Darby's Rangers (1958)
On Patrol for War and Women
This was the low, clinging kind of fog I used to see when I was hunting duck out on Long Island... Now I know how the duck felt - Saul
"Darby's Rangers" is meant to be a war movie about the US Army's First Ranger Battalion, it's meant to be about their formation, their training under the guidance of British Commando's and the impact they had in the war. That is what it is meant to be about and occasionally is but for the most it is about a select group of these recruits, their camaraderie and the various women they encounter. As such you don't watch "Darby's Rangers" for an accurate look at the Ranger's but for some romantic fun, some camaraderie comedy, an occasional bit of heroic action and James Garner in his first movie as a leading man.
So as already pointed out "Darby's Rangers" is supposed to be about how the Ranger's came to be, created by the American's to have an elite force to rival the British Commando's. Now I don't know much about the Ranger's but I am pretty sure what we see is at best only loosely relating to how they were formed but at times it is entertaining. The training in Scotland is full off witty moments as they are put through their paces and even when they head over seas on their first mission to North Africa and then Italy it still has that edge of humour. Humour is not really what you are expecting but once you let go of any thought that this will be a true look at the formation of the Ranger's the humour certainly makes it easier going.
Ironically if you were to take what happens in "Darby's Rangers" as gospel you would end up feeling that the Ranger's was formed so randy American's could score with any woman who comes their way. From the introductions to various individuals there is an element of them being ladies men, from Hank chatting up Wendy on the bus through Tony not deterred by trying it on with a married woman. It doesn't stop there as even when the story takes the Ranger's into battle we have Dittman falling for an attractive Italian. And trust me all of this is done with a humorous angle instead of any emotional depth.
What this means is that "Darby's Rangers" rather than being some gritty, emotional look at the formation of the Ranger's is more of a light hearted war movie. There is still some emotional drama to all of this, from the realisation of what danger they put themselves in through to actual deaths. And on that note there is some impressive stunt work as we see the men in battle. But almost every character and every scene has some sort of humour which almost makes light of the emotional drama. When a soldier struggles with killing his first German the way he is dealt with is so throw away it feels like director William A. Wellman didn't know how to deal with anything other than humour.
The knock on effect of this is that "Darby's Rangers" ends up a movie which trades heavily on the likeability of its stars to entertain and to be honest from Stuart Whitman through to Corey Allen they all are a charming bunch. And the various women they end up basically seducing are a bunch of beauties be it the sweet Venetia Stevenson or the sexy Etchika Choureau.
At the centre of all of this is James Garner as Col. William Orlando Darby who to be totally blunt is a surprisingly 2 dimensional character and as such it is Garner's handsome looks which the movie trades on, well that and the humour of his friendship with MSgt. Saul Rosen played by Jack Warden. It is again the case of if you are expecting deep characters then you are going to be disappointed but if you want men who like women and share a bit of camaraderie you will enjoy it.
What this all boils down to is that as a war movie, as a look at the formation of the Rangers "Darby's Rangers" is not a good movie with its focus more on womanizing Americans than actual war action. But if you fancy a war movie which features a bunch of men who like women then you could be entertained.
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