Cinema release poster
Directed byJohn Schlesinger[1][2]
Screenplay by
Story byColin Welland[1][2]
Produced by[1][2]
CinematographyDick Bush[1][2]
Edited byJim Clark[1][2]
Music byRichard Rodney Bennett[1][2]
CIP Filmproduktion GmbH (as CIP)[1][2]
Distributed by
Release date
  • 19 September 1979 (1979-09-19) (UK & US)
Running time
141 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • West Germany
Budget$6 million[1]
Box office$3,931,010[3]

Yanks is a 1979 drama film directed by John Schlesinger, and produced by Joseph Janni and Lester Persky, and is written by Colin Welland and Walter Bernstein.[1][2] It stars Richard Gere, Lisa Eichhorn, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Chick Vennera, Wendy Morgan, Rachel Roberts and Tony Melody.[1][2] The film is set during the Second World War in Northern England and features no combat scenes.

The film depicts the relationships between American soldiers stationed in semi-rural England and the local population during the build-up to Operation Overlord in 1944. In particular, three romances between US service personnel and local women are shown, in order to explore the effects of the cultural differences between the brash GIs or "Yanks" and the more reserved British population.

The world premiere was held on 1 June 1979 at a cinema in Bournemouth, England. Lisa Eichhorn was present at the premiere, which had invited returning D-Day veterans from many American divisions - most notably the American 29th Division. Leader of the returning 29ers was Sgt Curtis C. Williams who was 19 on D-Day.


A small northern town soon finds out that a large U.S. Army base is being established for the build-up to the Normandy landings. Soon thousands of rambunctious American troops, or "Yanks" as they are known to the British, descend upon the area. On leave in the town, Technical Sergeant Matt Dyson, encounters Jean Moreton while out to the cinema. She is the fiancée of Ken, a British soldier fighting overseas, and initially rebuffs Matt's advances. He is quite persistent, and she, doubtful about her relationship with Ken, eventually accepts him. The handsome, brash American is in stark contrast to the restrained Englishmen she has known. Soon, she is keeping company with Matt, though it is largely platonic at first.

For her part, Helen is a bit more worldly in her affairs. Captain John comes to her estate often, and a relationship develops. They are both married, but her husband is away at sea, and his wife is thousands of miles distant.

Eventually, the kind-hearted Matt Dyson is accepted by the Moreton family, notwithstanding Jean's engagement. They welcome his visits, when he, as an army cook, often brings hard-to-find foods normally on wartime rationing and other presents. But when news of Ken's death in action arrives, Jean's ailing mother condemns their relationship as a kind of betrayal.

Jean and Matt travel together to a Welsh seaside resort, where they make love but without completion when Matt realizes the uncertainty of the future. Jean is crushed, although Matt says "not like this." She feels spurned, and that her willingness to risk everything has not been matched by him, concluding that he is "not ready" for her.

Shortly afterwards, the Americans ship out by troop train to Southern England to prepare for D-Day. A characteristic last-minute gift and message from Matt prompt Jean into racing to the railway station. With the town and station a hive of activity, hundreds of the townswomen, some of them pregnant from liaisons with men they may never see again, scramble to catch one last glimpse of their American boyfriends before the train leaves. Matt shouts from the departing train that he will return.


Main cast[edit]


Schlesinger was able to obtain the finance to make Yanks - which was a personal project - because of the financial success of his 1976 suspense film Marathon Man.[4]

Much of the filming took place on location in Northern England between April and August 1978. Scenes were shot on location in Oldham, Glossop, Stalybridge, Stockport, Salford and other surrounding areas. The opening shot of the film is the war memorial in Stalybridge town centre. Other scenes were filmed at the town hall in Hyde[5] and outside a Type 24 WWII pillbox attached to a former Royal Ordnance Factory in Steeton, West Yorkshire.[6][7][8] The main street procession was filmed in the Ordsall area of Salford, where the entire length of Regent Road was redressed to period appearance. All the shop fronts were replaced or covered over and the road-lines were covered by gravel. The cinema sequences, however, were shot at the Davenport Theatre / Cinema, in Stockport. This was chosen because of its authentic, period Art Deco interior, as well as the presence, in the orchestra pit, of a Compton 3 Manual/6 Rank theatre organ on a lift to the left of the stage. This was used in the film for scenes involving an audience sing-along, to such songs as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "Deep in the Heart of Texas," Exterior shots of the unnamed Welsh resort were filmed along Happy Valley Road, Llandudno, North Wales.

The ending, where the troops board their train to head to the front, were filmed at Keighley railway station on the line belonging to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. An authentic Second World War locomotive, which is preserved by the heritage railway, was used for the scene.[9]

Lisa Eichhorn said one of her most difficult scenes in the film was where she offers herself to her boyfriend, Matt, only to be rejected. "The difficult part was dealing with the nudity in that scene," she said. "I'd never done any on the stage, and didn't think I'd have to do it in my first movie. I didn't want to get the reputation of an actress who easily disrobes."[10]


The film was a box office flop in the US only making $1.6 million in rentals.[11]

The film received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 57% based on reviews from 21 critics.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Yanks (1979)". AFI Catalog. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Yanks". BFI Collections. Retrieved 15 November 2023.
  3. ^ "Yanks (1979)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  4. ^ Phillips, Gene D. Major Film Directors of the American and British Cinema, Volume 1999. Lehigh University Press, 1999. 238. Retrieved from Google Books on January 30, 2012. ISBN 0-934223-59-9, ISBN 978-0-934223-59-1.
  5. ^ "Bradford people get a taste for big screen". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2012.
  6. ^ "History enthusiasts launch campaign to save rare pillbox". Craven Herald. 8 December 2009. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Steeton Dump Type 24 pillbox". www.menofworth.org.uk. Retrieved 10 August 2023.
  8. ^ Location of Steeton Pillbox 53°53′55″N 1°57′02″W / 53.89861°N 1.95068°W / 53.89861; -1.95068
  9. ^ Horton, Glyn (2007). Horton's guide to Britain's railways in feature films. Kettering: Silver Link. p. 186. ISBN 978-1-85794-287-3.
  10. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (21 September 1979). "New Face: Lisa Eichhorn Why Heroine of 'Yanks' Is as English as Apple Pie". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  11. ^ THE BIG THUDS OF 1979--FILMS THAT FLOPPED, BADLY Epstein, Andrew. Los Angeles Times 27 Apr 1980: o6.
  12. ^ "Yanks (1979)". Rotten Tomatoes.