Cast & Crew
During the Civil War a Union Army general officer has a comfortable encampment and a pleasant "agreement" with the enemy: every morning his company fires at them, they fire back, and no one gets hurt. When finally he is ordered to attack, his horse bolts and charges to the rear with the infantry following. As punishment for his apparent cowardice he is put in charge of a company of misfits and sent west to Indian Territory. Through an error, the fact that his unit is replacing one that is protecting Union gold has been overlooked. The men journey westward by riverboat and are joined by a group of camp followers led by Easy Jenny and including Martha Lou Williams, a Confederate spy. A romance develops between Martha Lou and Capt. Jared Heath, though he perceives her devious purpose. Her efforts to obtain information while retaining her virtue result in the misfits' losing their horses, their pants, and the Union gold to a group of renegades and then undertaking a countercharge in their long underwear. They lose their weapons but use their eccentric talents to defend themselves, and they save the gold by building and using a catapult.
Alan Hale Jr.
George W. Davis
Budd S. Friend
A. Murray Jarvis
J. Mcmillan Johnson
Samuel A. Peeples
Advance to the Rear
Distinguished veteran actor Melvyn Douglas plays the sourpuss Colonel whose clumsy attempts to lead his inept men are undermined by his underling, Captain Jared Heath (Glenn Ford), the only competent soldier amidst a band of fools. When a beautiful Rebel spy (played by Stella Stevens) joins up with the Yankees and falls for Heath, things get even more complicated and amusing.
Based on the 1957 novel The Company of Cowards by Jack Schaefer, Advance to the Rear showcases the comedic talents of Glenn Ford and Melvyn Douglas, two actors usually associated with serious dramas. Some of the best character actors in Hollywood are also featured in funny supporting roles such as Jim Backus, Joan Blondell, Jesse Pearson and Alan Hale, Jr. Chuck Roberson, the long time stunt double for John Wayne, performs many of the film's stunts. Also serving as stunt coordinator is Hal Needham who would later graduate to directing Burt Reynolds comedies like Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Hooper (1978), a semi-autobiographical comedy that depicted the life of a Hollywood stunt man.
Director George Marshall had worked with star Glenn Ford in six films before Advance to the Rear including It Started With a Kiss and The Gazebo (both 1959) and enjoyed a mutually collaborative relationship with the actor. And Ford later insisted on having Marshall as his director when he did his 1971-72 television series Cade's County.
Producer: Ted Richmond
Director: George Marshall
Screenplay: William Bowers, Samuel A. Peeples
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Eddie Imazu
Cinematography: Milton R. Krasner
Stunts: Hal Needham, Chuck Roberson
Film Editing: Archie Marshek
Original Music: Randy Sparks
Cast: Glenn Ford (Capt. Jared Heath), Stella Stevens (Martha Lou Williams), Melvyn Douglas (Col. Claude Brackenbury), Jim Backus (General Willoughby), Joan Blondell (Easy Jenny), Andrew Prine (Private Owen Selous), Jesse Pearson (Corp. Silas Geary), Alan Hale, Jr. (Sgt. Beauregard Davis).
by Andrea Passafiume
Advance to the Rear
Well aren't you something? First you break into my cabin with that disgusting display of animal lust. Then you accuse me of being a spy. And now all of a sudden, I'm the only girl in the world for you.- Martha Lou
Well that's the way it goes sometimes.- Heath
All right. Let's say, just for the moment, that I am a spy.- Martha Lou
A very pretty one too.- Heath
That would make us enemies, Jared.- Martha Lou
Yeah of course it would. And, we be starting out at a point in marriage that takes some couples, twenty or thirty years to achieve.- Heath
The steamboat used in this movie was originally built and used as The Cotton Blossom, in M-G-M's film version of Show Boat (1951). It was also used in Raintree County (1957). In the 1970s, it was one of the props auctioned off by the studio.
Copyrighted under the working title Company of Cowards? The novel Company of Cowards was published in 1957 under the authorship of Jack Schaefer.