The Glory Guys

In The Glory Guys (1965), a battalion of brave cavalry soldiers are thrown into harm’s way due to their commander’s lust for Indian blood. Andrew Duggan plays General McCabe, who is obsessed with wiping out the Sioux—even if it means sacrificing his own men to do so. At Fort Doniphan, the general’s subordinate, Captain Demas Harrod (Tom Tryon), is charged with training the misfit recruits of the Third Cavalry for a campaign to drive the Indians onto reservations. Harrod and Sol Rogers (Harve Presnell), the chief of scouts, are well aware of McCabe’s reckless tendencies and previous blunders. The two men share another, more immediate problem: both love Lou Woddard (Senta Berger), a frontier woman who resides in the nearby town of Mule City.

As the launch of the military campaign draws near and Harrod and Rogers vie for Lou’s affection, they gradually come to respect one another, with Harrod eventually bowing out of the love triangle when he deems himself unworthy of Woddard’s love. Once the Third Cavalry finally rides into battle, Rogers—sensing that Lou would rather be with Harrod—advises the captain to pursue a life with her.

McCabe’s hunger for glory drives him to send the cavalry into battle with the Sioux a full day before reinforcements arrive. This tactical error results in the defeat of Harrod’s men and the deaths of many soldiers, including Rogers. As Harrod and the other survivors retreat, they come across a battlefield of corpses and discover that McCabe has paid the price for his obsession: he and his troopers have been slaughtered by the Indians.

A fictionalized retelling of the Custer massacre at Little Big Horn, The Glory Guys was based on Hoffman Birney’s novel The Dice of God. In 1956 the production team of LGL—Jules Levy, Arthur Gardner and director Arnold Laven—sought an undiscovered writer to cheaply adapt the book into a screenplay: that writer turned out to be Sam Peckinpah, who had made an impression on Laven with his writing for the television series Gunsmoke. During a four-and-a-half-month period Peckinpah poured himself into the screenplay, but LGL was unable to mount a production and the project was abandoned. By the time the film finally went into production in 1965, Peckinpah was a respected filmmaker in his own right—yet he was also blacklisted, bankrupt and enduring his second divorce.

The Glory Guys served as a precursor of sorts to Peckinpah’s Major Dundee—which also went into production in 1965—exploring similar notions of camaraderie in war and even sharing some of the same cast members, including Michael Anderson Jr., Senta Berger and Slim Pickens. Although Peckinpah was attracted to McCabe’s (or Custer’s) megalomania and the contrastingly selfless bravery of the soldiers under the his command, The Glory Guys, as directed by Laven, largely deviated from the writer’s vision and placed great emphasis on the love triangle for the first two thirds of the film. Not surprisingly, Peckinpah disliked the finished product.

The romantic sequences, in which Peckinpah’s influence is least felt, are carried along by engaging performances. Leading men Presnell (then breaking type in a non-singing role) and Tryon are convincing in their transformations from adversaries into respectful peers, while Berger makes the most of an underwritten role as a beautiful source of conflict for her suitors. Duggan and Jeanne Cooper (as Mrs. McCabe) are delegated to bit players but they are suitably loathsome as scheming villains, even in their limited screen time. Among the supporting soldiers, several performers stand out: Slim Pickens as an abrasive sergeant; Michael Anderson Jr. as a reluctant but ultimately courageous private; and a saucy James Caan as a troublemaking Irish trooper.

Filmed on location in Durango, Mexico for $1.6 million, director Laven mounted an ambitious production that called for thousands of extras to bring the battle between the cavalry and the Indians to life. The film’s climactic sequence—shot on 20,000 acres of land—required weeks to choreograph and for cinematographer James Wong Howe to film. Dozens of horses were trained to fall on cue by stunt-rider brothers Bob and Billy Hughes, adding to the realism of the piece and helping turn the climax into a worthwhile payoff to the film’s leisurely build of training and romancing.

Despite the grand scope of the project, reviews for the film were mixed. Critics complained about the love story overwhelming the Sioux plot (the Indians are not so much as glimpsed until the final battle) and the film’s uneven pacing caused some reviewers to wonder what The Glory Guys could have been under the direction of Peckinpah. Even with the producers’ changes to Peckinpah’s work, the film is distinguished by certain departures from convention: While on the surface The Glory Guys is a formulaic training movie in which a ragtag group of misfits set aside their differences and unite for a common good, in this case, the “good” is tainted by McCabe’s selfish motives and possible insanity. In addition, the film’s ending is surprisingly bleak for a frontier adventure, with the Indians reigning victorious over the cavalry soldiers.

