This post is part of the Dueling Divas Blogathon. *SPOILER ALERT*

David Niven, centre, starts in on Gregory Peck. Image: britannica.com

David Niven (centre) constantly needles Gregory Peck (left). Image: britannica.com

We never tire of the WWII adventure The Guns of Navarone (1961), a grand spectacle of a film based on the Alistair MacLean novel that was gleaned from actual events in the Aegean Sea in 1943.

The film is about a British-led team sent to the (fictional) island of Navarone to blow up powerful ship-sinking guns the Germans have installed high in a rocky seaside cliff.

Here’s what these guns look like:

The guns of Navarone. They are Fierce! Image: GoneMovie.com

The guns of Navarone. Fierce! Image: GoneMovie.com

In our opinion, these guns ain’t nothin’ compared to the growing hostility between the two main characters, Gregory Peck and David Niven.

Early in the film, we (the audience) are told the Navarone mission is believed to be too difficult to succeed. Indeed, the mission proves to be an exercise in frustration, especially for Peck, an even-tempered fellow who tries to accept his circumstances with wry humour.

However, Peck’s nemesis, Niven, is the team’s explosives expert – in more ways than one. He’s a sarcastic, smug fellow who’s never short of complaints. It’s clear he has no respect for Peck, and often addresses him as “Captain Mallory”.

However, as the film progresses, and tensions tighten, Peck becomes increasingly irritable. Still, he’s able to keep most of his emotions crammed in, even when the accusatory Niven sneers: “You’re rather a ruthless character, Captain Mallory.”

Gregory Peck is in the mood to use this thing. Image: IMDB

Peck is in the mood to use this thing. Image: IMFDB

The situation ignites when an angry Niven discovers the team has been betrayed and, when he correctly guesses who the offender is, he demands an execution. But Niven isn’t going to do the killing. Oh no – he’s too delicate for that. He flippantly suggests Peck do it, then reminds Peck that the betrayer must be killed if they are to destroy the German guns.

The betrayer is shot, leaving a seething Peck with a slightly-shaken Niven.

Here’s the scene – the spike – we amateur seismologists have been watching for; the smackdown that’s been rumbling beneath these two since the mission began. When it erupts, it is terrific. Peck spews a most un-Gregory-Peck-like speech: a bitter, menacing tirade that floods the scene with red-hot frustration.

“Now,” Peck says to Niven, “you know that when you put on a uniform and learn how to do it, it’s not hard to kill someone. Sometimes it’s harder not to. You think you’ve been getting away with it all this time, standing by. Well, son, your by-standing days are over. You’re in it now, up to your neck!” [shakes his pistol] “You’ve got me in the mood to use this thing…and if you don’t think of something, I’ll use it on you.”

He’s snarling by the time he’s done, Peck is; we can feel his rage through the screen. We wonder what’s taken him so long.

If you’re a fan of high-adventure WWII films, we urge you to see The Guns of Navarone. It’s a powder keg of a story with a tremendous cast led by two professionals whose on-screen rivalry is one of the best on film.

The Guns of Navarone: starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn. Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Written by Alistair MacLean and Carl Foreman. Columbia Pictures, 1961, Colour, 157 mins.

This post is part of the DUELING DIVAS Blogathon, hosted by the lovely and talented Backlots. Click HERE to read more about Divas and their Duels.

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Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

31 Comment on “Gregory Peck vs. David Niven & The German Army

  1. Pingback: The Dueling Divas Entries | Backlots

  2. Pingback: Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton Battle Nazis in the Snow – Silver Screenings

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