Paths of Glory (1957) Movie Script
War began between Germany and France on August 3, 1914. Five weeks later, the German army had smashed its way to within 18 miles of Paris. There, the battered French miraculously rallied their forces at the Marne River and, in a series of unexpected counterattacks, drove the Germans back. The front was stabilized and shortly afterwards developed into a continuous line of heavily fortified trenches zigzagging their way 500 miles from the English Channel to the Swiss frontier. By 1916, after two grisly years of trench warfare, the battle lines had changed very little. Successful attacks were measured in hundreds of yards and paid for in lives by hundreds of thousands. General Broulard, sir. - Hello, George. How are you? - Paul. Wonderful seeing you again. Really wonderful. Well, this is splendid. Superb! Grand, very grand. Well, I've tried to create a pleasant atmosphere in which to work. You've succeeded marvelously. I wish I had your taste in carpets and pictures. You're much too kind, George. Sit down, George. - Thank you. - I really haven't done very much. The place is much the same as it was when I moved in. Paul, I've come to see you about something big. It's top-secret and must go no further than your chief of staff, and not to him unless you can trust his discretion. Of course. A group of armies is forming on this front for an offensive very soon. Headquarters is determined to make a complete breakthrough. - Why are you smiling? - I'm really sorry. I thought for a moment I knew what you were going to say. Please go on. What did you think I was about to say? - Something about the Ant Hill. - You are a mind reader. Well, it is a key position. It's in my sector. To be perfectly honest, I've heard some talk. - There's nothing secret at headquarters. - What do you think? It's the key to the whole German position in this sector. They've held it for a year now, and it looks as though they'll hold it for another year if they want to. I have formal orders to take the Ant Hill no later than the tenth. - That's the day after tomorrow. - Don't you think that's ridiculous? I don't imagine I'd be here if I really thought that. Paul, if there's one man in this army who can do this for me, it's you. It's out of the question. Absolutely out of the question. My division was cut to pieces. What's left is in no position to even hold the Ant Hill, let alone take it. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. Well, Paul, there was something else I wanted to tell you. However, I'm sure you'll misunderstand my motives in mentioning it. - What was it? - Oh, you'd be bound to misunderstand. However, as your friend, maybe I should tell you. - What are you trying to say? - Paul, the talk around headquarters is that you are being considered for the 12th Corps. - The 12th Corps? - Yes, and with that, another star. I've pushed it all I can. The 12th Corps needs a fighting general, and you're overdue on that star. We both know that your record is good enough for you to refuse this assignment on the grounds you've stated. No one would question your opinion. They'd simply get someone else to do it. So you shouldn't let this influence your opinion. - Oh, I'm sorry. Have a cognac? - No, thank you. Not before dinner. I am responsible for the lives of 8,000 men. What is my ambition against that? What is my reputation in comparison to that? My men come first of all, George. - And those men know it too. - I know that. You see, those men know that I would never let them down. That goes without saying. One soldier's life means more to me than all the decorations in France. So, you think this attack is absolutely beyond the ability of your men at this time? I didn't say that, George. Nothing is beyond those men once their fighting spirit is aroused. I don't want to push you if you think it's ill-advised. Don't worry. You couldn't do that if you tried. Of course, artillery would make an enormous difference. - What artillery support can you give me? - Well, I'll see. - What about replacements? - We'll see what we can do, but I feel sure that you can get along with what you have. We might just do it. Paul, I knew that I was right to come to you. You are the man to take the Ant Hill. As for that star... That has nothing to do with my decision! If anything, it would sway me the other way. I realize that perfectly. When do you see this coming off? - No later than the day after tomorrow. - We just might do it! Hello there, soldier. Ready to kill more Germans? - Yes, sir. - What's your name, soldier? - Sir, Private Ferol, Company A. - Aha. You married, Private? - No, sir. - I'll bet your mother's proud of you. - Yes, sir. - Carry on, Private, and good luck. Thank you, sir. - Morning, General. - Good morning. - Hello there, soldier. - Sir. - Ready to kill more Germans? - Yes, sir. Working over your rifle, I see. That's the way. The soldier's best friend. You be good to it, and it'll always be good to you. Yes, sir. Well, good luck to you, soldier. - Carry on. - Thank you, sir. Hello there, soldier. Ready to kill more Germans? Is everything all right, soldier? All right? Yes, sir. I'm all right. Good fella. - Are you married, soldier? - Married? Me, married? - Yes. Have you got a wife? - A wife? Have I got a wife? Sir. He's a bit shell-shocked. I beg your pardon, Sergeant. There is no such thing as shell shock. Have you got a wife, soldier? My wife? My wife. Yes, I have a wife. I'm never gonna see her again. Get a grip on yourself! You're acting like a coward! - I am a coward, sir. - Snap out of it! Sergeant, I want you to immediately transfer this baby out of my regiment! I won't have other brave men contaminated by him. - Yes, sir. - Carry on, Sergeant. You were right, sir. This sort of thing can spread if it isn't checked. General, I'm convinced that these tours of yours have an incalculable effect upon the morale of these men. I think the fighting spirit of the 701st derives from it. No, Major. That spirit was just born in them. The general is coming, sir. - Always a pleasure to see you, Colonel. - I'm honored, General. It's our privilege entirely. Well, quite a neat little spot you have here. I'll reserve comment on the neatness, sir, but it is little. Pretty shy on seating accommodations, though. More than enough for me. Never got the habit of sitting. Like to be on my feet, keep on the move. I can vouch for