Force of Arms

For use of "force of arms" in legal terminology, see force (law).
Force of Arms
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by Anthony Veiller
Written by Orin Jannings
Richard Tregaskis (story)
Starring William Holden
Nancy Olson
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ted D. McCord
Edited by Owen Marks
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • August 13, 1951 (1951-08-13)
Running time
98-105 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $1.2 million (US rentals)[1]

Force of Arms (reissued under the title A Girl for Joe) is a 1951 romantic drama film set in the Italian theater of World War II. It reteamed William Holden and Nancy Olson in the third of their four movies together (Sunset Boulevard, Union Station, and Submarine Command being the others), all released in 1950 or 1951. An American infantryman on leave and a Women's Army Corps (WAC) officer fall in love.


After hard fighting in the Battle of San Pietro, the infantrymen of the American 36th Division are given five days of much needed rest. Sergeant Joe "Pete" Peterson (William Holden) meets WAC Lieutenant Eleanor "Ellie" MacKay (Nancy Olson) in a cemetery. However, his attempts to become better acquainted are brushed off. Later, Pete's friend and commanding officer, Major Blackford (Frank Lovejoy), tells him he has been given a battlefield commission and is now a second lieutenant.

When Sergeant McFee (Gene Evans) becomes upset because he has not received a letter from his wife in a long time, Pete takes him to the post office to investigate, and finds Ellie working there. This time, Ellie offers to buy Pete a drink in celebration of his promotion. Although he agrees, she still tries to keep things from becoming serious, revealing that she almost married another soldier, except he was killed, and does not want to risk falling in love again. However, when the division's leave is cut short, she cannot stay away. Pete gets her to agree to marry him on his next leave.

Blackford assigns Pete and his platoon to take out a German roadblock. Pete spots two deadly German 88 guns commanding the road on which American tanks are advancing. However, when one of his men urges him to attack the guns, Pete rejects the idea; with Ellie on his mind, he has become overcautious. The 88s knock out the lead American tank, from which Blackford is directing the attack. The major is killed. Pete himself is wounded by an artillery barrage and wakes up in a hospital.

Blaming himself for his friend's death (even though he knows he could not have reached the guns in time anyway), Pete sinks into a depression, unwilling to see anyone. A visit from Ellie brings him out of it. Pete tells her that he has been given a three-day leave before being sent back to the United States, safely out of combat. Together out in the countryside, they get married. However, Pete's guilt makes him decide to rejoin his unit. Ellie does not try to stop him. Afterward, she discovers she is pregnant, which means she will have to leave the army.

Pete is hit when he reconnoiters ahead, and his men are ordered to retreat, leaving him behind. Unwilling to believe her husband is dead, Ellie searches everywhere for him without success. When Rome is liberated, she finds him; he had been taken prisoner, but was freed when the Germans retreated.



  1. 'The Top Box Office Hits of 1951', Variety, January 2, 1952

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