Sherman and Lee Movies: How Has Hollywood Done With The Sherman? Ok actually.
Sahara: The one from 1943
Stars Humphrey Bogart but the real star is practically isM3 Lee. The movie was made during the war and is a great little war movie. I highly recommend it. The Lee in the movie is an early production M3. An early P-51 with an Alison V1710 motor is used to portray a BF-109. This movie made the Lee into my favorite tank when I saw it as a kid. It led to my first tank model kit.
1941: Not the best movie, but amusing.
One of Steven Spielberg’s first movies, trying to catch the comedic value of the panic on the west coast at the start of WWII. Dan Aykroyd and friends drive a Lee around the movie. The Lee in this movie is an early production model with side doors, and is missing its machine gun cupola. The Movie also has an early B17, and a P-40 in it. Update!!! That’s LEE is an IMPOSTER! They couldn’t find a real one so they built one on An M7 GMC hull with plywood.
Tank: A Movie A Movie Used In A Prison Break!
James Garner uses his personal Sherman tank to spring his son from Jail after a corrupt southern Sheriff put him there. Great little movie, featuring several, two I think, M4A3s, these are small hatch tanks with all the updates. It’s campy, but fairly family friendly, though, one of the tanks ‘Crew’ was a girl forced into prostitution by the Sheriff.
Some Trivia about this Movie, the Collings Foundation, the charity that flies the B-24 around, owns the M4A3 Sherman used in this movie.
Fury: Probably the best tank movie to date
Brat Pitt takes on a Tiger in a M4A3E8 and then kills lots of Nazis! What’s not to love? It was a pretty good modern war movie, even if not the most likely scenario. They used real Shermans and the only working Tiger tank in the world, curtesy of the Bovington Armor museum. There are lots of Nazis who get shot up by the crew, so really a fun night! This movie is like Pearl Harbor, even if you hate the plot, it’s worth it just to see the WWII vehicles in action.
Kelly’s Heroes: Corny, and a little to 60s hippy influenced, but still a fun movie
Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, and Don Rickles rip off a bank in France while WWII goes on around them. Donald Sutherland plays Oddball, maybe his most famous role, at least with tank oriented people. Basically a 60s hippy transplanted into Sherman tanks for a war movie filmed in the late 60s. The music almost ruins the movie, but it has lots of footage of post war M4A3E4s with 75mm turrets and M1A1 guns replacing the 75mm gun. Filmed in Yugoslavia, using tanks they received from the US Government as military aid. This model will be covered at some point.
The Movie is fun, but in no way should be taken for good history, look at it like the War comedy/Parody it is.
A Bridge to Far: Lots Of Famous Actors, And Lots Of Sherman Tanks, and A Lot Of Time
The last of the big screen epic war movies with mega casts. Most thought it was too long. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, if you like seeing Sherman tanks driving around, this movie is good one to watch a second time. It also has a star studded cast. The Shermans range from plain Jane early production models to Fireflies.
Coming soon, reviews of: The Tanks Are Coming and Cast A Giant Shadow
36 thoughts on “# 29 Shermans On The Silver Screen: That’s Movies just in case you didn’t know!”
Sahara is a surprisingly good movie for the time it was made at mid-war, although with the unlikely gimmick of having a representative from almost every Allied nation fighting against the Axis powers (Lloyd Bridges has a brief role as the Canadian soldier).
I see two mentions above of The Tanks Are Coming. That may be the movie I saw during the mid-1950s. If so, it is about a U.S. armored unit equipped with 75mm Shermans, whose scourge is the PzKpfw V Panther, armed with its higher velocity 7.5cm gun. The first encounter is well done, with the Shermans encountering a single Panther at a crossroads. The German tank thereupon proceeds to knock out all but a couple of the M4s, which finally work around behind it to put a round into its engine louvers, finis Panther. A naîve kid in the unit writes a letter to some bigwig Stateside, pleading for something better and bigger, and in the end, the unit gets either a 76mm Sherman or one of the first M26 Pershings (don’t remember). Problem solved!
Across the Pond, there is a good Brit flick, made I think not long postwar, about a trooper in an armoured unit who is commissioned during the war, makes the usual gaffes at his first meal in the officers mess. and commands a tank platoon that crosses an open field and comes under fire from German AT guns, taking heavy casualties. Don’t think the Brit tanks are Shermans, mebbe Cromwells (fresh meat with their prewar flatface design). I don’t know the name of the film, but I would dearly love to see all three discussed, any time.
Agree that Pearl Harbor is really awful and the remade Midway little better, but Tora! Tora! Tora!, with no pretty boys in its middle-aged cast, comes pretty close to what happened. The suspense music is also fine. I see it whenever on the tube.
