This is how time gets wasted. And consequently, why I post so seldom, among other derelictions of duty.
The other day I had an earworm, and I was trying to figure out what it was. You know how those torment me. Rather than a pop song, it was an instrumental piece, of the grandiose sort. I decided it was the theme music from one of those blockbuster war movies from the 1960s or ’70s, with every actor from the A list, but apparently no writers, and no directors capable of demanding decent acting. You know, like “The Longest Day.”
But it wasn’t that one. No play on Beethoven’s 5th. For a moment, I reached into the ’70s, deciding it might be “A Bridge Too Far.” I went to YouTube to check the theory, but before the first notes sounded, I stopped the video. I had realized it was from “The Battle of the Bulge.” And, as I clicked around trying to confirm, I became unsure it was actually the theme. It was an instrumental version of the “Panzerlied” — which does crop up in the theme, briefly (go to the 29-second mark in this), and is the only memorable tune that emerges. It’s the song those young officers sing while stamping their feet to prove to Robert Shaw vat gut little Nazis zey all vere.
That made me start thinking about what an abominably disappointing film it was. It wasn’t quite the greatest insult Hollywood has ever flung at my late father-in-law’s war service. That distinction belongs to “Hogan’s Heroes.” (My father-in-law was captured in the Ardennes, and spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp. A real one. There was nothing cute or amusing about it.)
But it was pretty bad. I got to pondering what made it so bad. Was it Henry Fonda? Of course not. How could I be critical of Mister Roberts (although don’t get me started on how he was more than 20 years too old for that role)? Although the prig colonel played by Dana Andrews, whose job it was to scoff at Henry’s premonitions, was pretty insufferable. Telly Savalas? Well, the cuteness of the black marketeer’s relationship with the impossibly pretty Belgian girl (yeah, like she’d go for Kojak) was utterly absurd. Both he and Robert Ryan were more fun in “The Dirty Dozen” (of course, as much as I loved that one as a kid, I assure you it didn’t hold up well over the years, either).
As I ran through the cast, trying to thing of the scene or role or actor that best exemplified how little the filmmakers cared, I settled on the guy who played the leader of one of Otto Skorzeny’s units of German soldiers disguised as Americans during the battle. The guy who looked like he’d be equally at home playing one of the non-speaking surfers standing behind Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in one of those beach movies with Eric Von Zipper. I seemed to recall the same guy appearing in “P.T. 109,” with his hair dyed blond, as JFK’s XO Leonard Thom.
Yep. Ty Hardin. He had also starred in one of the less-well-remembered Warner Brothers TV westerns. To check this (as I do everything, all day long), I looked to Wikipedia. Yep, he starred in “Bronco.”
But that’s not the good part of what I read in Wikipedia. The good part was that his real name (you already realize it wasn’t really “Ty Hardin,” of course) was Orison Whipple Hungerford Jr.
I’ve always taken something of a dim view of people changing their names, which I see as sort of disrespectful to their parents — especially if they are “juniors.”
But I think I might give ol’ Ty a pass on this one. He had a career to think of, such as it was.
OK, I’ll go do some work now…