that. I can hardly get him behind a desk to sign an order. That's the way I am, you know, Dax. I can't understand these armchair officers... fellows trying to fight from behind a desk, waving papers at the enemy, worrying about whether a mouse is going to run up their pants leg. I don't know. If I could choose between mice and Mausers, I'd take the mice. You'll never make me believe that. Seriously, though, if a man's a ninny, let him put on a dress and hide under the bed. But if he wants to be a soldier, then by heavens, he's got to be one. He's got to fight. He can't do that unless he's where the fighting is. - That's my credo. - I think I have to agree with you, presenting your case so convincingly, sir. - You've never failed to live up to it. - You'd like a look around? Yes, Colonel. Here's something to see. The Ant Hill. About as good a view as you can get without actually being there. That won't be long now, will it? Yeah. Well, I've seen much more formidable objectives. Much, much worse. Well, not something we can grab and run away with, but certainly pregnable. - Sounds kind of odd, though, doesn't it? - Why? Well, like something to do with giving birth. Oh, yes, quite. You're right on your toes this morning, Colonel. Even sharper than usual. But we mustn't forget, the colonel was perhaps the foremost criminal lawyer in all France. - Of course, General. - Gentlemen, you're both much too kind. Tell me, Colonel, how did your relief come off last night? We drew some artillery. Twenty-nine casualties, sir. Yes, I noticed it on the road in. Utterly inexcusable. Stupid. All swarmed together like flies, just waiting for someone to swat them. Well, they never learn, it seems. They get in a tight spot under heavy fire... gang up every time... herd instinct, I suppose. - Kind of a lower animal sort of thing. - Kind of a human thing, it seems to me. Don't you make a distinction between the two, Major? Oh, yes, very regrettable, of course. Yes, indeed. Major, will you excuse us for a few minutes? Yes, sir. Of course. Colonel. Well, Colonel, what do you think of it? - What do I think of what, sir? - The Ant Hill. Colonel, your regiment is going to take the Ant Hill tomorrow. - You know the condition of my men, sir. - Naturally, men are gonna be killed. Possibly a lot of them. They'll absorb bullets and shrapnel, and by doing so make it possible for others to get through. - What support will we have? - I have none to give you. What sort of casualties do you anticipate, sir? Say, five percent killed by our own barrage. That's a generous allowance. Ten percent more in getting through no-man's-land, and 20 percent more getting through the wire. That leaves 65 percent with the worst part of the job over. Let's say another 25 percent in actually taking the Ant Hill. We're still left with a force more than adequate to hold it. General, you're saying that more than half my men will be killed. Yes, it's a terrible price to pay, Colonel. - But we will have the Ant Hill. - But will we, sir? I'm depending on you, Colonel. All France is depending on you. Am I amusing you, Colonel? I'm not a bull, General. I don't need a flag waved to get me to charge. I don't like your comparison of the flag of France to a bullfighter's cape. I meant nothing disrespectful to the flag of France, sir. Patriotism may be old-fashioned, but a patriot is an honest man. Not everyone has always thought so. Samuel Johnson said something else. What was that? - Nothing, really. - What do you mean, "Nothing, really"? - Well, sir, nothing really important. - When I ask a question, it's important. - Now, who was this man? - Samuel Johnson, sir. All right. What did he have to say about patriotism? He said it was the last refuge of a scoundrel, sir. I'm sorry. I meant nothing personal. You're tired, Dax. You're very tired. It's you who are exhausted, not your men, and it's my fault. I've given you one impossible task after another. You need rest badly. - I haven't said that! - And you never would, either. Therefore you're not going to have any say-so about it, Colonel. I'm ordering you on indefinite furlough. General, you can't take me away from my men. You can't do that to me, sir! Not to you, Dax. For you. For your good and for the good of your men. The good of my men, sir? If a commanding officer lacks confidence, what can we expect of his men? Naturally, I don't want to relieve you, but I must have enthusiastic support. Not once have you said that your men can take the Ant Hill. We'll take the Ant Hill. If any soldiers in the world can take it, we'll take the Ant Hill. And when you do, your men will be relieved and get a long rest. Corporal Paris and Private Lejeune reporting, sir. You took your time about it. We prepared as quick as we could, sir. We had to alert the sentries. All right. You men, at ease. This is a reconnaissance patrol. German wire, machine gun posts, identification of bodies. There'll only be the three of us, and we're to avoid a fight if we can. We go out to the left, and we come back through Post Six on the right. - Is everything all clear at Post Six? - All the sentries have been warned. Number six will send up flares at ten-minute intervals starting at 0400. - I wanted them every five minutes. - I told them that, sir. The sergeant says every five minutes is too much. It's certain to draw artillery. Quite a strategist, this sergeant. What's his name? I don't know, sir. All right. You men wait outside. I'll join you in a minute. Would you mind telling us the password, sir? - Calais. - Yes, sir. - He's fortifying himself. - It smelled like heaven. I can always tell when he's had a few. He gets sarcastic. Well, at least he could have passed it around, the pig. Hey, what's he got against you anyway? We went to school together before the war. He thinks I don't have enough respect for him. He's right. You gentlemen are ready? Colonel. - Everything clear and understood? - Yes, sir. The lane through our wire is right out in front here. The machine guns are pointing at the opening. - Good luck, men. - Thank you, sir. All right, men. Let's go. - What's that? - I don't know. Lejeune, move out and look that over. We'll cover you. Split up a night patrol? Move out, Lejeune. I don't like this. Let's get out of here. We haven't given him enough time. - If we wait, they'll get us too. - We've got to wait for him. He must be dead. Where is