The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Trevor Howard

One of the all-time great character actors who bounced back and forth between starring roles and those essential supporting parts that can bring a movie up a notch, Trevor Howard is one of my favorites. He seemed most at home in bigger movies, historical epics, large-scale war flicks, but his distinguished career certainly wasn't limited to those films. Howard did it all, and did it all well. Click on the movie title for the full review.

The Cockleshell Heroes (1955): A wrongly forgotten British WWII movie starring Jose Ferrer and Howard. Ferrer is the Marine officer who volunteers to lead a commando mission with high probability for failure, Howard the surly Marine lifer assigned to assist him. Straightforward and entertaining, the focus is on the commando team and their mission, no bigger statement about the war. Make sure to stick around for the ending, Howard delivering a great final line.

The Key (1958): Howard has an essential supporting part in this odd, even offbeat WWII story that is headlined by William Holden and Sophia Loren. Reporting for duty with tugboats who bring crippled ships to safety, Holden arrives in England where he meets an old friend in Howard, another tug commander. Loren is the mysterious widow, possibly cursed to kill any man she loves. Different but good is the most apt description I've got.

Von Ryan's Express (1965): A favorite of mine growing up, and one I still love. Action adventure escapism at its best. Frank Sinatra and Howard play American and British P.O.W.s who take over the train transporting them, attempting to make a mass breakout to Switzerland, but their German captors are hot on their trail. Filmed on location in Italy, this is an adrenaline-pumping story that never slows down, all the way to the still shocking ending.

The Liquidator (1965): One of many spy movies that came out in the 1960s after the huge success of the Sean Connery James Bond movies. Not quite a spoof, not quite serious, it falls in between, Rod Taylor playing the agent plucked off the streets, Howard his no-nonsense handler. Surprisingly funny, surprisingly good, and one I'd highly recommend.

Operation Crossbow (1965): In the vein of WWII epics with a big story and bigger cast comes this underrated, very enjoyable commando adventure. Based on the true story (somewhat loosely) of Allied commandos' efforts to slow down the German rocket program. Howard, Richard Johnson, George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle, Tom Courtenay and many more lead the all-star cast. A classic? No, but still a fun, old-fashioned WWII romp.

Battle of Britain (1969): Think of The Longest Day or Midway, substitute England's most major battle in WWII with a long list of British stars and ta-da! Here's your movie. A true story of Britain's efforts early in WWII to hold back the German Luftwaffe as the Nazis attempt to take over England. If you were a British actor in the 1960s, you were most likely in this movie. Howard, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, Michael Caine, and that's just to name a few.

The Third Man (1949): A low-key, smart and very different post WWII thriller from director Carol Reed, Howard joining Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles and Bernard Lee. Different for all the right reasons (okay, not the oboe on the soundtrack), but unlike any other movie. Definitely need to give this one a rewatch and soon.

Hennessy (1975): Based on real life incidents, this failed assassination attempt story is aided by Rod Steiger in the lead role with Howard, Richard Johnson and Lee Remick in supporting parts. Partially because we know the assassination attempt will fail, the movie struggles to gain any momentum.

More to come soon including 1958's The Key starring Howard, William Holden and Sophia Loren. Also look for 1955's The Cockleshell Heroes, a men on a mission movie based on a true WWII commando mission!


  1. Nice work Tim and thanks. You reminded me I need to rewatch The Third Man soon.

  2. Same here, it's been too long!

  3. Should add, my favorite Howard performance is probably Ryan's Daughter. "Devil take me if the lot of ya's not possessed and DAMNED!" No one played the crabby old bastard better than Howard.

  4. Ryan's Daughter is on my "to watch list." My favorite Howard line comes from Von Ryan as he addresses Sinatra. He sneers -- absolutely reveling in it -- 'You'll get your Iron Cross now....Von Ryan.' Can't beat him.

  5. Then there's The Charge of the Light Brigade. "If they can't fornicate, they won't fight! And if they don't fight hard, I'll flog their backs raw for all their fine looks!" Von Ryan's Express is a good one too.

  6. A mess of a movie, but an entertaining one! So many movies to rewatch....