Saturday, October 8, 2022

The Ring (1952)

Rita Moreno & Lalo Rios
For most of the Golden Age of Hollywood, individuals of Mexican descent were rarely seen on the silver screen. When they did appear in a movie, they were often portrayed as gross stereotypes, such as the bandido or lazy Mexican. This began to change after World War II, when movies focusing on Mexican Americans began to appear. Among these movies was the low budget film The Ring (1952). Now known for featuring Rita Moreno in her first lead role, The Ring (1952) was among the first movies to deal with discrimination against Mexican Americans.

The Ring (1952) centred upon Tomas Cantanios (Lalo Rios), a young Chicano living in East Los Angeles. After his father was laid off from his job and following a street fight, Tomas is discovered by boxing manager Pete Ganusa (Gerald Mohr). Tomas then begins boxing to make money for his family under the Anglicized name Tommy Kansas, against the wishes of his father (Martin Garralaga) and his girlfriend (Rita Moreno).

The Ring (1952) was based on the novel The Square Trap by Irving Schulman, who also wrote the movie's screenplay. The novel's trip to the big screen began in the late Forties. The October 1 1949 issue of Box Office reported that Filmmakers Inc., the independent film company founded by actress Ida Lupino, producer Collier Young, and screenwriter Malvin Wald, would produce Pachuco, a movie based on a novel by Irving Schulman, to be distributed by RKO. Filmmakers Inc. never did produce the movie Pachuco. Eventually, the screen rights to the novel would be purchased by King Brothers Productions, an independent film company that had produced such films as Dillinger (1945) and Gun Crazy (1950). In 1951 King Brothers Productions submitted the screenplay, under the title The Ring is a Trap, to the Production Code Administration. The title was eventually shortened to simply The Ring.

What set The Ring (1952) apart from its contemporaries, let alone earlier movies, is that it had a large Latino cast. Indeed, while Gerhard Mohr and Rita Moreno are top billed, it is Lalo Rios, playing Tomas, who is the star. The movie centres on the character of Tomas and he appears in the majority of its scenes. This makes The Ring one of the first movies to feature a Mexican American in the lead role. Lalo Rios had earlier appeared in another film that dealt with racism against Mexicans and Mexican Americans, The Lawless (1950). In the film Lalo Rios played Paul Rodriguez, a young fruit picker in California who finds himself the victim of bigotry. What separates The Ring (1952) from The Lawless is that the latter film is largely told through the eyes of a white character (Macdonald Carey as newspaper editor Larry Wilder). Sadly, Lalo Rios would never again have a major role like Tomas in The Ring (1952). For the rest of his career he appeared primarily in supporting roles and bit parts. Following The Ring (1952), his most significant role may have been Risto, the nephew of Grandi (Akim Tamiroff ) who hurls acid at Mexican special prosecutor Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston) in Touch of Evil (1958).

Tommy's love interest in The Ring (1952) is also the film's leading lady, Rita Moreno as Tomas's girlfriend Lucy. The Ring was only her fourth film and, oddly enough, only the second time the Puerto Rican Rita Moreno ever played a Latina (she played Latina runaway Dolores in So Young, So Bad in 1950 before playing a bit part in The Toast of New Orleans the same year and the first of many island girls in Pagan Love Song, also in 1950). Lucy is a significant break from earlier portrayals of women of Mexican descent in American film. For much of American film history, women of Mexican descent were portrayed as such stereotypes as hot tempered, hypersexual señoritas or submissive mamacitas. Lucy was neither of these stereotypes. Instead Lucy was a nice Mexican American girl who is not afraid of telling Tommy she disapproves of him boxing while remaining supportive of him. It is notable that while Miss Moreno has been critical of many of her early roles, she has always looked back fondly on The Ring (1952). She would later say of the film, “Everyone in the film and in the family are good people. He’s not a gangster, he’s not a bad boy. She’s a good girl. She has very traditional Mexican values. She doesn’t want him to box."

Tommy's friends also play a significant role in The Ring, each of them played by Latino actors. For many of these actors, The Ring would be their only credit. This was not the case with Puerto Rican actor Tony Martinez. He had already appeared in three films. Later in the Fifties he would play what may be his best known role, that of Pepino in the sitcom The Real McCoys. The fact that actual Latinos played Latinos in The Ring further set it apart from many other movies of the time. Often times, individuals of Mexican descent would be played by white people in brownface or individuals of yet other ethnicities.