he? - Well! - Surprised, Lieutenant? Yes, I am. Happily surprised. I thought you'd been killed. You didn't wait around to find out, did you, Lieutenant? Look here. What do you mean? I mean you ran like a rabbit after you killed Lejeune. Killed Lejeune? What are you talking about? I don't think I like your tone. You're speaking to an officer. Remember that. Oh, well, I must be mistaken, then, sir. An officer wouldn't do that. A man wouldn't do it. Only a thing would. A sneaky, booze-guzzling, yellow-bellied rat with a bottle for a brain - and a streak of spit for a spine. - That's enough. - You got yourself into a mess. - Oh, I have? Well, you've got yourself in a worse one. First, general insubordination. Second, threatening your superior officer. Third, refusing to obey an order and inciting others to do the same. How do you think those charges are going to look on paper? Not half as bad as these. Endangering the lives of your men through recklessness, drunk on duty, wanton murder of one of your own men, and cowardice in the face of the enemy. Philip, have you ever tried to bring charges against an officer? It's my word against yours. Whose word do you think they're going to believe? Or let me put it another way. Whose word are they going to accept? I'll tell you what I'm willing to do. So far, all I have written in this report is that you and Lejeune were killed while out on patrol. I'll fix this to read that you made your way back after becoming separated during the skirmish. - That'll end the matter. - You killed Lejeune. You know that. - It was an accident. - You threw that grenade. I'd give anything if it hadn't happened. That's the truth. Honestly, I know you don't like me, but what kind of a man do you think I am? - Oh, good morning, Colonel. - At ease, men. - I've been waiting for your report. - We found out a thing or two. - Everything go well? - No, sir. Private Lejeune was killed. - How'd it happen? - It's in the report, sir. - Let's have it. - It isn't quite finished yet, sir. That's all, Corporal. You did a good night's work. Should feel very proud of yourself. Go get some sleep. Yes, sir. - How'd you lose Lejeune? - Machine gun fire, sir. He coughed. Almost got us all killed. Finish that report and get it to my dugout immediately. Yes, sir. The artillery starts at 0515. The First Battalion will move out at 0530. When the leading elements have cleared the German wires, the second wave, consisting of the Second and Third Battalions minus two companies in reserve, will move out. In no case later than 0540. That's it, gentlemen. Are there any questions? Sir, is 15 minutes of artillery preparation all that we can expect? The feeling is that any more will give them too much time to get organized. What's the weather supposed to be like tomorrow, sir? Too good. No chance of rain or fog? The forecast is for sun all day. If, or perhaps I should say when, we take the Ant Hill, how long do we have to hold it before we can expect any support? General Mireau, who, by the way, will be personally observing the attack, has promised support from the 72nd by sundown tomorrow, which means, of course, that we'll have to hold all day. Any more questions? Well, gentlemen, good luck. I'm sure you'll come through as you always do. Let's get some sleep. I'm not afraid of dying tomorrow, only of getting killed. - That's as clear as mud. - Which would you rather be done in by? - A bayonet or a machine gun? - Machine gun, naturally. That's my point. They're both pieces of steel ripping into your guts, only the machine gun is quicker, cleaner, and less painful, isn't it? - What does that prove? - That proves most of us are more afraid of getting hurt than getting killed. Look at Bernard. He panics when it comes to gas. Gas doesn't bother me a bit. He's seen photos of gas cases, but it doesn't mean anything to me. But I'll tell you something. I'd hate like the devil to be without my tin hat. But I don't mind not having a tin hat for my tail. - Why's that? - That's where your brains are. Because I know a wound to the head will hurt more than one in the tail. The tail is just meat, but the head... the head is all bone. - Speak for yourself. - Tell me this. Aside from the bayonet, what are you most afraid of? - High explosives. - Exactly. It's the same with me. Because I know that it can chew you up worse than anything else. Look, it's like I'm trying to tell you. If you're really afraid of dying, you'd be living in a funk all the rest of your life because you know you've got to go someday, any day. If it's death you're really afraid of, why should you care about what kills you? You're too smart for me, Professor. All I know is nobody wants to die. Through to Division, sir. Through to Polygon. Everything quiet. All units report themselves ready. Zero minus two. May I offer you gentlemen some cognac? Thank you, sir. After you, sir. To France. Minus 15, 14, 13... ...ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero. Sergeant, where's B Company? I don't know, sir. - Where in heaven's name are they? - On the left, sir. Where are the rest? Zero plus one, and they're still in the trenches. They're not advancing. Miserable cowards! They're not advancing! The barrage is getting away from them. They're still in the trenches! Yes, sir. Captain Nichols. Yes, sir? Order the 75's to commence firing on our own positions. Captain, do you fail to comprehend the meaning of my order? No, sir, but I respectfully ask to... Captain, do you fail to comprehend the meaning of my order? No, sir. - Then carry it out, Captain. - Yes, sir. Hello, Polygon? This is Division. Batteries One and Two commence firing on coordinates 32-58-78. Batteries One and Two to commence firing on coordinates 32-58-78, over. General, the battery commander reports those are our own positions. He says it must be a mistake. - Confirm the order, Captain. - Yes, sir. There is no mistake. The order is confirmed. Battery commander respectfully reports he cannot execute such an order unless it is in writing and signed by the general, over. General, battery commander reports he cannot execute such an order unless it is in writing and signed by the general. - Give me that phone. - Yes, sir. General Mireau speaking. Battery commander speaking, sir. The troops are mutinying, refusing to advance. Fire until further notice! With all respect, sir, you have no right to order me to shoot down my own men