Another unconventional ingredient is Riz Ortolani’s eclectic score, which mixes traditional western ideas with then-modern pop elements. A patriotic theme song, “The Glory Guys,” serves as the score’s centerpiece and the melody is comfortable as both a propulsive Elmer Bernstein-style anthem and as a suave, hip tune for guitar. The theme serves as a rousing call to arms for Harrod and his men during the training sequences and especially for their final charge toward the Sioux (the cue for which does not appear on this album but which is similar to the instrumental version of the “Main Title”). “The Glory Guys” is equally effective and even mournful in its more tranquil incantations, implying the story’s tragic outcome during its contemplative moments. Several weeks before the film’s release, United Artists promoted the film by issuing an instrumental single of “The Glory Guys” performed by guitarist Al Caiola as well as a vocal version performed by Frankie Lane, neither of which is included here. Each cue on this album—apart from the source pieces—was specifically arranged for the record and does not appear in the film as written.

Ortolani’s primary melody is complemented by a pair of character themes: A warm, harmonica-based tune, titled “Love and Understanding,” represents the love story of Demas, Sol and Lou; a second yearning theme, “Young Lovers,” less pervasive in the film, addresses the romance between Private Hale (Anderson Jr.) and Beth (Laurel Goodwin), the girl he falls for while visiting Mule City.

The film’s saloon sequences and an Officers’ Ball called for Ortolani to compose a collection of period source cues: The album features the composer’s mazurka, a polka and a waltz rendition of “Love and Understanding,” the latter playing through an emotional dance shared by Demas and Lou.

The score’s final and most original component is Ortolani’s swelling suspense for brass and percussion, used to evoke the unseen Sioux for the majority of the film. An atypical approach for the Indians, the jazz-influenced material creates a sense of impending doom without relying too heavily on expected tribal percussion and pentatonic harmony.

While the score suffers some from some clumsy, exposed edits in the film, The Hollywood Reporter singled out Ortolani’s work as “big and dynamic.” Variety’s critic was less enthused, calling the score “full-bodied” but “overbearing.” Judgments of scale notwithstanding, Ortolani’s noble main themes support the Third Cavalry’s notions of “glory,” encompassing love, brotherhood and courage; McCabe and his hunger for power are tellingly unrepresented by any music, except through their association with the menacing Sioux material.

This premiere CD release of The Glory Guys features the LP recording made at London’s EMI Studios, as the original film performance has not survived. Fortunately, first-generation ¼″ stereo masters were available, offering excellent sound quality. Italicized titles below indicate how the cues were referenced on the tape boxes from the recording sessions.