One notable Mexican American member of the cast is Art Aragon, playing himself as the final boxer Tommy faces in the movie. Art Aragon was a lightweight boxer of Mexican descent from New Mexico. He was extremely popular in Los Angeles and even mingled with the Hollywood elite. He was friends with Audie Murphy and even reportedly dated Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. He also appeared in a few films beyond The Ring.

Of course, what truly sets The Ring (1952) apart is that it is among the very first movies to examine discrimination and racism against Chicanos. In fact, when the original screenplay was submitted to the Production Code Administration, the PCA suggested changes be made to the film's dialogue, remarking, "We feel it would not be good to infer that the police discriminate against these boys because of their nationality."Despite this suggestion, some indication of racism on the part of the police against Chicanos remains in the film. Early in the film two police officers stop by Tomas and his friends' clubhouse for no other apparent reason than to harass the boys. Later in the film the boys go to a diner in Beverly Hills. There the waitress is downright rude to them and the management actually calls the police despite the fact the boys are well behaved and have done nothing wrong. Fortunately, the police officer (played by John Crawford, who later played Sheriff Ep Bridges on The Waltons) is sympathetic to the boys after he learns one of them is boxer Tommy Kansas.

The Ring even portrays the little known fact that Los Angeles was a segregated city. Early in the movie, Tomas and Lucy go to the local roller rink. They are not allowed in as it is not "Mexican night." Indeed, there are signs plainly posted above the box office stating a separate night for African Americans and a separate night for Mexican Americans.

At least one critic reacted poorly to the presentation of racism against Chicanos and the segregation that existed in Los Angeles in The Ring (1952). The critic at The Hollywood Reporter described The Ring (1952) as  "a depressing, rather pointless harangue on American discrimination against its Mexican minority group." They further claimed it offered "such a bleak outlook for the Mexican-American that it emerges only as the type that does this country definite disservice abroad" and claimed The Ring appeared "to show that if a Mexican can't make good in the ring, or in some other exhibitional profession, there isn't much hope for him in this 'land of bigotry.'" To add insult to injury, the critic indicated that its only audience would be "East Los Angeles, the Mexican-American population and those who love films depicting minorities as abused in America." It is tempting to view this review as rooted in racism, particularly as The Ring (1952) portrays Chicanos in a very positive light. They are treated with dignity rather than as stereotypes, and portrayed as hard working, honest people. That it portrays the racism they faced daily in Los Angeles would not seem to me to be a legitimate criticism against it.

As it is, The Ring (1953) stands as a document of Los Angeles County in the early Fifties in other ways. As an independent film made on a low budget, it was largely shot on location around Los Angeles County. Indeed, the opening shot is of historic Olvera Street. The street fight that draws Pete Ganusa's attention to Tommy took place outside what would become the Dresden Room in downtown Los Angeles in only a few years. As might be expected of a boxing movie, boxing venues do appear in the film. Both the American Legion Post 43's Hollywood Stadium and the Valley Garden Arena appear in the film.

Sadly, The Ring (1952) suffered from one of the worst publicity campaigns of any movie in the Fifties. While The Ring (1952) is essentially the story of a young Chicano's personal journey, including the racism he encounters, one would not know it from the film's posters. Some might even be considered racist by today's standards.  Perhaps the worst of the lot featured the tagline "They call me 'Dirty Mex' but still chase my women!," complete with a provocative illustration of Rita Moreno in a gown and Tommy in his boxing shorts and robe. Another poster, featuring Tommy on the ropes, had the tagline, "I was slaughtered to please the crowd!," accompanied by another tagline, "They called me 'Dirty Yellow Mex!'...I'm not good enough for them--but my women are!" None of these posters truly captured The Ring (1952), which was not a violent, overly sensationalized movie at all. Lucy was a clean cut girl, not a femme fatale, while Tommy was simply a good boy seeking to find his way in the world.

Contrary to its promotional material, The Ring (1952) is a very fine movie that is hardly sensationalized. It avoids most of the cliches often found even in the best boxing movies. There is no villainous boxer who fights dirty. Tommy is never asked by mobsters to take a dive. There are no corrupt promoters who cheat Tommy and Pete out of money. That is not to say that there are not things in The Ring (1952) that one hasn't seen in other films. Like many previous characters in boxing movies, Tomas comes from poverty. After several fights, Tommy does become punch drunk, which naturally becomes a cause of concern for him. Even so, these seem like natural outgrowths of the plot, and not cliches inserted into the film because they are common to most boxing movies.