unless you are willing to take full and undivided responsibility for it. Captain Rousseau, are you going to obey my order? I must have a written order before I can execute such a command, sir. Supposing you are killed? Then where will I be? You'll be in front of a firing squad tomorrow morning! Hand over your command. Report yourself under arrest to my headquarters! Roget! - Why are your men still in here? - Impossible, sir. Major Vignon is dead. Get these men out of the trenches! Come on! Let's get ready for another try! Get these men out of here! I've tried three times! Look at all the casualties. All right, let's give it another try! Come on! It's impossible, sir. All the men are falling back. Sir, I respectfully submit to the colonel. Pardon. Your remarks to me were very unfair, sir. It's just impossible. It's just impossible. General, according to first reports, the attack has failed all along the line. The men are falling back to our own trenches. Major Saint-Auban, arrange for the immediate relief of the 701st Regiment. Send them to the Chteau de L'aigle. Have Colonel Dax report to me. Major Gouderc, assemble a general court-martial. Have it ready to meet at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. If those sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll face French ones! I ordered an attack. Your troops refused to attack. Our troops did attack, sir, but they could make no headway. Because they didn't try. I saw it myself. Half never left the trenches. A third of my men were pinned down because the fire was so intense. Don't quibble over fractions. The fact remains a good part of your men never left their own trenches. Colonel Dax, I'm going to have ten men from each company in your regiment tried under penalty of death for cowardice. - Penalty of death? - For cowardice! They've skim milk in their veins instead of blood. It's the reddest milk I've ever seen. My trenches are soaked with it! - That's just about enough out of you. - I'm not gonna mince words... If you continue in this manner, I shall have to place you under arrest. I believe the colonel has a point, even though he makes it rather bluntly. This is not a trial, but it does bear certain aspects of one, and Colonel Dax technically is cast in the role of the defense. In view of the charges, a court would grant latitude in presenting his case. Latitude is one thing, insubordination another. I am merely offering an opinion, General. Please do not feel constrained to accept it. I'm perfectly willing to accept it, General Broulard. I'm sorry, sir. I certainly didn't intend to be insubordinate. My only aim is to remind you of the heroism these men have shown on every occasion in the past. We're not talking about the past. We're talking about the present. But don't you see, sir? They're not cowards. If some didn't leave the trenches, it must have been impossible. They were ordered to attack. It was their duty to obey that order. We can't leave it up to the men to decide whether an order is possible. If it was impossible, the only proof of that would be their dead bodies lying in the bottom of the trenches. They're scum, Colonel. The whole rotten regiment is a pack of sneaking, whining, tail-dragging curs. Do you really believe that? Yes, I do. That's exactly what I believe. And what's more, it's an incontestable fact. Why not shoot the entire regiment? I'm perfectly serious. You're missing the point entirely. We don't want to slaughter the French army. All we want is to set an example. Oh, if it's an example you want, then take me. - Take you? - Yes, sir. If you want an example, one man will do as well as a hundred. The logical choice is the officer most responsible for the attack. Come, Colonel. I think you're overwrought. This is not a question of officers. Paul, we don't want to overdo this thing. Suppose we just make it a dozen. I was talking of a hundred men. Now we're down to 12. Paul, let's not haggle over this anymore. Let's get it settled once and for all so we can all live with it. Well, perhaps I was a bit too anxious to see proper justice meted out. I've spent my entire life in the army. I've always tried to be true to my principles. It's the only mistake I can ever be accused of. I'll settle for this... have the company commanders select one man from each company in the first wave. - Three in all. - Well, that's very reasonable, Paul. The court-martial will meet at the chteau at 3:00 this afternoon. - Will that be convenient for you? - I won't be there, Paul. You won't be there? No. I think it best that you handle this matter on your own. Probably so. General Mireau, if it's possible, I'd like to be appointed counsel for the accused. I'll take it under consideration. Oh, we can permit that. Consider it settled, Colonel. Thank you, sir. Noon straight up, Paul. I hope that you can stay for lunch, Colonel. George, I'm afraid the colonel won't have time. Don't deny it, Paul, you've been hiding this man. Keeping him for your own. I think that was very selfish of you. Thank you, General, but I'm afraid there isn't much time between now and 3:00. Of course, Colonel. I shall look forward to the pleasure of seeing you again. - Yes, Captain? What is it? - You ordered me to report to you, sir. - Captain Rousseau, Battery Commander. - Yes, of course. I wanted to speak to you about some of your shells falling short. I haven't time now. Report back to your command until further orders. Yes, sir. - Bad stuff. It demoralizes the men. - I quite agree with you. The best solution is to shelve him to another outfit. A court of inquiry ought to roast him a bit first. Well, in cases like shells falling short, I always try to avoid an inquiry. It gets around among the men and makes a bad impression. Shelving will be the best discipline for him in my opinion. - Perhaps you're right. - Oh, would you excuse me for a moment? A regimental matter for the colonel. - I'll join you in the dining room. - Splendid. In a moment. There'll be Captain Sancy, Captain Renouart, and Lieutenant Roget. - Yes, sir. - Have them meet me in half an hour. - Yes, sir. - Colonel Dax? - Yes, sir. - I'd like a word. Certainly, sir. - Let's be sensible about this. - Sensible, sir? Listen to me, Dax. You can cut out this fancy talk with me, understand? General Broulard seemed to think you're funny. I don't. - I want you to drop this affair. - I beg your pardon. Is that an