Good point on Sahara, but hey, at least they didn’t stuff a hot nurse in. You know some Hollywood type wanted too.
Jeeps, Guns, Tanks:
There is such a movie…or at least almost. It is Ice Cold in Alex (1958) and pretty decent as long as one sees the British version at 130 minutes. The American version, retitled insipidly and misleadingly Desert Attack, gutted the original by almost an hour, so 42% is missing. The film stars John Mills (captain), Sylvia Sims (nursing sister), Harry Andrews (machinist sergeant major), and Anthony Quayle (South African captain…maybe). The only tanks seen are at the beginning, in news footage, and include Churchills, Crusaders, and M3 Grants, along with some armored cars, one of which is a Humber. There is another star, however, which is the Austin ambulance Katy.
The plot is set against the fall of Tobruk in June 1942, and four members of a medical unit in the ambulance are among those fleeing east the long distance through the desert to Alexandria. Along the way, they pick up a South African captain, and in an encounter with the enemy, one of the nursing sisters is killed. That leaves the four core characters to finish the precarious journey, which not surprisingly is fraught with many hazards and challenging difficulties along the way.
A particularly favorite scene takes place at a checkpoint, beyond which the road has been registered by enemy artillery, and the MPs are only permitting the Commonwealth vehicles to drive through the danger zone separated by long intervals. The car carrying ranking staff officers that precedes the ambulance in the vehicle queue is hit as it drives through, so the run across is both chancy and deadly.
Now the critical question: Is the nurse a hottie? The publicity poster bearing the British title would lead one to believe so and leaves little to the imagination (or a teenaged boy’s fevered fantasies). Sorry guys, complete deception.
In another scene, the ambulance is badly mired in unstable sand and the three men have stripped to the waist in the terrible desert heat to try to dig and push it out, assisted by the fully dressed nurse. The British captain becomes frustrated, angry, and unreasonable, and snaps at her in particular for not bearing her load. She yells back and reminds him that all of them have shed their shirts, while she is fully dressed, sweltering, and half dead, and if he continues to upbraid her, she will strip her shirt too. Alas, for the three men and the teenaged boys in the audience, it never happens. The title comes from the captain’s desire to get to Alexandria and drink a very cold lager in his favorite bar.
The Collings Foundation that owns the M4A3 from the movie TANK (and also flies many WW2 warbirds around the US [B-17, B-24, B-25, P-51, P-38, F4U, P-40]) has acquired the Jacques M. Littlefield armor collection from California and has the majority of it on display at their new American Heritage Museum in Hudson, Massachusetts. https://www.americanheritagemuseum.org/
For more Sherman’s, check out “They Were Not Divided”. It is an English WWII film, made post war about a group of guys in the Guards Armoured Division. Lots of Sherman’s and other British wartime vehicles to be seen. Interesting tactics to be seen in the movie.
British Sherman’s and Tiger I
I have a copy of “The Tanks Are Coming”, I could donate it to the cause…
There were also German Shermans in “The Big Red One”
There was a made for TV Movie “Death Race” 1973 Starring Doug Mclure, Hans Gudegast, and Lloyd Bridges. They had a Sherman Tank dressed up as an Afrika Korps Tank chasing a P40 in the Desert.
Kelly’s Heroes the one thing I noticed was the air cool barrel shrouds on the 50 calibers. If I’m not mistaken that was only used on aircraft like bombers. I have never seen any pics of this on a Sherman.
The M2 .50cal machine gun with the cooling shroud perforated the entire length of the barrel was indeed designed for use in bombing aircraft, but the USN utilized the USAAF gun as well. The best known configuration was in twin mounts on PT boats and likely similar craft (e.g. motor gunboats). Because of their fragility, such small war vessels saw predominantly night operations by virtually all of the warring nations. That explains why in several of the images seen, the twin .50s bear flash suppressors. Just google “twin .50cal machine guns on PT boats” and a slew of images will appear.
Almost certainly in the Pacific, the most common targets—and foes—of American PT boats were the Japanese landing barges. They well armed—truly prickly porcupines—and thus no pushovers, so barge busting was hardly approached lightly. Every skipper and crew member wanted his boat to be as heavily armed as possible and great lengths were resorted to. One of the most popular early additions was the M4 37mm gun, scrounged from permanently disabled Bell P-39 Airacobras of the Cactus Air Force, and usually mounted at the end of the fantail. It can be distinguished from 20mm and 40mm guns also typically aboard by its characteristic (and improvised) deck mounting and open circular ammo feed atop the receiver. By the by, Lt. J. F. Kennedy’s PT-109 did NOT have the M4 37mm aircraft gun aboard, but rather an M3 37mm antitank gun lashed to the fo’c’s’le. When IJN Amagiri suddenly loomed out of the night, Kennedy’s exec threw a round into the breech, but I don’t think he was able to fire it before the boat got sliced in two. Hey, at least antiTANK brings us back to proper topic.