Indeed, in many ways The Ring is less about boxing (and less about racism against Chicanos, for that matter) than it is about Tommy's journey of self discovery. Contrary to what the critic at The Hollywood Reporter claimed in his review, there is a good deal of hope for Tommy at the end of The Ring. He still has a family that loves him. He still has a girlfriend who loves him. He still has friends who love him. At the core of The Ring is the importance of family and friends. The Ring (1952) presents Chicanos as human beings rather than stereotypes, and in doing so it became a truly pioneering film.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Joan Hotchkis Passes On

Joan Hotchkis, who played the female lived on the critically acclaimed sitcom My World and Welcome To It and played the recurring role of Dr. Cunningham on the classic sitcom The Odd Couple, died on September 27 2022 at the age of 95.

Joan Hotchkis was born on September 21 1927 in Los Angeles. She grew up in San Marino, California. In 1949 she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She later received a master's degree in early childhood education at Bank Street Teacher's College in New York. She briefly taught at a nursery school in New York.

It was while she was home visiting her family for the holidays that she She auditioned for a production of the play The Rainmaker at the Players Ring theatre in West Hollywood. She was cast in the lead role of Lizzie. Once Joan Hotchkis returned to New York City she became a member of The Actors Studio. There she studied with Lee Strasberg.

Joan Hotchkis made her television debut in an episode of Frontier in 1956. She guest starred on the shows Conflict and Robert Montgomery Presents before beginning a stint on the soap opera The Secret Storm in 1956. She guest starred on the sow Diagnosis: Unknown.  She appeared on Broadway in Advise and Consent.

In the Sixties she played the role of Ellen Monroe on the sitcom My World and Welcome to It. While it lasted for only one season, it was critically acclaimed and won the Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series and, for William Windom, Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. She guest starred in the shows Way Out, Iron Horse, The Outcasts, Bewitched, and The Immortal. She appeared in the TV movies Inside Danny Baker and Abe Lincoln in Illinois. She appeared on Broadway in Write Me a Murder.

In 1974 Joan Hotchkis wrote the one-woman play Legacy, about a middle-class housewife who has a mental breakdown. She starred in the play at Actors Studio West in Los Angeles. In the Seventies she played the recurring character of Dr.Nancy Cunningham, the physician for lead characters Felix (Tony Randall) and Oscar (Jack Klugman) and Oscar's girlfriend on The Odd Couple. Later in the decade she was a regular on the short-lived, syndicated sitcom The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts. She guest starred on the shows The Interns; Mannix; Ghost Story; Temperatures Rising; Owen Marshall, Counsellor at Law; The F.BI., The New Dick Van Dyke Show; Marcus Welby, M.D.; Barnbaby Jones; Medical Center; Executive Suite; Charlie's Angels; and Lou Grant. She appeared in the movie adaptation of her play Legacy (1975), as well as the movies The Late Liz (1971), Breezy (1973), Ode to Billy Joe (1976), and Old Boyfriends (1979).

In the Eighties she guest starred on the TV shows St. Elsewhere and The Magical World of Disney. He appeared in the movie The Last Game (1983). Her last appearance was in the TV movie The Disappearance of Christina in 1993.

Joan Hotchkis also appeared frequently on stage. Among other things, she appeared in productions of Cowboy Jack, Street, Madame Irma, and The Grace of Mary Traverse in Los Angeles. She appeared multiple times in The Glass Menagerie. She also performed with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

Joan Hotchkis was a very talented actress. She was excellent as Dr. Nancy Cunningham on The Odd Couple. She also gave a great performance as Ellen Monroe, the practical wife of writer and cartoonist My World and Welcome to It. Joan Hotchkis usually played highly educated, sophisticated women, and on more than one occasion she played doctors. That having been said, she played other roles as well. She played Mama Hartley, the disapproving mother of lovestruck teen Bobbie Lee (Glynnis O'Conner) in the movie Ode to Billie Joe (1976), proving she could give a good performance even with poor  material. Joan Hotchkis was a very talented actress who was also quite versatile.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Olga San Juan, the Puerto Rican Pepper Pot

Before Héctor Elizondo and Raul Julia, even before Rita Moreno, there was Olga San Juan. Olga San Juan was one of the earliest Puerto Rican stars to appear in American movies. What is more, she was a true triple threat. She could sing, she could dance, and she could act. When Olga San Juan appeared in a movie, one couldn't help but take notice of her.