order? Colonel Dax, when this mess is cleaned up, I'll break you! I'll find an excuse, and I'll break you to the ranks. I'll ruin you. It will be just what you deserve, showing such little loyalty to your commanding officer. That's all, Colonel. General Mireau feels that the attack on the Ant Hill yesterday morning failed because of an inadequate effort on the part of the First Battalion. Each of you is to select one man from your company, place him under arrest, and have him appear before a general court-martial no later than 1500 hours this afternoon. The charge is cowardice in the face of the enemy. You have your orders, gentlemen. Let's carry them out. But Lieutenant Roget killed Lejeune on that patrol and then blackmailed me into keeping quiet about it! - That's why he picked me! - Corporal, I understand your feelings. But that has nothing to do with the charges you're being tried for. - Don't you believe me, sir? - Yes, I do. But who else will? You've got no witnesses. Besides, such charges against an officer would only antagonize the court. When we get clear of this, I'm going into the story of that patrol again. Sir, in my case, Captain Renouart had the sergeant draw lots. I was picked purely by chance. You were lucky. Look at me. I was just picked because Captain Sancy said I was a social undesirable. Me, a social undesirable. I didn't act like a coward. Picking by lots! Is that fair? Gentlemen! You've all got to understand that the reason you were picked is immaterial. Whatever the reason, you're on trial for your lives. Stick to your stories, and don't let the prosecutor shake you out of them. Now remember, you'll be soldiers in the presence of superior officers, so act like what you are. Soldiers. And brave ones at that. I've been in the room you'll be sitting in. The sun will be in your faces, so don't let it seem as if you're dropping your eyes in a hangdog manner. When you answer questions, look the judges in the eye. Don't whine, plead, or make speeches. That's my job. Simple statements. Short. But make them so they can be heard all over the room. And try not to repeat yourselves. I'll do that for you when I sum up. We haven't much time. The court-martial begins in about an hour. I've got notes to look at. Good luck. Thank you, Colonel. The court-martial is opened. Prisoners may be seated. This is a general court-martial. We'll dispense with unnecessary formalities. These men are charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy and will be tried for that offense. Mr. Prosecutor. Call the accused, Private Ferol. Mr. President, will the prosecutor question the witnesses without even reading the indictment? Please don't take up the court's time with technicalities. The indictment is lengthy and there's no point in reading it. - The defense has a right... - The indictment is that the accused showed cowardice in the face of the enemy during the attack on the Ant Hill. Proceed, Mr. Prosecutor. Call the accused, Private Ferol. - Private Ferol. - Yes, sir? Were you in the first wave during the attack on the Ant Hill? - Yes, sir. - Did you refuse to advance? No, sir. - Did you advance? - Yes, sir. How far did you advance? - To about the middle of no-man's-land. - Then what did you do? There were machine gun bullets landing all around... Answer the question. What did you do? Well, I saw that me and Meyer... I didn't ask what you saw. The court has no concern with your visual experiences. - My what, sir? - Prisoner will reply to the question. Yes, sir. What question was it? You advanced to the middle of no-man's-land. What did you do then? - Then, sir? - Did you go back or forward? - I went back, sir. - In other words, Private Ferol... you retreated. Yes, sir. That's all. The accused may return to his seat. Just a minute. Mr. President, I'd like to question the witness, if I may. Proceed, Colonel. Thank you. Private Ferol, when you reached the middle of no-man's-land, were you alone with Private Meyer? Yes, sir. What happened to the rest of your company? Well, I don't know, sir. I guess the rest of them had been killed or wounded. You found yourself in the middle of no-man's-land alone with Private Meyer? - Yes, sir. - Why didn't you attack single-handed? Why didn't you storm the Ant Hill alone? Just me and Meyer? You're kidding, sir. Yes, I'm kidding, Private Ferol. Thank you. That's all. I don't see the point of this line of questioning. Well, I'm attempting to indicate, sir, the utter absurdity of the line of questioning used by the prosecutor. Mr. Prosecutor. So you freely admit, Private Ferol, that you retreated? Yes, sir. Me and Meyer both. I knew we should have took Ant Hill, but we came on back. That's all. The accused may return to his seat. Private Arnaud, did you advance? Yes, sir, until I was ordered back to the trenches by Captain Renouart. How far did you advance? Into the wire, sir. The enemy wire, I suppose. No, sir. It was our wire. You mean to tell me that you didn't advance any further than our wire? No, sir. I didn't. How far would you say that was? How many meters? Well, I advanced as far as I could. How many meters? Not many. Not many? Now, Private Arnaud, before you were ordered back, did you urge your fellow soldiers forward? Most were dead or wounded before they got three steps beyond the trenches. Reply to the question. I didn't urge them on. No, sir. Thank you. Private Arnaud, at ease, please. Aside from your sad failure to give throat to spirited battle cries, was your behavior different in any respect from that of the other men in your company? Objection. That's a matter of conjecture. Sustained. Did any men in your company get beyond our wire? No, sir. Is it true that you've been designated a coward simply and purely because you drew a slip of paper marked "X"? Yes, sir. I don't see that that's significant. It's accepted practice in the French army to pick examples by lot. Since this entire company advanced only a few meters, picking by lot was eminently fair in this case. Well, I'd like to point out that this soldier has distinguished himself in some of the bloodiest battles of the war. With the court's permission, I'll read citations for bravery that he's already earned on two occasions. First, citations in the Orders in the Army for bravery... That's immaterial. The accused is not being tried for his former bravery but for his recent cowardice. Medals are no defense. May