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The Last Time I Saw Archie

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The Last Time I Saw Archie
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJack Webb
Produced byJack Webb
Written byWilliam Bowers
StarringRobert Mitchum
Jack Webb
Martha Hyer
France Nuyen
Narrated byJack Webb
Music byFrank Comstock
CinematographyJoseph MacDonald
Edited byRobert Leeds
Manzanita-Talbot Productions, Mark VII, Ltd.
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 27,  1961 (1961-05-27)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Last Time I Saw Archie is a 1961 comedy film set in the waning days of World War II.[1] Robert Mitchum stars as Arch Hall Sr., a lazy, scheming American in the Civilian Pilot Training Program, an aviation school for pilots too old to fly aircraft but not too old to fly military gliders and liaison aircraft.[2] Jack Webb produced, directed and costarred.[1]

The film is currently unavailable on DVD. There is an Internet petition to support a home video release. The campaign was initiated by the Jack Webb Fan Club Los Angeles Chapter.[citation needed]


In flying school, lazy Private Archie Hall (Robert Mitchum) somehow dominates everyone around him, fellow trainees, sergeants and officers alike, and manages to avoid doing any work. Bill Bowers (Jack Webb), a Hollywood screenwriter in civilian life, becomes his sidekick. An initially hostile, suspicious trio of privates, Sam Beacham (Louis Nye), Russell Drexler (Joe Flynn) and Frank Ostrow (Del Moore), are penalized for opposing him and eventually smarten up and become his pals as well. Archie exudes so much self-confidence that Master Sergeant Stanley Erlenheim (Robert Strauss) becomes convinced that he is an undercover G-2 (counterintelligence) general. Erlenheim and his underling, Sergeant Malcolm Greenbriar (Harvey Lembeck), arrange it so that Archie and his buddies are given permanent passes and a personal jeep, so they can leave the training base whenever they please. Archie sees Cindy Hamilton (France Nuyen) every night, while Bill pairs off with Peggy Kramer (Martha Hyer). Archie also arranges for the three other privates to acquire gorgeous girlfriends as well.

As time goes by, Bill comes to suspect that Cindy is a Japanese spy, but he cannot get Archie to take it seriously (even though Cindy keeps giving him money in outsized old bills). It turns out that Cindy actually is a spy, but for American counterintelligence, despite the opposition of her guardian, Colonel Edwin Martin, the base commander. Sergeants Erlenheim and Greenbriar get into trouble when they break down the door of her apartment, thinking they will catch her in the act of reporting to the enemy, only to find her presenting her findings to Martin.

As the war winds down, requirements change and the trainees are given the choice of retraining to become either aerial gunners or glider pilots. Archie and Bill opt for the latter, despite the supposedly high casualty rate, so the other three do the same, only to discover that Archie and Bill have gotten themselves safe jobs at the base. However, the war ends before any of them see combat.

Archie invites himself to spend a week with Bill in Hollywood. Bill is shown hard at work in his tiny office at a film studio; Archie has somehow become his boss, and has just been promoted to head of the studio. Bill jokes about seeing him in the White House. A later newspaper headline states that Governor Hall has decided to run for president.



The movie cost nearly $2 million to produce, Webb's most expensive production at that time, but only grossed about half its production cost.[3]

The main character in The Last Time I Saw Archie, played by Robert Mitchum was based on Arch Hall Sr., whom screenwriter William Bowers knew in the war.[4] However, the film was made without the permission of Hall, who successfully sued the producers and won a settlement.[5] The film also features the debuts of baseball pitcher Don Drysdale and football quarterback Billy Kilmer in cameos. Portions of the film were shot at Fort MacArthur.


The film review in The New York Times summarized The Last Time I Saw Archie as part of the "too many cooks syndrome", "... especially military chefs—spoiling the broth appears to be painfully true of 'The Last Time I Saw Archie'."[6] The Los Angeles Times review said, "The most irritating fact is that it could have been a really hilarious picture, but every time the action shows promise of better things to come, it bogs down in the same old static situations and these receive no help from William Brower's script or Jack Webb's direction."[3]


In an unusual (if not entirely singular) approach to tie-in fiction, Jack Webb's production company decided to create the impression that the film was based on a pre-existing book. They commissioned a young Robert Carlisle (who would later distinguish himself as a war historian) to novelize the Bowers script, which he did, under his by-line, delivering it as the first-person memoir of a character named Burns instead of Bowers (first name still Bill). The adaptation was published as Archie (suggesting that this was the screenplay's original title) by Pocket Books in the guise of a non tie-in, standalone novel, in February 1960, 15 months prior to release of the film, likely prior to the start of production as well. (The only "tell" indicating the book's progeny is on the copyright page: In tiny print, the rights holder is Jack Webb's company, Mark VII Productions.) Novelizations of the era were commonly released weeks, even months, prior to a film's release, in the hopes that a strong selling book might drum up interest and even critic-proof the movie; but to have one designed to let the reader infer that it was the basis for the film that it was itself based on…well, it was a strategy worthy of Arch Hall himself. The novelization's subsequent tie-in edition, published under the revised title, The Last Time I Saw Archie—its cover featuring Nuyen, Mitchum, Webb and Hyer with arms linked, walking forward—didn't spill the beans either. Indeed, in small print, the cover gets to legitimately claim, "(Original title: ARCHIE)", extending the illusion that the book came before the uncredited screenplay.

See also



  1. ^ a b Eleanor Mannikka (2014). "Overview: 'The Last Time I Saw Archie'". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. New York City: Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. Retrieved May 2, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Takara, Paul. "Articles: 'The Last Time I Saw Archie' (1961)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: May 2, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Cox, Stephen; Marhanka, Kevin (2008). The Incredible Mr. Don Knotts. Cumberland House. p. 30. ISBN 9781581826586.
  4. ^ Weaver 2014, p. 3.
  5. ^ Weaver 2003, p. 193.
  6. ^ "Movie review: 'Last Time I Saw Archie' at the Victoria." The New York Times, May 29, 1961.


  • Weaver, Tom. Eye on Science Fiction: 20 Interviews with Classic SF and Horror Filmmakers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2003. ISBN 978-0-7864-3028-4.
  • Weaver, Tom. I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews with 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-Fi Films and Television. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-9571-9.
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