Olga San Juan was born on March 16 1927 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Her father was Luis San Juan, a World War I veteran whose regiment guarded the Panama Canal. After the war he returned to Puerto Rico and got married. He and his wife Mercedes later moved to New York City. The family moved back to Puerto Rico when Olga San Juan was three. When she was five they moved to Spanish Harlem in New York City. Olga San Juan's talent manifested when she was still very young. She began taking dance lessons when she was only three years old. When she was was only eleven she and other schoolchildren performed for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the White House. Growing up she was part of a Puerto Rican children's club called Infancia Hispania, of which future musician and bandleader Tito Puente was also a member. Olga San Juan and Tito Puente's mother would put together shows for the children to perform.

Olga San Juan's father fell ill when she was in the ninth grade, and she was forced to leave high school to pursue work. She found it performing at such places as the Hotel Astor and the El Morocco. She was only sixteen when she became a "Copa Girl" at the famed Copacabana. She eventually formed her own act, Olga San Juan and Her Rumba Band. She caught the eye of Paramount Pictures, who signed her to a contract in 1943. Olga San Juan made her film debut in the short subject "Caribbean Romance" in 1943. She made her feature film debut the following year in a small role in Rainbow Island (1944). She had the lead role in the short "Bombalera" (1945), where she was dubbed "the Cuban Cyclone" despite being Puerto Rican. "Bombalera" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Two-reel.

Olga San Juan appeared in the movie adaptation of the popular radio show Duffy's Tavern (1945) before appearing in what could be considered her breakthrough role. Blue Skies (1946) starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Olga San Juan played nightclub singer Nita Nova, and there was no way anyone could not take notice of her in the film. She performed the number "You'd Be Surprised," as well as the duet "I'll See You in C-U-B-A" with Bing Crosby. She performed the song "Heat Wave," during which she also danced with Fred Astaire.

Miss San Juan followed Blue Skies as one of the leads in the film Variety Girl (1947), in which she performed the song "He Can Waltz." She also has what may be the best scene in the film, in which she causes a ruckus in a restaurant to draw attention to herself. In Are You With It? (1948) she played the female lead opposite Donald O'Connor. In the movie she got to perform the numbers "Daddy, Surprise Me" and I'm Looking for a Prince of a Fella."  Olga San Juan would also have significant roles in One Touch of Venus (1948), The Countess of Monte Cristo (1948) and The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend (1949). In One Touch of Venus she performed "Don't Look Now My Heart is Showing" and "That's Him." In "The Countess of Monte Cristo" she performed "Count Your Blessings," "Who Believes in Santa Claus," and "The Friendly Polka." Surprisingly, she had no songs in The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend.

Like other musical comedy stars, such as Ann Miller, Betty Grable, and Rita Hayworth, Olga San Juan was a popular pinup girl. Given her looks, this should come as no  surprise. Even a cursory search on Google Images reveals that Miss San Juan did pinup pictures for such holidays as Christmas, New Year's Day, Halloween, and even St. Patrick's Day. Of course, what set Olga San Juan apart from other pinup girls is that she was Puerto Rican. Quite simply, she was one of the first Latina pinups, not to mention one of the earliest Latina sex symbols.

Olga San Juan also appeared on radio in the Forties and Fifties. She appeared on both Command Performance and Lux Radio Theatre. In 1951 she guest starred on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

Sadly, The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend would be Olga San Juan's last appearance in a major motion picture. Following her marriage to Edmond O'Brien in 1948, she largely retired from movies. That is not to say that Miss San Juan disappeared from the public eye. She played Jennifer Rumson on Broadway in Paint Your Wagon in 1951 and 1952. She also made several appearances on television in the late Forties and in the Fifties, on the shows The Ed Wynn Show, The Peter Lind Hayes Show, The Paul Whiteman's Goodyear Revue, The Kate Smith Evening Hour, Texaco Star Theatre Starring Milton Berle, The Rosemary Clooney Show, The Lux Show, and The George Jessel Show. She made a rare dramatic appearance on television in the syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight, on which her husband Edmond O'Brien was the star, in 1960. She made one last appearance on television in 1964 on The Mike Douglas Show.

Olga San Juan was nicknamed "the Puerto Rican Pepper Pot," and it easy to understand how she earned that nickname when seeing her on screen. In her tiny frame Olga San Juan seemed to contain an abundance of energy, not to mention a forceful personality. When combined with her incredible voice and her talent as a dancer, it was impossible to take one's eyes off her when she was on the screen.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

TCM's The Plot Thickens Season 4: Here Comes Pam

Turner Classic Movies' podcast The Plot Thickens returns on October 25 2022 with its fourth season, Here Comes Pam. This season focuses on legendary actress Pam Grier, the star of such films as Coffy (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster (1975), and Jackie Brown (1997).  The podcast will take a close look at her career and her life.