I call witnesses to his character? You may not. But you may call witnesses to the effect that he reached the German wire. Mr. President, no one in the entire regiment got anywhere near the German wire, including myself. Call the next accused. If you're through, Colonel. Thank you. The prisoner may return to his seat. - So you never even left the trenches? - No, sir. That's all. Corporal Paris, why didn't you leave the trenches? Major Vignon was shot, and he fell back on top of me, sir, and knocked me cold. And were you lying unconscious in the trenches during the entire attack? Yes, sir. - That's all. - Have you any witnesses? No. Everybody was too busy to notice me, and there were many others lying dead. - But you have no witnesses? - No, sir. I only have a rather large cut on my head, sir. That could've been self-inflicted later. Thank you. You may stand down. Mr. Prosecutor, you can make your plea. Gentlemen of the court, this case speaks for itself. All of us witnessed the regrettable attack yesterday morning. And I submit that that attack was a stain on the flag of France, a blot on the honor of every man, woman, and child in the French nation. It is to us that the sad, distressing, repellent duty falls, gentlemen. I ask this court to find the accused guilty... and impose the penalties prescribed by the code of military justice. Thank you. Colonel, would you like to make your plea? Gentlemen of the court, there are times when I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race, and this is one such occasion. It's impossible for me to summarize the case for the defense since the court never allowed me a reasonable opportunity to present my case. Are you protesting the authenticity of this court? Yes, sir. I protest against being prevented from introducing evidence that I consider vital to the defense. The prosecution presented no witnesses. There has never been a written indictment of charges made against the defendants. And lastly, I protest against the fact that no stenographic records of this trial have been kept. The attack yesterday morning was no stain on the honor of France... and certainly no disgrace to the fighting men of this nation. But this court-martial is such a stain and such a disgrace. The case made against these men is a mockery of all human justice. Gentlemen of the court, to find these men guilty would be a crime, to haunt each of you till the day you die. I can't believe that the noblest impulse of man... his compassion for another... can be completely dead here. Therefore I humbly beg you... show mercy to these men. The accused will be escorted back to the guard room. The hearing is closed. The court will now retire to deliberate. There will be a guard of six men under arms. Rifles loaded, bayonets fixed, two men to each prisoner. Any sign of trouble, the prisoners will be instantly covered, and if the trouble doesn't subside at once, the prisoner will be shot. Everything must go off without a hitch with the least possible delay. It shouldn't be hurried. There must be no fumbling around. I've been put in charge and made personally responsible for any lack of order or any mistakes. But you can take it from me that I shall pass on any blame, and with interest, to any one of you who fails in his duties. The execution will take place at 7:00 according to the verdict of the court-martial. Detail, attention! Dismissed! - This is compliments of General Mireau. - Duck! - Well, tell him thanks. - Don't blame me, soldier. Hey, ugly, what are we supposed to eat this with, our fingers? The guard says you can't have any knives or forks. Is this supposed to be our last meal or something? It isn't supposed to be our last meal. It is our last meal. This duck is terrific. You suppose they'd put anything in the food? First they poison us, then they shoot us? - I think they put something in it. - Like what? Like, uh, like something to make us groggy or something. What would be wrong with that if they did? Maybe nothing for you, but I'm going to get out of this somehow. - And I don't want to be drugged. - How are you going to get out? Chew your way through that stone wall? Colonel Dax... he'll see us through. Listen, we got to get out of here. They're going to kill us if we don't. - Have you got an idea? - No, but there's got to be a way. How many guys you think they've got out there? They may have a couple of squads. That's what it sounded like this morning. - Maybe they're some of our friends. - That's the Third Battalion. Anyway, right now we have no friends. Why kid yourself? We're not going to get out of this. Maybe you're not, but I am. I'll guarantee you of that. You see that cockroach? Tomorrow morning we'll be dead and it'll be alive. It'll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I'll be nothing, and it'll be alive. Now you got the edge on him. Good evening, my sons. I'm Father Dupree. - Is there any news? - Yes, I'm afraid I bring you bad news. You must prepare for the worst. Colonel Dax asked me to tell you. - Oh, mercy, no! - He's been in telephone contact with army headquarters but unable to speak to General Broulard or to anyone in authority. The same way at Division. No one wants to be found. - How much time do we have? - You have plenty of time yet. Certainly more than enough to prepare yourselves. Father, will you take this letter, please? - Of course, my son. - It's to my wife. She won't understand this, and I tried to explain it to her. I'll see that she gets it. Do you want me to hear your confession? Well, Father, to tell you the truth, I'm not very religious. I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate it, but if I started praying now I'd feel like a hypocrite. Oh, that's an error, my son. God is always ready to listen to your prayers. All right, Father. Will you please hear my confession? Yes. Have faith in your creator, my son. Death comes to us all. In name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. That's really deep... "Death comes to us all." That really is deep. Ferol, afraid your luck isn't going to hold up? Look! This is my religion. Oh, great bottle, forgive me my sins, for now I lay me down to sleep. May I drink of you first? Thank you. Amen. I understand your anguish, my son, but you must not let it harden your heart. May I tell you something, Father? Back in my hometown, there was a certain little cafe with an amusing sign over