Pork Chop Hill

For the Korean War battles, see Battle of Pork Chop Hill.
Pork Chop Hill
Directed by Lewis Milestone
Gregory Peck
Produced by Sy Bartlett
Screenplay by James R. Webb
Based on Pork Chop Hill: The American Fighting Man in Action
by S. L. A. Marshall
Starring Gregory Peck
Rip Torn
George Peppard
Woody Strode
Music by Leonard Rosenman
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Edited by George Boemler
Melville Productions
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • May 29, 1959 (1959-05-29) (USA)
Running time
97 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.1 million (est. domestic)[1]

Pork Chop Hill is a 1959 American Korean War film starring Gregory Peck, Rip Torn and George Peppard. The film, which was the final war film directed by Lewis Milestone, is based upon the book by U.S. military historian Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall. It depicts the first fierce Battle of Pork Chop Hill between the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division, and Chinese and North Korean forces in April 1953.

The film features numerous actors who would go on to become movie and television stars in the 1960s and the 1970s such as Woody Strode, Harry Guardino, Robert Blake, Norman Fell, Abel Fernandez, Gavin MacLeod, Harry Dean Stanton, and Clarence Williams III. It is also the screen debut of Martin Landau and George Shibata, who was a West Point classmate of Lieutenant Joe Clemons, who also acted as technical adviser on the film.


In April 1953, during the Korean War, a company of American infantry, led by Lieutenant Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) are to recapture Pork Chop Hill from a larger Communist Chinese army force; they recapture the hill, but are depleted, only 25 of a 135-man unit are left. They prepare for a large-scale Chinese counter-attack which they know will overwhelm and kill them in vicious fire fights and hand-to-hand fighting while the Panmunjeom cease-fire negotiations continue.

Higher command is shown as being unwilling to either abandon or reinforce the hill. They will not reinforce the hill because the value of the hill is not worth further losses. They will not abandon the hill because it is a point of negotiation in the cease-fire talks.

The American negotiators come to the conclusion that the Chinese are pouring soldiers into the battle for a militarily insignificant hill to test the resolve of the Americans in the negotiations. The decision is then made at the last minute to reinforce the hill.




S.L.A. Marshall reportedly disliked the fact that he had sold the movie rights to his book for next-to-nothing, and vowed not to make the same mistake again.[2]

Strode's portrayal of an African American soldier is based on the 24th Infantry Regiment, which was still racially segregated in Korea. Like its cinematic portrayal, the real regiment was poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led.[3] More than once when this all-black unit was placed on the front lines, a unit in reserve was positioned directly behind because they were expected to break. The regiment was finally considered so unreliable it was disbanded. Its personnel were reassigned to other combat units just as in the film, which portrays Strode's character - with good leadership - becoming an effective soldier.


Some of the location shooting was conducted in California near Westlake Village and in San Fernando Valley. Peck, although not credited, directed a few scenes despite protests by Milestone.



Before the film's premier in May 1959, United Artists cut the film by nearly 20 minutes. Director Lewis Milestone claimed changes were made because Veronique Peck, the wife of star Gregory Peck, felt her husband made his first entrance too late into the picture. While that claim stands as unconfirmed, the film does show signs of post-production editing, with segments of several excised scenes showing up under the main title credits.[4]

Critical response

The New York Times applauded the film's "grim and rugged" style, the way it captured the "resentment" of the American GIs, and how it "tacitly points the obsoleteness of ground warfare".[5]

See also


  1. "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  2. Hackworth, David H.; Sherman, Julie (1989). "Ch. 16: Box Seat". About Face. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 568. ISBN 0671526928. LCCN 88036235. Retrieved 2013-12-03. He'd given them away for Pork Chop Hill and often talked about how, as a result, he felt sick every time the film of his Korea story played on the tube and he didn't get a red cent. "I'll never let that happen again," he'd vow each time he wound up his lament on the subject.
  3. Hackworth. About Face. pp. 92–93. ...the 24th, was an all-black outfit and as a fighting force it was sorrier than any unit I'd ever seen. It had not always been that way; in fact, the Deuce-Four had been responsible for the first significant American ground victory of the war, at Yechon, in July of 1950. But the regiment had been badly bloodied since then, and with the attendant loss of many of its fine black NCOs (too many of whom were replaced by white NCOs who were unable or unwilling to bond with the troopsand vice versa), it seemed the 24th had gone to hell in a hand basket. Individually, many of its members were great... but its leadership was too thin...
  4. "Pork Chop Hill (1959) - Articles - TCM.com". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2013-12-03. Nevertheless, Pork Chop Hill was still cut by nearly twenty minutes, supposedly because the wife of star Gregory Peck felt that her husband made his first entrance too late into the picture. While that claim remains unconfirmed, the film does show signs of post-production editing, with segments of several excised scenes showing up under the main title credits.
  5. "Pork Chop Hill (1959) Pork Chop Hill'; War Drama Directed by Lewis Milestone". New York Times. May 30, 1959. Retrieved February 1, 2014.

External links

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