The Naked and the Dead
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRaoul Walsh
Written byDenis Sanders
Terry Sanders
Based onThe Naked and the Dead
(1948 novel)
by Norman Mailer
Produced byPaul Gregory
StarringAldo Ray
Cliff Robertson
Raymond Massey
Lili St. Cyr
Barbara Nichols
CinematographyJoseph LaShelle
Edited byArthur P. Schmidt
Music byBernard Herrmann
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • August 6, 1958 (1958-08-06) (US)[1]
Running time
131 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2.5 million[2]

The Naked and the Dead is a 1958 World War II film directed by Raoul Walsh, and based on the 1948 novel of the same name by Norman Mailer. The screenplay was written by brothers Denis and Terry Sanders, and the film was shot in Panama on Technicolor film.[3] The movie adds a strip tease and an action scene to the story in the novel. It is one of the last films produced by RKO before the studio's closure. The film was released by Warner Bros. It was the last film that Walsh directed for Warner Bros.


Lieutenant Hearn is an aide to General Cummings, who treats Hearn as a son and a friend. The general believes that commanding officers should induce fear in their subordinates in order to enforce discipline. Hearn expresses distaste for these views, preferring instead that soldiers should have mutual respect for one another, regardless of rank.

Hearn is transferred to lead an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon on a dangerous mission. The platoon had originally been led by Sergeant Croft, who now must serve under Hearn. Croft is a professional soldier with a reputation for cruelty. Hearn's idealistic approach is contrasted with Croft's desire to win at all costs. When Hearn considers abandoning the mission in the face of formidable Japanese opposition, Croft tricks him into underestimating the enemy. This eventually leads to several deaths in the platoon, and Hearn himself is wounded. Some of the men retreat, carrying Hearn on a stretcher. Croft presses onward with the remaining men. He is killed in action, but his men accomplish their mission, relaying vital intelligence to headquarters. Hearn's men consider leaving him to die, as they can escape faster on their own, but continue carrying him despite the risk.

Upon receiving the platoon's report, a subordinate of Cummings orders an immediate large-scale assault on the Japanese position, scoring a major victory despite Cummings's harsh skepticism. The survivors of the platoon, including Hearn, are able to reach headquarters. Once there, Hearn tells the chastized Cummings that the men who carried him on a stretcher did so out of love, and that the human spirit will always be too strong to be cowed by any terror imposed by other men.



The film was originally to be produced by Paul Gregory and directed by Charles Laughton, and was to be made after The Night of the Hunter. Terry and Dennis Sanders were hired as writers.[4] Stanley Cortez, who had photographed The Night of the Hunter, was intended to be the cinematographer.[5] Press releases announced that Robert Mitchum was to star and that Walter Schumann would compose the score.[6] Following the box-office failure of The Night of the Hunter, Raoul Walsh replaced Laughton and recruited an uncredited writer to rewrite the Sanders Brothers screenplay.[7][8] Cortez was replaced by Joseph LaShelle.

The Naked and the Dead was filmed on location in Panama with 250 American soldiers as extras. Hawaiian-born soldiers of Japanese descent were cast as Japanese soldiers[6] and local actors from the Canal Zone Theatre Guild appeared in the film.[9]

The film was produced in RKO-Scope, but when it was acquired by Warner Bros., it was billed as a WarnerScope film on release.[10]


A.H. Weiler of The New York Times wrote: "Credit director, producer Paul Gregory and especially the writing team of Denis and Terry Sanders with laundering the billingsgate of the original and in extracting the derring-do of the author's impassioned work. But in so doing they have simply come up with a surface recounting of a platoon doomed to decimation in securing a small island in the Pacific in 1943. They have quickly limned a general who is a black-and-white militarist, nothing more, and of officers who only appear as quickly passing figures in a kaleidoscope of briefings and small talk."[11]


  1. ^ "The Naked and the Dead: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  2. ^ "Top Grossers of 1958". Variety. 7 January 1959. p. 48. Please note figures are for US and Canada only and are domestic rentals accruing to distributors as opposed to theatre gross
  3. ^ "CinemaScope Derivatives - Superscope 4". Widescreen Museum. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  4. ^ "A Tale of Two Brothers" (PDF). Point of View Magazine: 20. Spring 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Stanley Cortez". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  6. ^ a b "The Naked and the Dead (1958) - Overview". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  7. ^ "American Legends Interviews Paul Gregory on making: The Naked and The Dead". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  8. ^ "Recalling The Past (And The Future) With Terry Sanders|Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews". Indiewire. 13 February 1998. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  9. ^ Worcester, Natalie (1959). "[Canal Zone] THEATRE GUILD REVIEWS ITS NINE YEARS OF WORK". The Theatre Guild of Ancon. Archived from the original on 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2016-12-28. During the filming of THE NAKED AND THE DEAD in Panama in 1957, several Guild members were chosen for feature and bit parts, among them Charles Walsh, James Mattingly and John MacTaggart.
  10. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1996). Leonard Maltin's 1997 Movie Guide. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0451188885.
  11. ^ Weiler, A. H. (7 August 1958). "Face of War; Naked and the Dead' Opens at Capitol". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August 2022.