The Rack (1956 film)

The Rack is a 1956 American war drama film, based on a play written by Rod Serling for television.[2][3] It was directed by Arnold Laven and starred Paul Newman, Wendell Corey, Lee Marvin and Walter Pidgeon. After two years in a North Korean prison camp, an American officer returns home, only to be charged with collaboration by his own side. He is forced to defend his actions in court.

The Rack
Theatrical releast poster
Directed byArnold Laven
Produced byArthur M. Loew Jr.
Screenplay byStewart Stern
Based onThe Rack
1955 teleplay on The U.S. Steel Hour
by Rod Serling
StarringPaul Newman
Wendell Corey
Walter Pidgeon
Edmond O'Brien
Anne Francis
Lee Marvin
Cloris Leachman
Music byAdolph Deutsch
CinematographyPaul Vogel
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Marshall Neilan Jr.
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 2, 1956 (1956-11-02)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$765,000[1]


Having survived two years in a Korean prisoner-of-war camp, Captain Edward W. Hall, Jr. (Paul Newman), returns home to a US Army post in San Francisco. His father (Walter Pidgeon), a retired colonel, is glad to have his son back despite grieving over the death of his other son, Pete.

Pete's widow, Aggie Hall (Anne Francis), confides to her friend Caroline (Cloris Leachman) it is difficult to be around her brother-in-law without painful reminders of her lost husband. A welcome-home party is held for Capt. Hall, surprising Colonel Dudley Smith (Fay Roope), a friend of Ed, Sr. He finds out that Capt. Hall's father is unaware that his son is about to be tried in a court-martial for collaboration with the enemy. Hall's father asks his son if the charges are true, and receives a stark, simple, reply: "yes". Ed Sr. cruelly challenges his son: "Why didn't you just die?"

Major Sam Moulton (Wendell Corey) prosecutes the case. He calls eyewitnesses who testify that at the POW camp in the winter of 1951, Hall made speeches and signed documents on the enemy's behalf. A fellow prisoner and much-decorated officer, Capt. John Miller (Lee Marvin), reveals scars received while under interrogation, but claims he never conceded to his captors anything but his name, rank and serial number. In unguarded comments on the stand Miller calls Hall a coward.

Capt. Hall has his sister-in-law's support, but his father initially refuses even to attend the trial. Hall is disconsolate and wishes to plead guilty. But his lawyer, Lt. Col. Frank Wasnick (Edmond O'Brien), persuades him to take the witness stand and explain his actions.

In stark detail, Capt. Hall discloses the torture he underwent. This includes how he was ordered to bury other soldiers, dead or alive; how he carried a wounded man for four days so he wouldn't collapse and be placed in a grave; solitary confinement for months at a time, denied light and company and forced to live in his own excrement. Facing repeated demands to read propaganda statements, Hall relented but wrote one himself, using language that attempted to mock the enemy's purpose. Hall experienced a breaking point when the enemy delivered a letter from his father, revealing his brother Pete's death.

Hall's father, who finally attends the trial, is devastated by his son's testimony about his breaking point. He forgives his son, but the official judgment is less kind. Hall is found guilty of treason and the film closes with Hall's contrition on the witness stand.



According to MGM records, the film earned $365,000 domestically and $400,000 overseas, making an overall loss of $422,000.[1]


The Rack first appeared as an episode of The United States Steel Hour broadcast on 12 April 1955[4].


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Variety film review; April 18, 1956, page 6.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; April 21, 1956, page 62.
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