the bar. It read, "Do not be afraid to ask for credit, for our way of refusing is very polite." - Come on. Sit down. You're drunk. - Oh, Paris, leave me alone. Can you get out of here with your sanctimonious, pat answers? - Are you hanging around to torture us? - No, to help you with all my power. - Your power? You have no power! - No, but God has power. - Does He? What a laugh! - You can be saved. Saved? I'll be saved? Cut it out, Arnaud! Arnaud! Arnaud... Father, get a doctor. Quick. That should keep him quiet long enough. That's a nasty skull fracture, though. - He may not live out the night. - What are we supposed to do with him? My advice is to tie him to a stretcher so he won't slip when you tilt it. Surely they won't execute a man in that condition. The sentence will be carried out. I've already checked with the general. If he's still alive in the morning, pinch his cheeks a couple of times. It may make him open his eyes. The general wants him to be conscious. Yes? - Lieutenant Roget reporting, sir. - Come in. Sergeant Boulanger said you wanted to see me, sir. Yes. We have a pretty unpleasant thing on our hands in a few hours. - You mean the execution? - Yes, I mean the execution. Yes, sir. It's very unfortunate. Very unfortunate. That's just how I feel about it. - None of us are happy about it, sir. - How'd you happen to pick Corporal Paris? I had to pick somebody, sir. That's right. Of course, you had no personal motive - in picking Paris, did you? - No, sir. You picked him because he was a coward, didn't you? Did you or didn't you? Yes, sir. I did. Well, like you say, somebody had to be picked. - It was quite a problem, sir. - Yes, I have the same kind of problem. I have to pick someone to be in charge of the firing squad tomorrow. Do you have any objections to taking the job? - Me, sir? - Yes, you. Don't you feel well? Yeah, I feel all right, sir. It's just that I... Is it too hot in here? Would you like me to open a window? No, sir. Well, it's just that I've never been in charge of a firing squad before, sir. There's nothing to it. First you help the sergeant tie the men to the post and offer the men blindfolds... if they want them, you tie them on. Now, you take your position with the firing squad, you raise your sword... "Ready, aim, fire." Then you draw your revolver out, walk forward, and put a bullet through each man's head. Sir, I request that I be excused from this duty. Request denied. - Colonel, I... - You've got the job. It's all yours. - That's all. - Colonel, if you could just... That's all! Yes? Excuse me, sir. Colonel Dax? - Yes? - My name is Rousseau, sir. - Captain of Artillery. - What is it, Captain? I have something to tell you that may have a bearing on the court-martial. Come in. Colonel. Good evening. - Good evening. - Come and sit down. Thank you, sir. I'm really sorry to intrude on you in this way. Not at all. Always delighted to see you, Colonel Dax. Will you have a cigar? No, thank you, sir. - Well, I... - Think you'll find it delicious. I must apologize for not inviting you to the party tonight, but I'm afraid that it's a dress affair. Thank you, sir, but I must confess that this is not entirely a social visit. Come, Dax. Let's not go over all that ground again. Though, I must admit that judging from the casualties, the efforts of your regiment must have been considerable. How can you understand that and allow these men to be shot tomorrow? Come, Colonel, you're choosing to take a rather simple view of this. The attack was impossible. The general staff must have known that. Colonel Dax, we think we're doing a good job running the war. You must be aware the general staff is subject to unfair pressures from newspapers and politicians. Maybe the attack against the Ant Hill was impossible. Perhaps it was an error of judgment on our part. On the other hand, if your men had been more daring, they might have taken it. Who knows? In any case, why should we have to bear any more criticism than we have to? Aside from the fact that many of your men never left the trenches, there's the troops' morale, don't forget. - The troops' morale? - Certainly. These executions will be a perfect tonic for the entire division. There are few things more fundamentally encouraging and stimulating than seeing someone else die. - I never thought of that, sir. - Colonel, troops are like children. Just as a child wants his father to be firm, troops crave discipline. One way to maintain discipline is to shoot a man now and then. May I ask, do you sincerely believe all the things you've just said? It's been a pleasure discussing this with you, Colonel, but I'm afraid that I'd better be getting back to my guests. Forgive me for having kept you from your party. Oh, by the way, sir, have you heard that General Mireau ordered his own battery commander, Captain Rousseau, to open fire on his own positions during the attack? Of course, the captain refused without a written order. But General Mireau demanded that he commence firing on our own trenches. Well, again, Rousseau refused without an order in writing, but again he was ordered and again he refused, all in front of witnesses. Do you actually believe this fantastic story? Here are copies of the sworn statements from all the principals involved. Battery Commander Rousseau, Captain Nichols, the artillery spotter, the telephone clerk, and my own deposition. What has this got to do with the charge against the condemned prisoners? A general in a tantrum over the failure of an impossible attack orders his artillery to fire on his own men. The same officer on the same day orders a court-martial in which three of his men are sentenced to be shot. General, what would your newspapers and your politicians do with that? - Are you trying to blackmail me? - Sir, that's an ugly word, but you are in a difficult position. Too much has happened. Someone's got to be hurt. The question is whom. General Mireau's assault on the Ant Hill failed. His order to fire on his own troops was refused. But his attempt to murder three innocent men to protect his own reputation will be prevented by the general staff. Will you pardon me, Colonel Dax? I've been rude to my guests too long. Detail, halt! Order, arms! Fall out. Courage, my sons. The worst is over. Good morning, Paris. Good morning, Sergeant. How are you today? Not too bad. How are you? You missed some good chow in here last night. What