Three Brave Men

Three Brave Men is a 1956 drama film directed by Philip Dunne and starring Ray Milland and Ernest Borgnine.

Three Brave Men
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhilip Dunne
Produced byHerbert Bayard Swope
Written byPhilip Dunne
Based onarticles by Anthony Lewis
StarringRay Milland
Ernest Borgnine
Narrated byKen Scott
CinematographyCharles G. Clarke
Edited byDavid Bretherton
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • December 1956 (1956-12)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was based on real-life events arising in Greenbelt, Maryland[2][3], the investigation of Abraham Chasanow, a U.S. government employee, as a security risk in 1954-55. Bosley Crowther in The New York Times called the film a "plainly pussyfooting picture" in which "the obvious point of the real-life drama is avoided and an imaginary target is devised." The film assigned blame to a vague personal enemy and local gossips while the role of those responsible for the investigation, in his view, was "sweetly glossed".[4] Chasanow's name in the film is Bernie Goldsmith.[5] Chasanow served as an adviser on the film.[6]


Communist conspiracies seem to be everywhere in the 1950s, particularly in Washington, D.C., where word has reached John Rogers, the Secretary of the Navy, that one of his subordinates is strongly suspected to be a Communist sympathizer.

Bernie Goldsmith has no idea that he is the man in question as he enjoys his daughter's school essay on patriotism. The news that he is being suspended from work and investigated comes as a complete shock to him.

Friends and neighbors, including a Protestant minister and a Catholic neighbor,[5] rally to Bernie's side after others begin to shun him. Joe DiMarco agrees to represent him in court, where a female lieutenant, Mary Jane McCoy, paints a suspicious picture of Bernie in the Navy's eyes. Others recant their original testimony against Bernie. Some witnesses discredit themselves when they issue antisemitic tirades about Jewish control of industry or a Jewish-Communist conspiracy.[5] Joe's diligent work results in conclusive testimony that Bernie is not a Communist and all charges against him are dismissed.

A grateful Bernie can not wait to be reinstated at work. Secretary Rogers, however, has stubbornly decided that he still cannot trust him. Months go by, with Bernie unable to find gainful employment. Those who believe in Bernie go to great lengths again to get the Secretary to apologize and restore the innocent man's good name.



The film was originally called The Chasanow Story and was announced in March 1956.[7] It was based on a series of articles by Anthony Lewis. The producer was Herbert Swope and the writer director was Phillip Dunne, who had just collaborated on Hilda Crane.[8]

The title was eventually changed to Three Brave Men, based on the title of a newspaper editorial after Chasanow had been reinstated.[9] Producer Swope wanted Ernest Borgnine to play Chasanow and Alan Ladd to play his attorney.[10] Eventually the leads were played by Borgnine and Ray Milland. Filming began in September.[11]

Borgnine was loaned out by Hecht Hill Lancaster. He later sued that company for money owing him on the fees he (and they) earned on The Catered Affair, The Best Things in Life Are Free and Three Brave Men.[12]


In July 1956, Twentieth-Century Fox submitted to the U.S. Navy a copy of the screenplay for review as a general cooperative "voluntary censorship" act routinely practiced at the time when a film involved the U.S. military.

The acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas S. Gates, Jr., found it misleading and at his request Dunne produced a revised version making it clear, in the Navy's words, that "the Chasanow case was far from being a typical case and that under current procedures it could not happen again." He also removed direct references to antisemitism as a motivation for the proceedings against Chasanow. Another draft was required to identify international Communism as the threat that required rigorous security procedures.

In his autobiography, Dunne regretted that he did not make the film he first imagined, "a Kafkaesque tale of the denial of human rights," "a story (the true one) of unseen terror, of a man fighting in the dark against unseen enemies," unable to draw upon his constitutional rights to defend himself. The point of view, he wrote, became that of the Navy and its crusade to maintain security, making only a rare mistake. The film's closing words delivered by a Navy official whitewashed the Navy's responsibility for Chasanow's persecution: "A free country learns from its mistakes. I offer you the Navy's apology for the grave injustice you've suffered."[13]


  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. "Screening of 3 Brave Men - Thank You!". Greenbelt Museum. Greenbelt Museum. 2016-11-15. Retrieved 2018-09-03.
  3. Knepper, Cathy D. Greenbelt, Maryland: A Living Legacy of the New Deal. JHU Press, 2001. ISBN 0801864909, 9780801864902. p. 107.
  4. Crowther, Bosley (March 24, 1957). "Imaginary and Real" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  5. Schultz, Kevin M. (2011). Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise. NY: Oxford University Press. p. 92.
  6. "Cain Sets Sights on a New Target" (PDF). New York Times. June 10, 1956. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  7. Hayward Explains Why He's Doing 'Spirit' and 'Old Man' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 25 Mar 1956: D2.
  8. Joi Lansing Now Invited to England Los Angeles Times 9 Apr 1956: B9.
  9. Drama: 'Beau James' With Hope Goes in July; Snowden Starring Now Consistent Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 26 Apr 1956: A7.
  10. FOX TO END LULL IN MOVIE OUTPUT: Studio Plans to Start Three Films Next Month--Judy Garland Sought for One By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to The New York Times. New York Times 30 July 1956: 18.
  11. Milland and Borgnine Team as Brave Men Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 7 Sep 1956: C8.
  12. BORGNINE SUES FOR $142,500 FILM PAY Los Angeles Times 20 Sep 1956: B30.
  13. Lev, Peter (2003). Transforming the Screen: 1950-1959. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 104.
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