Appears an error or perhaps incomplete answer crept into my previous. The M4—and later M9—37mm auto gun was usually installed far forward on the bow, or at least was so after PT (patrol torpedo) boats began to be armed with the Bofors 40mm AA gun, and such was mounted on the fantail. The 37mm and 40mm auto guns had pretty much the same rate of fire, so why both? Well, the Bofors was fed in 4-round clips, thus a continuous hand feed during the action, exposing the ammunition servers to enemy fire. The 37mm auto gun had an unusual oval 30-round magazine, so was placed way up on the bow with a clear field of fire. As the war progressed, a purpose-built deck mount was designed and the 37mm gun was installed at the factory (which I did not know). One photo shows the 37mm mount, and behind it an 81mm mortar in place! This awesome firepower owed to the respect given the excellent IJN/IJA Daihatsu landing barges, well armed and of shallow draft and thus poor torpedo targets. Long gone were the days of scrounging from wrecked P-39 Airacobras, but the numerous and different size ammunition demands now had to be something else. For a good photo of one of these ferocious little devils, armed from stem to stern, see
Okay, okay, admittedly a digression—back to that other M4, the Sherman tank.
Is the Korean War movie TARGET ZERO missed from this discussion? No movie has loved a Shermie more.
I’ll be on the lookout for it, I’ve never heard of it before. Thanks for the tip!
How could you call fury them best tank movie? The acting was awful, unrealistic, make things worse it has shia lebouff in it.
Another movie that – perhaps unexpectedly ,
has good scenes of Sherman & Sherman-based T-Ds
is the early 1950’s sci-fi classic – ‘Invaders from Mars’…
It includes interesting aspects of tank transport by train,
& other rarely seen stuff, maybe its ‘US Army stock footage’..
The movie itself is still worth watching too, IMO – as it happens..
I see your report on ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ avoids mentioning
the noted (very real for Sherman crews ) ‘Tiger Angst’ factor…
Or the Nazi SS shown as able to do ‘business’ US-style – curiously
enough, right around the period in time that a former SS Colonel,
W von Braun, was instrumental in putting Apollo IX – on the moon..
I wouldn’t put to much weight into a movie meant to be a comedic parody of WWII, with a little bit of F/U to the “Greatest Gen” thrown in, as historic evidence for anything.
It’s also no surprise a movie that came out during the cold war, would avoid trying to highlight the criminal history of the SS or German army. The German Army were the good guys again after all, and it wouldn’t be until the late 80s before the myth of the clean wehrmacht was finally stamped out.
What about the movie THE TANKS ARE COMING made around 1950, had a lot of shermans in it?
I would love to get it in here, but I can’t find a copy, well ok, my wife won’t let me buy the one on Amazon 😉
Excellent site! I am loving reading the whole thing!
Just FYI. The movie “The Blues Brothers” had a couple of Shermans in it. One of them used to live about 75 miles up the highway from where I live in Missouri.
I really liked stopping on the way to Saint Louis and checking it out.
Now that you mention it, it did, right at the end with all the soldiers and police chasing them into the tax building. Good catch, that’s always been a favorite movie of mine! Thanks for the compliment on the site.
Nice site. You mention Shermans fighting in Italy – have you read Rampant Dragons by Jeffrey Ploughman – ISBN9780987667502 Published: July 2014.
It covers the 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade from the Desert war to Trieste, Italy, during which it encountered a number of Tigers. They developed a drill for dealing with the big cats, based on using the US Smoke round, which, unlike WP smoke, was heavier than air.
No, I haven’t even heard of that book before, but it’s going on the list. I bet it’s going to be hard to get in the USA.
The M3 from “1941” was fake, not an actual Lee.
Great info, thanks for the link, so not a real Lee, but they painted it up like the Lee used in Sahara! It was based on an M7, and the M7 like the Sherman was based on the Lee, so it still counts more or less. Anyway, thanks for the info!
Just found your site and really like it. I’m curious about your opinion on the battle scenes in Fury. It bothered me that we see four Shermans brew up or blow up as soon as they’re hit, with the entire crew lost each time. As you note, late war Shermans were much less prone to catch fire than early models. Crew losses averaged one or two killed per knocked out tank, so something like 8 to 12 twelve men should have survived. I was also bothered by the tactics when they fight the Tiger. The Tiger advances steadily negating any advantage from its gun and optics, and the Shermans all bunch together and go in head on with no attempt to maneuver–and why does’t anybody put in another WP round to keep the Tiger blind?
