on the MGM label in 1970.[17]

The soundtrack was released on LP, as well a subsequent CD featuring the LP tracks, by Chapter III Records. This album was mostly re-recordings. An expanded edition of the soundtrack was released by Film Score Monthly in 2005.[18] The main musical theme of the movie (at both beginning and end) is "Burning Bridges," sung by the Mike Curb Congregation with music by Schifrin. There is also a casual rendition of the music in the background near the middle of the film. The Mike Curb Congregation's recording of "Burning Bridges" reached number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on March 6, 1971, but did much better on the charts in Australia, where it spent two weeks at No. 1 in May that year. In Canada, the song reached number 23 in March 1971. [19]

The soundtrack to the film also contains the song, "All for the Love of Sunshine," which became the first No. 1 country hit for Hank Williams, Jr.. The inclusion of the song in the film is an anachronism, because the song was not released until 1970, twenty-five years after the end of the war.

Track listing[]

All compositions by Lalo Schifrin except as indicated

  1. "Kelly's Heroes" – 2:52
  2. "All for the Love of Sunshine" (Schifrin, Mike Curb, Harley Hatcher) – 3:49
  3. "Burning Bridges (instrumental)" – 2:10
  4. "Tiger Tank" – 1:58
  5. "Clairmont Waltz" – 2:15
  6. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Traditional) – 2:58
  7. "Burning Bridges" (Schifrin, Curb) – 2:44
  8. "Quick Draw Kelly" – 3:12
  9. "All For The Love Of Sunshine (instrumental)" – 2:50
  10. "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (Traditional) – 3:43
  11. "Commando Opus" – 2:37


  • Lalo Schifrinarranger, conductor
  • Maurice Harris – trumpet
  • Lloyd Ulyate, Dick Nash, Dick Noel, George Robertstrombone
  • Vincent DeRosa, David Duke, Bill Hinshaw – French horn
  • Ronnie Lang, Bud Shankwoodwinds
  • John Ellis – oboe
  • Tommy Morgan – harmonica
  • Ralph Grierson – piano
  • Carl Fortina – accordion
  • Tommy Tedesco, Howard Roberts, Bob Bain, Alton Hendrickson – guitar
  • Ray Brownbass
  • Emil Richards, Larry Bunker, Joe Porcaropercussion
  • Israel Bakerconcert master
  • David Frisina, Anatol Kaminsky, Sam Freed, Marvin Limonick, Alexander Murray, Herman Clebanoff, Thelma Beach, Irma Neumann, James Getzoff, Dorothy Wade, Joseph Stepansky – violin
  • Dan Neufeld, Myra Kestenbaum, Robert Ostrowsky, Joseph Di Fiore – viola
  • Gloria Strassner, Edgar Lustgarten, Armand Kaproff, Justin Di Tullio – cello
  • Robert Helfer – orchestra manager
  • David Axelrod, H.B. Barnum, Dick Hazard – arranger
  • Lloyd Basham – orchestra manager
  • Unnamed orchestra conducted by Don Peake (tracks 2 & 10)
  • Hank Williams, Jr (track 2), The Mike Curb Congregation (track 7) – vocals

In popular culture[]

  • In the 2012 anime series Girls und Panzer, the film is referenced several times, including by supporting character Yukari Akiyama once calling herself "Sergeant Oddball"[20] and as reference material for urban tank-to-tank combat by the protagonist Rabbit Team.[21] The latter reference is made during a slumber party when the girls are watching Kelly's Heroes on television, depicted by an animated version of the sequence in which Kelly and Oddball take out the second Tiger tank in the streets of Clermont.[22]


Kelly's Heroes was released to DVD by Warner Home Video on August 1, 2000, in a Region 1 widescreen DVD (one of several solo DVD's marketed as the Clint Eastwood Collection) and also to Blu-ray on June 1, 2010 as part of a double feature with Where Eagles Dare.

See also[]

  • List of American films of 1970


  1. BBCF: Kelly's Heroes, running time Retrieved 2012-11-01
  2. 2.0 2.1 Hughes, p.194
  3. "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 46.
  4. "Kelly's Heroes, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  5. "MGM Will Begin Nine Films in '69". Los Angeles Times. 30 Nov 1968. p. a5.
  6. Knapp, Dan (23 Nov 1969). "'Cool Hand Luke' Gave Kennedy a Fair Shake: George Kennedy". Los Angeles Times. p. c1.
  7. Munn, p. 102
  8. 8.0 8.1 McGilligan (1999), p. 183
  9. Ben Mankiewicz introduction to Kelly's Heroes, Turner Classic Movies, 25 May 2015.
  10. "Operating Loss of $l.9 Million Posted by MGM: Despite 2nd Period Deficit, Firm Earned $4.9 Million During 1st Half of Fiscal '70 Filming Costs Charged Off". The Wall Street Journal. 22 April 1970. p. 5.
  11. Conversations With Clint: Paul Nelson's Lost Interviews With Clint Eastwood, Pages 51 - 54
  12. "Kelly's Heroes - cut scenes?". Retrieved 2016-11-06.
  13. "CINEMA RETRO'S "KELLY'S HEROES" MOVIE CLASSICS SPECIAL EDITION STILL A TOP-SELLER! - Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s". Retrieved 2016-11-06.
  14. channel 4 – 100 greatest war films of all time
  15. Hughes, p.196
  16. Top Grossing Films of 1970. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  17. name="Lalo Schifrin discography">Payne, D. Lalo Schifrin discography accessed March 15, 2012
  18. Film Score Monthly Website accessed March 19, 2012
  19. [1]
  20. Girls und Panzer, ep. 5: "An Experienced Sherman Army Corps!"
  21. Girls und Panzer, ep. 10: "This Fight Won't Be Dismissed!"
  22. Girls und Panzer – Review


  • Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
  • McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-638354-8.
  • Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.

External links[]

Template:Brian G. Hutton