Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970) is one of those movies I just had to see because of the all-star cast but when I finally did see the film I knew why, despite all the names in the film, nobody ever talks about it. Brian Keith, Tony Curtis, Ernest Borgnine, Suzanne Pleshette, Tom Ewell, and Don Ameche headline this parody of the U.S. military, but nothing any one of these stars does can save this film from feeling long and boring. Made at the height of the Vietnam war, you get the feeling that this movie was supposed to be one of those "message" films but really, the whole movie seems so ridiculous that any intended message gets buried in the clownish story.
The story is set in a small Southern town that is home to an Army base. The town locals dislike the presence of the military in their community and tension builds between the locals and the military. Col. Flanders (Ameche) hires Officer Nace (Keith) to help improve community relations, but Ernest Borgnine, a sheriff with a chip on his shoulder isn't ready to work with the military on improving relations. Tony Curtis, a loud-mouth, scheming, trouble making Sergeant only makes matters worse and eventually ends up in jail. When his friend Nace comes to break him out using a borrowed tank, the zealous Tom Ewell leads a milita to go to war against the Army.
As much as I disliked the film, I did enjoy noticing that the small town where most of the action takes place, including the final confrontation between the locals and the military, was filmed on the Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank, specifically on Midwest Street. This area of the lot has most recently appeared in the television show Hart of Dixie filling in for another Southern community and also on the big screen in The Muppets. In The Muppets, Midwest Street is "Smalltown," the town where Jason Segel and Amy Adams live.
Below are comparisons of Midwest Street as it appeared in Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came? (1970) and how Midwest Street appears today.
Ernest Borgnine & Suzanne Pleshette in a drug store set.
Looking out from the drug store entrance.
Pleshette leaves the drug store.
Another view looking from the drug store.
Borgnine near the center of Warner Bros. Midwest Street.
Warner Bros. Midwest Street. The same
chapel stands in the background.
Borgnine walking towards the middle of Midwest Street.
Looking at the center of Midwest Street as it presently appears.
Borgnine stands in front of the drug store.
The drug store facade as it appears today.
Borgnine, Tony Curtis, Brian Keith on Midwest Street.
Looking down Midwest Street.
Curtis drives a bus into Midwest Street to pick up new recruits.
The building on the left is the "Star" theatre building.
Borgnine looks at the military in disgust.
The facades behind Borgnine as they appear today.
The drug store is seen top center.
The same facades today, stripped down.
This next view is pretty cool because the western style facades no longer exist. You can see in the contemporary photo the green hills in the background but the western facades have been demolished and replaced.
The western style facades above no longer exist.
All that is the same are the green hills in the distant background.
Bradford Dillman stands on a jeep parked on Midwest Street.
The facade of the Star theatre as it appears today.
Borgnine in front of the police station.
The police station facade as it appears today.
The next view is another showing more of the western style facades (on the right side) that no longer exist. On the left you will notice the backside of the white chapel building is still there.
The army and the town police go at it on Midwest Street.
Entering Midwest Street from the back.
The backside of the white chapel.
The backdoor to the chapel building has been stripped away.
The tank pulls into Midwest Street. The front side
of the chapel would be a little further to the left.
The same view in front of the chapel is it appears today.
Looking down from the police station.
The police station facade is where the green trim is. This
view has changed quite a bit.
Over ten years prior to Tony Curtis arriving on Midwest Street in a bus to pick up military recruits another film, a very funny military themed comedy from the 1950s, used the same location on the Warner Bros. backlot as the spot to pick up new recruits. Any guesses as to what movie this may be? Come back next week and I'll have a post on the now and then comparisons from this 1950s film.
Update: January 7, 2012
To see the answer of which 1950s film used Midwest Street as the location to pick up military recruits click here.
Were parts of Midwest Street used in filming "The Music Man" (1962)?
Yes, many scenes from "The Music Man" were indeed filmed on Midwest Street. Seems like there is always trouble in River City.
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