Thanks for the kind words on the site.
I agree with you on all your points about Fury. I think David Ayer was a little to fascinated with books like Deathtraps, and really wanted to get the turrets flying into the movie. Of course, if they had used proper tactics, extra smoke and flanking, the movie wouldn’t have been as flashy. Another interesting tidbit is the M1A2 gun on Fury could punch right through the frontal armor of a Tiger I at those ranges.
I think the movie could have been better if they had set it in Italy and used all 75mm armed Shermans. The whole bit about getting a side shot would have made sense then. Of course to do that, they would have had to ship all the tanks from England to Italy, and I’m not to sure Bovington would allow the only working Tiger I tank in the world, to be shipped to another country. It wouldn’t be unprecedented, the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino CA, shipped many of their aircraft by barge, to Hawaii for the filming of Pearl Harbor. This included the only flying A6M3 Zero with original motor in the world! Anyway, there are a lot of things they could have done better with Fury, but the thing is, only tank geeks would ever really catch the real gritty details.
Some of the things I liked about it, it was a movie about tanks and tankers, and had real tanks in it. The equipment looked great and all period correct, well, except for the Tiger, since it was an early model, but knowing that is an even deeper level of geekery.
It would have been nice if the Director had gone for actual realism, instead of pop culture super tiger kill many sherman one, but I’ve long since given up on Hollywood producing ‘Great movies’, and so much of whats come out in the last few years has been really bad. Fury is at least watchable, unlike say, Pearl Harbor.
Your gonna complain about the tiger when itis the only one in the world that is fully functional I see nothing wrong with fury some people can’t handle the truth
Another point to add re: the ‘Fury’ Tiger showdown combat scene..
The ‘dance’ sequence of close turns is bogus, since the Tiger
( unlike the Sherman) was capable of turning within its own
length, by running one set of tracks forward,
& the other in reverse, a useful feature used in modern tanks,
which makes the outcome as shown in the movie, ludicrous..
Another nonsensical point about the movie is the ‘Alamo’ type
finale, since veteran tank crews were more valuable than the
tank itself, & were under standing orders to avoid such ‘heroics’.
( & it was SS anti-tank SOP to put a panzerfaust or 2, through such
a ‘suspicious’ tank, & see it really blazing, before swarming at it
like so many avid flies careening in on a fresh turd)..
its my understanding that the Tiger & Panther never really utilized this ability in the real world as the vehicles couldn’t sustain forces associated with neutral turning and thus it remains an ability that looks good on paper but has little practical value beyond a hypothetical friction-less vacuum battlefield.
Good to see you commenting over here Brice! If you ever want to do another article on the SHerman I’d love to host it!
I’d say the real issue with Tiger scene in Fury, is the M4A3 76W HVSS tanks M1A2 gun would have no trouble penetrating the frontal armor on the Tiger at the ranges involved, using the standard M79 AP round.
The ending is typical Hollywood, you got a have an exciting story to sell it to the money people, I’d say the movie is ok right up to the Tiger fight, then it gets silly.
They really could have done a much more interesting movie, portraying Fury as Brit tank in Normandy. Since the Brits were a tad short on manpower, they sent a lot of tank units in with no infantry support, and no tank lives long fighting infantry without it’s own around protecting it.
On the upside, if the movie did well enough, Hollywood will be more prone to spend money on movies about tanks.
Perhaps J-G-T, but then with the soft soil, doing such turns
would’ve not really risked the transmission/tracks systems
& allowed the Tiger I to present its frontal glacis at an angle
advantageous to defence & shrugging off the 76mm shot…
In any case, the French have a running Tiger II, which would’ve
really beasted the Sherman, & defeated its best shot at any
range/angle, frontally.. if the producers had seen fit..
There is an interesting Brit documentary on the harrowing ride
their tank crews had post-invasion, with some useful comparison
of the various attributes, both +ve, & _ve, of operating Shermans
rather than Brit Cromwell, or Churchill alternatives..
I’ll try to find it, & link it here..
‘Band of brothers’ like-wise has a ‘tense’ action scene of the US 101st
Airborne boys being used as infantry support for the Brit tanks in the’
‘Market Garden’ support ops, with a poor outcome, again sadly typical
of the Brit tankers in WW2..
& incidentally , the repeated ‘hapless’ Brit armoured performance
was a big reason why the Kiwi division in Italy got hold of their ‘own’ Shermans to support themselves more effectively.. they’d had a real
‘gutsful’ – of being let down similarly..
Thanks for the tip, I’ll try and find it somewhere.
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) has some very good footage of Sherman M-51s with the 105mm gun.