Rally Round the Flag, Boys!

Rally Round the Flag, Boys! is a 1958 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Max Shulman, directed by Leo McCarey, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and released by 20th Century Fox. The title comes from a line in the song "Battle Cry of Freedom".

Rally Round the Flag, Boys!
Directed byLeo McCarey
Produced byLeo McCarey
Written byMax Shulman (novel)
Claude Binyon
Leo McCarey (screenplay)
StarringPaul Newman
Joanne Woodward
Joan Collins
Narrated byDavid Hedison
Music byCyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyLeon Shamroy
Edited byLouis R. Loeffler
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 23, 1958 (1958-12-23)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.4 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[2]

Plot summary

In the fictional town of Putnam's Landing, Harry Bannerman (Paul Newman) is slowly going insane because his wife Grace (Joanne Woodward) insists on attending every civic committee meeting. When the government selects their town for the site of a new missile base, Grace joins a committee to prevent the building of it. Harry is made the liaison for the military, and Grace's activities cause him no end of trouble. Added to the dilemma is Angela Hoffa (Joan Collins), whose efforts to get Harry for herself lead to dizzying recriminations and misunderstandings.



George Axelrod worked on the script for a year with McCarey. He later recalled they came up with an approach to do the film "but it was too far out for Buddy Adler", the head of production at Fox:

Max Shulman's book was a very funny book, and very literary, in that he used literary devices - which don't often translate to the screen very well. The story itself was rather boring, but the author's comments were funny. So I invented a narrator, named Max, who wove the film together. It was a throwback to the old Pete Smith comedy shorts. But they hated the idea of narration - just as they hate the idea of fantasy - so they threw it out. And then I had to spend a lot of time getting my name off the picture, because I don't want my name on something I didn't write.[3]

Production on Rally Round the Flag, Boys! started in mid-June 1958 and ended in mid-August. The role of Captain Hoxie was originally going to be portrayed by Paul Douglas, but was taken over by Jack Carson after Douglas fell ill, according to a July 1958 The Hollywood Reporter news item.

The part of Angela was originally intended for blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield, but after intense lobbying from Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, she was replaced with Joan Collins (who had co-starred with Mansfield in The Wayward Bus).

A March 1958 item noted that actor Mickey Shaughnessy was set for a featured role; however, he did not appear in the film. A Daily Variety news item reported that in March 1958, Buddy Adler was set to produce the movie, and was considering the film to star Frank Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and William Holden.

Release and reception

Rally Round the Flag, Boys! premiered in New York City theatres on December 23, 1958. It was released nationwide in February 1959.

The film currently holds a 25% "Rotten" rating at RottenTomatoes.com.


Rally Round the Flag, Boys! was nominated for the Golden Laurel Awards held on September 23, 1959 and received 4th place for both Top Comedy Female Performance (Joanne Woodward) and Top Comedy. Director Leo McCarey was later nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award in 1960 for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Rally Round the Flag, Boys!.


  1. Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p251
  2. "1959: Probable Domestic Take", Variety, 6 January 1960 p 34
  3. The Hollywood Screenwriter: Take 2 Anonymous. Film Comment; New York Vol. 14, Iss. 4, (Jul/Aug 1978): 33-47.
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