Hi osmium, welcome to the board.
The commentary on TCM was correct--the script for Kelly's Heroes
did have more of an antiwar slant. The finished film barely resembles the script that Clint read and enjoyed.
Clint told interviewer Michael Henry for the French magazine Positif
It was a very fine anti-militaristic script, one that said some important things about the war, about this propensity that man has to destroy himself. In the editing, the scenes that put the debate in philosophical terms were cut and they kept adding action scenes. When it was finished, the picture had lost its soul. If action and reflection had been better balanced, it would have reached a much broader audience. I don't know if the studio exercised pressure on the director or if it was the director who lost his vision along the way, but I know that the picture would have been far superior if there hadn't been this attempt to satisfy action fans at any cost. And it would have been just as spectacular and attractive. It's not an accident that some action movies work and others don't. What makes the difference is the quality of the writing.
, no. 287 (January 1985): 48-57; republished in Clint Eastwood: Interviews
, p. 109-110; translated from the French by KC.)
Richard Schickel discusses the problems with filming Kelly's Heroes
and Clint's displeasure with the finished film in great detail in his book Clint Eastwood, a Biography
(p. 232-237). Here are some excerpts:
Financed by MGM, and featuring an all-star cast, it was a self-contradictory enterprise. A military adventure, to be made on something close to an epic scale, it was also supposed to be an antiwar satire, somewhat along the lines of such contemporary films as Castle Keep, M*A*S*H, Catch-22 and Too Late the Hero, all of which, one way or another, spoke to public disgust with the war in Vietnam.
It was this aspect of the project that stirred Clint. Around this time he confessed that he had voted for Nixon in 1968 because he regarded Johnson's bombing halt as a cynical electoral ploy of Hubert Humphrey. But he still had no enthusiasm for the Vietnam adventure or for militarism in general, and Troy Kennedy Martin's original script expressed these feelings--in Clint's opinion, movingly and adroitly. ...
Running more than two hours, Kelly's Heroes is a messily contradictory and never fully resolved movie. Besides being, occasionally, an antiwar satire, it is also from time to time a caper (or bunch of guys-rob-a-vault) comedy, an old-fashioned service (or bunch-of-goldbricks-goof-off) comedy and, yes, a straight bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission piece. To put the point simply, it tried to be all things to all audiences and so, naturally, ended up a muddle-although, right up to the end, Clint thought it could be straightened out.
At Clint's behest, Don Siegel was offered the picture, but he was tied up on the postproduction with Sister Sara, and so, with Clint's approval, the assignment went to the pyrotechnically inclined Brian Hutton. He, not unnaturally, wanted to stress the kind of action that had worked for him in Where Eagles Dare which went into its successful release just before this film went on location.
Postproduction of Kelly's Heroes
was a bigger mess than the filming, which had dragged on for nine months on location in Mexico and Yugoslavia. MGM had just installed a new head of production, James Aubrey, who hadn't originally approved the film and wasn't interested in epic-sized pictures, prefering small budget films that could still yield profits for the studio. After viewing Hutton's cut, Aubrey insisted the film should be a "Clint Eastwood action-adventure" and ordered substantial revisions that wound up changing the whole tone of the film. He even changed the title from The Warriors
to Kelly's Heroes
Hutton, who did not have final cut, had no choice but to oblige Aubrey, and when Clint saw what had been done to the film, he told the director, "Brian, you can't release this." To which the director, who had been fighting the good fight, replied wearily, "Well, that's the way they want to do it," adding that the studio had a release date "creeping up on them." The implication was that even if the studio liked Clint's ideas there wouldn't be time to execute them.
In general Clint felt that the film's comedy now played too broadly, and specifically he was dismayed at the excision of a transition scene between the picture's second and third acts in which, as he recalls, he and the character played by Telly Savalas "just sort of summed up the philosophy of those loose ends, and what the war had done to them." He goes so far as to say that "its soul was taken out, a little bit of its soul was robbed"
Schickel goes on to describe how Clint tried in vain to convince Aubrey that he could fix the film himself if given just one day in the editing room, but Aubrey wasn't interested.
Clint's displeasure with Kelly's Heroes
was so great, especially coming on the heels of his disappointment with Paint Your Wagon
, that from this point on Clint would take much more control of his projects, producing most of the remainder of his films, and within a few years he would be directing almost all of them as well.