Cinema: Back to the Front

Von Ryan's Express, drawn from David Westheimer's World War II escape novel, is the kind of story that goes before the cameras almost as soon as it comes off the presses, possibly because the book reads like a scenario. Yet it makes a breakthrough of sorts. In the novel, the hero presumably lives happily ever after. In the movie, he dies.

Shot down over Italy in 1943, Colonel Joseph L. Ryan (Frank Sinatra) is sent to an Italian prisoner-of-war camp where he outranks and outrages a stuffy British major (Trevor Howard) and soon earns the prefix "Von" from the British and Americans...

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