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

The Naked and the Dead is a 1958 Technicolor widescreen film based on Norman Mailer's 1948 World War II novel The Naked and the Dead.[2] Directed by Raoul Walsh and filmed in Panama, the screenplay attributed to the Sanders brothers adds a strip tease and action scenes to Mailer's original narrative. One of the last films made by RKO before its closure, the film was released by Warner Bros. and was the last one Raoul Walsh directed for that studio.


Filled with flashbacks, it is the story of Lieutenant Hearn (Cliff Robertson), an aide to General Cummings (Raymond Massey), who treats Hearn as a son and a friend. The General believes that commanding officers ought to inspire fear in their subordinates, in order to enforce discipline. Hearn expresses distaste for these views, preferring instead that soldiers should have mutual respect for each other, regardless of rank. Hearn is eventually transferred to lead an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon on a dangerous reconnaissance mission.

The platoon had originally been led by Sergeant Croft (Aldo Ray), who now must serve under Hearn. Croft is a professional soldier with a reputation for cruelty. Hearn's relatively idealistic approach is contrasted with Croft's desire to win at all costs. When Hearn considers abandoning the mission due to excessive Japanese presence, 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 head back, carrying Hearn on a stretcher. Croft presses onward with the remaining men. Croft 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 decide to 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' harsh scepticism. The survivors of the platoon, including Hearn, make it back to headquarters. Once there, Hearn tells the chastised 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.[3] Stanley Cortez, who had photographed The Night of the Hunter, was intended to be the cinematographer.[4] Press releases of the time said that Robert Mitchum was to star and Walter Schumann would compose the score.[5] The box office failure of The Night of the Hunter led to the film being taken over by Raoul Walsh who brought in an uncredited writer to rewrite the Sanders' screenplay[6][7] whilst Cortez was replaced by Joseph LaShelle.

The film was made on location in Panama with 250 American soldiers as extras. Hawaiian-born soldiers of Japanese descent depicted Japanese soldiers[5] and local actors from the Canal Zone Theatre Guild appeared in the film.[8]

The film was made in RKO-Scope but when the film was acquired by Warner Bros., they claimed it was made in WarnerScope on release.[9]


A.H. Weiler of The New York Times said in the review of the movie, "Credit (director Raoul Walsh), 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."[10]


  1. ^ "The Naked and the Dead: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  2. ^ "CinemaScope Derivatives - Superscope 4". Widescreen Museum. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  3. ^ "A Tale of Two Brothers" (PDF). Point of View Magazine: 20. Spring 2007. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Stanley Cortez". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  5. ^ a b "The Naked and the Dead (1958) - Overview". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  6. ^ "American Legends Interviews Paul Gregory on making: The Naked and The Dead". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  7. ^ "Recalling The Past (And The Future) With Terry Sanders|Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews". Indiewire. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1996). Leonard Maltin's 1997 Movie Guide. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-0451188885.
  10. ^ A.H. Weiler, "Face of War; 'Naked and Dead' Opens at Capitol" N.Y. Times Review, Aug. 7, 1958