MovieChat Forums > Run Silent Run DeepĀ (1958) Discussion > Anybody else wonder why war movies starr...

Anybody else wonder why war movies starred older actors?


As not only a Navy vet but also a submarine sailor, I''ve always wondered: why did the actors picked for parts always much older than those of us who served? I liked this movie and have a collection of submarine movies but we were so much younger than the actors that portrayed us. Why?

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I've read that the average age of U.S. submarine skippers in WWII was thirty-one, and the average age of enlisted crew members was twenty-two. Edward L. Beach was given his first submarine command in 1945 when he was twenty-six. I'm reading a non-fiction book now about a WWII sub that had a sixteen-year-old crew member. The makers of war movies want charismatic, mature actors to portray authority figures, so they cast people like Gable and Lancaster as officers. Perhaps they don't think audiences would believe a young captain was plausible, as well as the fact that big-name box-office stars are usually closer to middle age.

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Early war submarine captains were much older than late war submarine captains. Gable was fine for the role.

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Early WWII sub captains were older, in their late thirties and occasionally early forties. Gable was in his late fifties, and looked it. Far too old.

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as well as the fact that big-name box-office stars are usually closer to middle age.


I think this is probably the biggest reason. It takes some time to build up a reputation and a "big name" not to mention honing their acting craft, so by that time most actors are middle-aged. I can't think of any significantly younger actors at the time who had the name recognition of Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Paul Newman and Marlon Brando are huge names now but they probably weren't quite "superstars" yet in 1957.

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Tengo-frio is correct. I have noticed this trend in many war movies of this period. The actors usually are quite a bit older than the people they are playing. In this movie, there seem to be several old salts on board. Granted, there were always a few older guys who seemed to be part of a crew, but in this movie there seems to be too many. Other posters have correctly stated that leading roles are usually played by the big stars, who are usually in middle age because it took them years to become stars. Gable is far too old for this role. Older actors dominate other war movies, look at Battleground, the Caine Mutiny, even the Longest Day. I mean Red Buttons as a paratrooper, really?

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"Why?" Star power.

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Look at THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967), made 22 years after the war. Much of the cast consisted of actual WWII vets (Marvin, Borgnine, Bronson, Savalas, Ryan, Kennedy, Jaeckel, Meeker, etc.). So they added authenticity to it that young stars like Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, James Darren, Fabian et al wouldn't have conveyed.

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McQueen did serve but from 47 to 50.

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[deleted]

Good answers already. I'll just add a few statistics. I can't readily find the yougest and oldest ages of US commanders, but here are the top 10 (by count of enemy ships sunk), and their ages as of 1943:
Richard H. O'Kane, 32
Slade D. Cutter, 32
Dudley W. Morton, 36
Eugene B. Fluckey, 30
Samuel D. Dealey, 37
Rueben T. Whitaker, unknown exactly but likely around 31-33
Gordon W. Underwood, 33
Royce L. Gross, unknown exactly, but likely around 31-33
Charles O. Triebel, 36
John S. Coye Jr, 32

Their list is found at http://ahoy.tk-jk.net/macslog/TopTenUSNavySubmarineCapt.html with some of their birth dates, with most (but not all) of the remaining birth dates found in individual Wikipedia articles.

I did find the youngest of all US submarine commanders to have been Maurice H. Rindskopf, who was 27 in 1944 at the time of his first patrol in command. He was also the last living US WWII sub commander at the time of his death in 2011, at the age of 93.

Very precise information is available for U-boat commanders at http://uboat.net:8080/men/commanders/youngest-oldest.html. I count, with their ages at time of first patrol:
Two 20 year olds (!)
Six 21 year olds
at least six 22 year olds
Remember, these are all commanders, not crewmen.

...
One 54 year old
One 52 year old
One 51 year old
One 49 year old
One 48 year old
One 47 year old
One 46 year old
One 43 year old
One 42 year old
Two 41 year olds
Three 40 year olds

-- dedicated in admiration and respect, with a symbolic salute and a handshake, to all the heroes of all nationalities who served in underwater craft during WWII. They weren't the sort to preen and think of themselves in those terms, but they are recognized.

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