For the podcast Pam Grier sat down with Ben Mankiewicz for over twenty hours of interviews. In addition to Miss Grier, The Plot Thickens Season 4: Here Comes Pam will also feature interviews with her family, her friends, and those who have worked with her, including Quentin Tarantino, Gloria Steinem, Philip Bailey, Michael Schultz, and more.

Along with the launch of the fourth season of The Plot Thickens, on October 19 and October 26 2022, Turner Classic Movies will show several of Pam Grier's movies. A schedule of the films is below. All times are Central.

October 19 2022:
7:00 PM Greased Lightning (1977)
9:00 PM Friday Foster (1975)
11:00 PM Hit Man (1973)

October 26 2022:
7:00 PM Sheba Baby (1975)
9:00 PM Coffy (1973)
11:00 PM Foxy Brown (1974)

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The 60th Anniversary of Combat!

It was 60 years ago today, on October 2 1962, that the TV series Combat! debuted on ABC. That season saw the beginning of a cycle of shows set during World War II, so that Combat! was among the first shows in the Sixties set during the Second World War. It proved to be successful, receiving moderately good ratings during its network run and lasting five seasons. It would also receive a good deal of critical acclaim.

Combat! followed American solders belonging to the second platoon of K Company, which was part of 361st Regiment, as they made their way through Nazi Germany following D-Day.2nd.  Lt. Gil Hanley (Rick Jason) was the commander of the second platoon, In the pilot he was a Technical Sergeant when the 361st Regiment landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He was promoted to second lieutenant when the platoon's original lieutenant was killed. Sgt. Chip Saunders (Vic Morrow) was the squad leader, and close friends with Lt. Hanley. With the show from the beginning to its end were various men in the squad: Private "Caje" LeMay (Pierre Jalbert); Private William Kirby (Jack Hogan); and Private "Littlejohn" (Dick Peabody). Their original medic was Doc Walton (Steven Rogers), who disappeared without explanation after the first season. He was replaced by Doc (Conlan Carter), whose full name was never given. He remained with the show for the rest of its run. Private Billy Nelson (Tom Lowell) and Private Braddock (played by comedian Shecky Greene) were only on the show in its first season.

The Fifties saw a start of a prolonged cycle towards World War II that would last into the Seventies. It should then come as no surprise that the 1962/1963 season saw the start of a cycle towards TV shows about World War II with three different shows set during World War II debuting that season. The Gallant Men debuted only a few days after Combat! and centred on American soldiers fighting in Italy during the Second World War. It only lasted one season. More successful was McHaley's Navy, a sitcom centred on the crew of a PT boat based in the South Pacific. It ran for four seasons. It would be the success of Combat! that would lead to other World War II dramas, including 12 O'Clock High, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, and The Rat Patrol.

Combat! was created by screenwriter Robert Pirosh. He had collaborated with George Seaton on the classic Marx Brothers movies A Night at the Opera (1935) and A Day at the Races (1937). He also contributed to the musical comedy Song of the Islands (1942), the comedy Rings on Her Fingers (1942), and the classic I Married a Witch (1942). During World War II he served with the 320th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division as a Master Sergeant. He served in both the Ardennes and Rhineland campaigns. It was perhaps because of his service during World War II that following the war his focus shifted from comedies to more serious works. In 1949 his screenplay for the movie Battleground won the Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. He would revisit World War II with the movies Go for Broke! (1951) and  Hell is for Heroes (1962). Robert Pirosh's World War II movies are noted for their realism, and for portraying soldiers as vulnerable human beings rather than cardboard heroes.

It was not long after he finished Hell is for Heroes that Robert Pirosh approached producer Selig Seligman with the idea for a television series to be called Men in Combat that follow a squad of soldiers from D-Day to the liberation of Paris. Like his movies, Men in Combat would offer a realistic depiction of war and would feature soldiers who were often vulnerable and sometimes even questioned what they were asked to do. Selig Seligman would become the show's executive producer.

ABC approved a pilot for the prospective series. The pilot, "A Day in June," was shot in December 1961. By that time  the prospective new show was being referred to as Combat Platoon in the press. It was in April that ABC announced it had picked up the new show, now titled Combat!.