did you have? Have you got a drink for us? Take a swig of this. It just occurred to me. Funny thing. I haven't had one sexual thought since the court-martial. It's pretty extraordinary, isn't it? Pull yourself together. Act like a man. - Listen, Paris. Are you listening? - Yes. There will be a lot of dignitaries, newspapermen out there. How do you want to be remembered? - I don't want to die. - Many of us will be joining you before this war's over. I don't care. I don't want to die. - Please save me, Sergeant. - I can't save you. No one can now. This is the last decision you'll have a chance to make on earth. You can act like a man, or we'll have to drag you out of here. In the end, it will all be the same. It's up to you. Let's get busy. You and Ferol take your coats off. No use hanging around here. ...with the help of Thy grace to do penance to amend my life. What do I have to die for, Father? What do I have to die for? I didn't do anything wr... We do not question the will of God, my son. But I fought. I fought. I fought on the battlefield. Why don't they die? Why don't they put them to death? You showed courage in the face of the enemy, my son. Show it now before your own troops. But I'm scared. I'm scared. Oh, Father, I'm scared. Courage. Brace yourself, man. Brace yourself. He said, "This day, thou shalt be with me in paradise." - Really, Father? - Yes, my son. I'll never see my wife again, Father. I'll never see nobody again, Father. Courage, man. Brace yourself. - I can't help it. - Brace yourself, man. - I can't help it, Father. - Oh, God, Almighty God. - Oh, Christ. Strengthen me, God! - Grant courage to this man who is about to die. What do I have to die for, Father? What do I have to die for? Forward, face! Secure the men! Detail, attention! Forward, march! Detail... halt! Left, face! I repent. In the name of the French people, Corporal Philip Paris, Private Maurice Ferol, and Private Pierre Arnaud of the 701st Regiment, having been found guilty of cowardice in the face of the enemy, are to be executed by rifle fire immediately in accordance with the judgment of the military court-martial. Right, face! Forward, march! You want a blindfold? Yes, Lieutenant. Please. I don't want to die. I don't want to die. Did you want a blindfold? I'm sorry. Oh, Father. Ready! Aim! Fire! I'm awfully glad you could be there, George. This sort of thing is always rather grim. But this had splendor, don't you think? I have never seen an affair of this sort handled any better. The men died wonderfully. There's always that chance that one will do something that will leave everyone with a bad taste. This time, you couldn't ask for better. Yes? - Yes, Colonel? - You wanted to see me, sir. Oh, yes. Come in, Colonel. Come in and sit down. Colonel Dax, your men died very well. - Would you like some coffee, Colonel? - No, thank you, sir. Paul, it's been brought to my attention that you ordered your artillery to fire on your own men during the attack on the Ant Hill. I did what? Who told you that? Colonel Dax came to me last night with the story. Colonel Dax, I've always known you were a disloyal officer, but I never dreamed you would stoop to anything so low as this. I've sworn statements from Captain Nichols, your artillery spotter, Captain Rousseau, the battery commander who refused your order. I think it's absolutely infamous. Then there's no truth to the charge made by Colonel Dax? I don't see how you could even ask me that. You cannot imagine how glad I am to hear that, Paul. I'm certain you'll come through it all right. - I'll come through what? - There'll have to be an inquiry. - An inquiry? - Those things, the public forgets. - Public? - You've got to clear your name. You cannot allow such vile insinuations against your character to go undenied. So that's it. You're making me the goat, the only completely innocent man in this whole affair. I have only one last thing to say to you, George. The man you stabbed in the back is a soldier. Well... it had to be done. France cannot afford to have fools guiding her military destiny. I'm grateful to you for having brought this matter to my attention. Colonel, how would you like General Mireau's job? - His what? - His job. Let me get this straight, sir. You're offering me General Mireau's command? Come, come, Colonel Dax. Don't overdo the surprise. You've been after the job from the start. We all know that, my boy. I may be many things, sir, but I am not your boy. Well, I certainly didn't mean to imply any biological relationship. - I'm not your boy in any sense. - Are you trying to provoke me, Colonel? - Why should I want to do that? - Exactly. It would be a pity to lose your promotion before you get it. A promotion you have so very carefully planned for. Sir, would you like me to suggest what you can do with that promotion? Colonel, you will apologize at once or shall be placed under arrest! I apologize for not being entirely honest with you. I apologize for not revealing my true feelings. I apologize for not telling you sooner that you're a degenerate, sadistic old man. And you can go to hell before I apologize to you now or ever again! Colonel Dax, you're a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau's command. You're an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We're fighting a war, a war that we've got to win. Those men didn't fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong? Because you don't know the answer to that question... I pity you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. Now, gentlemen, we have a special entertainment for you. Sort of a little diversion, as it were. And my wife always says, "What is life without a little diversion?" Now, gentlemen, I give you our latest acquisition from the enemy. Boo! From Germany, the land of the Hun! Gentlemen, a little pearl washed ashore by the tide of war. Hey, talk in a civilized language! It's true. The little lady has her limitations. As a matter of fact, she has absolutely no talent at all, except, that is, maybe a little natural talent. The little lady can't dance, she can't tell any jokes, and she can't balance rubber balls on her little nose. But she can sing like a bird! She has a throat of gold. - Come on, baby! - Come on, honey! Sing us a song! Louder! Louder! - Sir. - Yes, sir? We have orders to move back to the front immediately. - Give the men a few minutes more. - Yes, sir.