16. Main Title (The Glory Guys—Vocal)
1M1 Main Title Threatening militaristic percussion and wailing jazz chords (with trumpets for the album arrangement only) introduce the opening credits, which play out over paintings of patriotic imagery from the film: Cavalry soldiers and the women they love, American flags, and the Army’s climactic battle against the Sioux. The suspenseful material—which comes to be associated with the Sioux—gives way to hints of both the bold main theme and the primary love theme, “Love and Understanding,” before the title card sparks a full rendition of the title song for gung-ho male chorus. In the film, the cue ends abruptly on a quick cut to a train station, where Gentry (Erik Holland) awakens from a terrible nightmare with a violent scream; he and a group of recruits are awaiting the arrival of Captain Demas Harrod (Tom Tryon) before departing for Fort Doniphan.
17. Young Lovers (Full Orchestra)
Young Love (2nd Version) Early in the film, the recruits are given permission to visit Mule City, where young Private Hale (Michael Anderson Jr.) participates in a drunken scuffle. Afterward, he is given refuge at a mission by Beth (Laurel Goodwin) and as she nurses him back to health they fall in love. The pining “Young Lovers” theme underscores their relationship twice during the film; this arrangement of the tune for strings and horns plays through their final scene together as Hale proposes marriage on the eve before he leaves for battle. Approximately 0:40 of this rendition appears in the film.
18. The Kiss Mazurka
10M1 This lighthearted source cue featuring accordion is briefly heard midway through the film at the Officers’ Ball when Sol (Harve Presnell) and Lou (Senta Berger) step outside and discuss their troubled relationship. Despite his promise to the contrary, Sol is leaving to serve as chief of scouts for General McCabe one last time. He swears that he will settle down with Lou when he returns, but he senses that she would rather be with Demas.
19. Love and Understanding
Out on the Range This folk-like melody represents the love triangle between Demas, Lou and Sol. The “Out on the Range” rendition for strings, horns and guitar is largely unused in the film, playing for 0:20 (without the backdrop of percussion) when Lou first arrives at Fort Doniphan in her carriage.
20. Warpaint and Feathers
9M2 The day before the troopers finally leave for battle, General McCabe calls for an unexpected “pass in review.” Militaristic snare and bugle calls are synched to the onscreen performance by an army band; a triumphant rendition of the main theme unfolds over this material as Captain Harrod and the men of the Third Cavalry parade past McCabe on horseback. The cue’s guitar setting of the main theme is somewhat briefer on the album than in the film.
21. Solitary Waltz
Lou’s Waltz At the Officers’ Ball, a bitter confrontation with McCabe’s wife (Jeanne Cooper) leaves Lou teary-eyed and fearful for Demas’s life. He calms her as they dance to a waltz setting of “Love and Understanding” for strings and horns over light rhythm section; seeing the couple happy together prompts Sol to agree to serve as McCabe’s scout on the forthcoming mission. Demas and Lou are so lost in each other that they keep on dancing even after the waltz ends.
22. The Battle
Suspense Music The album returns to an episode from earlier in the film in which Captain Harrod leads the troopers out of the fort for a training exercise. As the men travel through the open country on horseback, the score brews tension with shades of the jazzy brass and percussion from the “Main Title.” A warm rendition of the main theme creates a false sense of security before the unarmed soldiers are ambushed by a band of Indians; heroic, imitative settings of the theme sound as the regiment pathetically attempts to fend off the “attackers,” who are revealed to be under the command of Sol. This album arrangement of “The Battle” is slightly different than the take used in the film, incorporating material from the cue for Sol’s death during the final reel (not on the album).
23. Young Lovers’ Theme (Guitar Solo)
Young Love (1st Version) The film’s first rendition of “Young Lovers” spotlights guitar for a scene in which Hale explains his predicament to Beth: He wants to leave the army so he can go back to school, and his father has initiated a “release by purchase” procedure that will hopefully go into effect before he heads into battle. Beth agrees to wait for him if he does indeed leave her for school, and the two kiss. Approximately 1:00 of this arrangement appears in the film.
24. The Regimental Polka
9M3+9M5 This festive string-driven source piece plays through two establishing scenes at the Officers’ Ball, one in which Sol and Lou arrive together, the other for Demas’s entrance.
25. Love and Understanding (Harmonica Solo)
My Love Returns (With Harmonica) Portions of this harmonica-based album arrangement of “Love and Understanding” are scattered across the film for relationship scenes involving Demas, Lou and Sol. The lengthiest presentations of the theme occur for Lou’s initial attempt to end her relationship with Demas, and for a scene near the end of the movie, in which Sol realizes that Lou loves Demas and encourages the captain to “take ahold of everything that comes [his] way.”
26. Finale (The Glory Guys)
Finale The scheming General McCabe ignores a direct order and sends Harrod’s soldiers into battle a day early. After suffering heavy losses against the Sioux (and witnessing the death of Sol), Harrod retreats with the surviving soldiers of the Third Cavalry. En route to Fort Doniphan the men come across a battlefield littered with corpses: General McCabe and his men have been massacred—a result of McCabe’s desire to engage the Sioux before General Hoffman (Stephen Chase) could arrive with reinforcements. “Finale” begins with an unused, noble rendition of the main theme and builds to a grand, protracted conclusion (2:22) that plays under the closing credits as Harrod and his men ride out into the distance to greet the arriving Hoffman.

Bonus Tracks

The following were discovered on the Glory Guys LP recording masters:

27. Main Title (The Glory Guys—Instrumental)
This arrangement of the “Main Title” omits the male chorus, but is otherwise identical.
28. Jam Session (jazz improvisation)
This improvisatory number for jazz band has nothing to do with the film, but was likely the result of leftover time at the London recording sessions. — 

From the original United Artists LP…

The brilliant musician responsible for the stirring score of The Glory Guys is Italian-born Riz Ortolani. Still in his late thirties, the talented Ortolani came to the attention of the public via his exciting score for Mondo Cane and the song “More,” which has since become one of the most recorded standards of the Sixties. Recently, Ortolani has been accorded great acclaim for his music to The 7th Dawn and The Yellow Rolls-Royce. The Glory Guys marks Ortolani’s initial attempt at scoring a western and the sweeping results vividly demonstrate his imaginative artistry and impeccable musicianship.