william holden in “the devil’s brigade”


I’m writing this post as part of the 2nd Golden Boy Blogathon – A William Holden Celebration.  Since duplicates weren’t allowed, I wasn’t able to write about Holden’s portrayal of Sefton in Stalag 17 (his best role of all time, I do believe).  I wasn’t able to write about just how much I love and adore him in The Horse Soldiers as the brave, kind, and caring Major Kendall.  I wasn’t able to write about how wonderful he and Audrey Hepburn were together in Sabrina and Paris When it Sizzles. 

So, I decided to go with The Devil’s Brigade, ’cause that’s a pretty great movie on its own even though I didn’t think there was much to write about William Holden’s character, Colonel Frederick.  I mean, he’s the one who gets the First Special Service Force together, but I’d say that the film focuses more on the members of the Force in general than their commander.  However, going into this film determined to watch Colonel Frederick opened my eyes to just how much he does.  He’s the glue that holds the force together.  He’s never been in combat before the film starts, but despite that, is always at the very front of the fight, first when the Force captures a German-held town (losing no men and taking all the Germans prisoner) and then when they take Monte la Difensa.  He’s the one who fights for the Force to stay together when it’s in danger of being disbanded.

And the Force loves him in return.  My favorite scene in the whole movie is Colonel Frederick’s birthday party.  It’s such a great little moment of happiness and joy and celebration and camaraderie in the middle of the difficult, near impossible missions the Force undertakes.  But William Holden’s incredible acting comes through the most in the heartbreaking bits.  Like when the Colonel goes around to several of his men as they’re prepping to take the mountain and basically he’s saying goodbye because he knows that most of them won’t make it out – and he probably won’t make it out either.  Or when that Canadian officer gets shot and killed (I hate that I can’t remember his name) and Colonel Frederick just hands the radio receiver to his aide because he’s sick and tired of it all.  The Colonel’s grief comes through to you in a very real way because Holden always totally inhabits his roles, making you believe, for just that moment, he’s really the character he’s playing and not actually William Holden.

Overall, The Devil’s Brigade is a great war film and William Holden does a super job portraying Colonel Frederick (who was actually a real guy and the only American serviceman to receive eight Purple Hearts in WWII – I just looked it up on Wikipedia).  Plus, his character is friends with Dana Andrews’ character, which is simply splendid for screenshots. 🙂

Though neither of them look very friendly or happy right here.

Have you ever seen The Devil’s Brigade?  What did you think of it?  And what did you think of William Holden as Colonel Frederick?


14 thoughts on “william holden in “the devil’s brigade”

    1. Dana Andrews only has a bit part, but it’s still worth watching. 🙂

      Thanks for inviting me, but I don’t think I’ll participate this time.


  1. I feel like I saw this when I was a teen, but I really don’t remember it. I’ll have to check and see if my dad has it next time I’m visiting.

    Next year will be Holden’s 100th, so I’m betting you’ll get chances to write about other faves then!


    1. You totally should! It’s got a lot of great actors + really interesting plot (which, from what I’ve heard is historically inaccurate, but I don’t really mind).

      Can’t wait. 🙂

      By the way, I read what you said to Jessica about how you and DKoren think that Dan and Tod’s names should be switched, and I agree. 🙂


  2. Out of all the movies that followed the successful formula of The Dirty Dozen, The Devil’s Brigade is one of the best. It is very entertaining. Full of colourful characters that make the training scenes way more fun than usual. The last battle sequence is great and casting William Holden certainly doesn’t hurt either.


    1. I agree! I haven’t seen The Dirty Dozen yet (though I want to) but I really enjoy The Devil’s Brigade (as I’m sure you can tell). 🙂 My interest does lag a little after the Force finds out that they’re not being disbanded and that they actually have a mission, but, overall, it’s a splendid war film.


  3. As Virginie mentioned above, I think The Devil’s Brigade is an underrated film and am puzzled to understand that status. You did an excellent job of pointing out how William Holden holds things together and inhabits his role so completely.


  4. Ohh I’m sorry you couldn’t review all these favourites :/ But in a way I’m glad that you reviewed The Devil’s Brigade because I love this film and I personally think it’s pretty underrated. I thought your article was just great as you manage to perfectly understand the essence of William Holden’s character. I also love the birthday party scene. The name of the Canadian officier is Maj. Alan Crown who is played by Cliff Robertson, another favourite of mine.
    There are so many great moments in this film and the cast is awesome as well!

    Thanks so much for your participation!


    1. It’s all right – my not being able to write about some of Holden’s roles – ’cause I squeezed in mentions of them anyway and I really did enjoy re-watching The Devil’s Brigade and delving into Holden’s character. 🙂

      Thanks for reminding me of the major’s name! And thanks for hosting this blogathon in the first place, as well. I had fun. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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