Unfortunately, Robert Pirosh would not remain with the show he created. Neither of the show's two leads, Rick Jason and Vic Morrow, particularly cared for Mr. Pirosh's pilot. Vic Morrow disliked it so much that he actually considered leaving the show before it had even begun. It following the shooting of the pilot and ABC picking up Combat! that executive producer Selig Seligman fired Robert Pirosh as the show's producer and replaced him with Robert Blees. A few other changes were also made, including dropping some of the characters.

Combat! debuted to largely positive reviews. Combat! also did relatively well in the ratings. While it did not make the top thirty shows for the year in its first two seasons, in its third season it was the 10th highest rated show for the year. Combat! never did quite so well again, but it would run for another two years.

Much of the success of Combat! was perhaps its emphasis on realism. Before the series began filming, executive producer Selig Seligman actually had the cast go through a week of basic training at the Army's Infantry Training Center at Fort Ord in northern California. Selig Seligman made a request to the United States Army that they assign a technical advisor to Combat!. Preferably, Mr. Seligman wanted someone who had be at D-Day. The Army Maj. Homer Jones as the show's technical advisor. He had served with the 82nd Airborne's 508th Parachute Infantry and was a veteran of D-Day. Great care was taken to sure that every American and German uniform featured on the show was accurate to the era. For the most part whenever German soldiers spoke to each other, it was in German.

Beyond the accuracy with which Combat! portrayed World War II, Combat! was not so much an action show as it was a show that examined the human condition through the lens of World War II. The soldiers on the show were portrayed as human beings, subject to human frailties and sometimes wrestling with questions regarding morals and ethics.  The debut episode, "Forgotten Front," had the squad having to interrogate a German soldier who was already questioning his own loyalties. "The Celebrity" involved a professional baseball player turned soldier who freezes during combat. In "The Wounded Don't Cry," Sgt. Saunders finds himself in an uneasy alliance with a German soldier as they must travel to get plasma for a German field hospital in a French village. In point of view, Sgt. Saunders faced court martial.

In addition to quality writing, Combat! also benefited from superior direction. Before the show began filming, Robert Altman, who would later establish a name for himself in feature films, was hired to direct every other episode of the first season. Ted Post, another veteran television director who would go onto feature films, also directed several episodes. Burt Kennedy, who had already written several Westerns and would establish himself as a director in the genre, also directed many episodes of Combat!. It also benefited from both good cinematography and good editing. Robert B. Hauser, the director of photography on Combat! during its first season, was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography for Television. William Mace was nominated for the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Edited Television Program for the episode "Escape to Nowhere."

The success of Combat! did lead to some merchandising. In 1963 Ideal Toy Company produced a Combat! board game. In 1964 Whitman Publishing produced a young adult novel titled Combat! The Counterattack by Francis M. Davis. There were also three tie-in novels written by Harold Cain and published by Lancer Publishing. The three novels (Combat! in 1963, Combat!: Men Not Heroes also in 1963,  and Combat!: No Rest for Heroes in 1965) were not particularly loyal to the TV series.

After five seasons on the air, ABC cancelled Combat! in the spring of 1967. While Combat! would no longer air on the network, that would not mean that ABC would be without an hour-long, World War II drama for the 1967-1968 season. Garrison's Gorillas was also produced by Selig Seligman's Selmur Productions. In fact, the unaired pilot of Garrison's Gorillas was aired as an episode of Combat!, with Lt. Hanley introducing a group of commandos. If Garrison's Gorillas had not sold, the pilot could then air as an episode of Combat!. As it turned out, Garrison's Gorillas would not see the success that Combat! had. It ran for only one season.

Following its network run, Combat! entered syndication. It proved to be successful, not only in the United States, but as far afield as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Greece, Peru, South Korea, and yet other countries. Over the years it has aired on such television venues as Encore Action and MeTV. Since 2020 it has aired on the Heroes & Icons channel.

Lasting five seasons, Combat! was American television's longest running World War II drama. As mentioned earlier, it was largely the success of Combat! that led to a cycle of World War II shows (both comedies and dramas) during the Sixties. Had Combat!not been a success, it is very possible that 12 O'Clock High, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Rat Patrol, and Garrison's Gorillas might never had made it to the air. Combat! has also been cited as an influence by both director Steven Spielberg and actor/director Tom Hanks, and the show even had an impact on Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan (1998). At a time when escapism was in fashion on television, Combat! offered an authentic look at World War II and emphasis on its characters. Unlike other TV shows and movies of the era, it certainly did not romanticize the war. Sixty years after its debut, Combat! stands as an extraordinary achievement on television.