The Private War of Major Benson (US, 1955)

Figure 1.--Major Benson (Charlton Heston) is seen here with thr cadet commander played by a young Sal Mineo.

A tough Army officer played by Charlton Heston is softened by a female doctor after he is transferred to a military boarding school. A bit of a change of pace for Heston. Not a particularly notable film, but a look at a military school for younger boys from about 7 to 14 or so. The boys wear army style uniforms. The cadet commander is Sal Mineo, who looks about 14 or so. There is also Disney fixture Tim Cosidine. The most important boy role is play by Tim Hovey who looks to be about 7 or 8, but was 9 or 10.


This comedy stars Charlton Heston (which seems an unlikely role for Heston, but he performs it well). Tim Hovey, Tim Considine (an original on "My Three Sons" and Spin of the "Spin and Marty" series), Milburn Stone ("Doc Adams" from "Gunsmoke"), and even Sal Mineo. The major child role was played by Tim Hovey. He plays Private "Tiger" Flaherty; his eagerness and vunerability eventually begin to humanize Major Benson. Film reviewers were quite impressed, some saying he stole the scenes in which he appeared. Pitting innocent little Tim with a strong personality like Heston was a major reason for the success of the film. Tim also played in another boarding school film (Toy Tigers) where he and the other boys did wear short pants school uniforms. The romantic interest is provided by Julie Adams, who plays the school. Her spunk and feminine charm also help to transform the major.


Major Benson who is known to blurt out whatever is on his mind without thinking is given a choice. THe Major has embarrassed the Army once too often with his outspoken remarks to the press. He is to be either drummed out of the Army, or take command of and shape up a run down Junior ROTC program at Sheridan Academy before it fails its next inspection. The major is dispatched to lead an Junior ROTC program at a boys' military academy run by Roman Catholic nuns (this unlikelihood adds to some of the film's comedic charm). The school is an elementary-level military school for boys from about 7 to 14 or so. The Academy's accreditation is in jeopardy, just like Benson's career. At Sheridan he finds an unfamiliar mixture of Catholic nuns and 300 or so young cadets who he is attracyedfaccording to one reviewr, "range from rascally to adorable" as well as a female doctor to whom he is attracted. The flinty major applies army discipline to his underachieving young cadets. His harsh style gets results but alienates the boys. With two exceptions (a tyke of a cadet played by Hovey and a soldierly boy-sergeant, Tim Considine) the boys loathe Benson. By film's end Benson has saved both his career and the school's good standing. Along the way, he earned the respect and devotion of his young soldiers.

Figure 2.--Tiger Flaherty (Tim Hoey) encounters all kinds of trouble with the new commandant, Major Benson. Notice the white gloves.


The film is set in an arch-typical American military school. Thus the boys all wear army style cadet uniforms. The cap is the campaign cap worn by the Army and Scouts at the time. Dress uniform includes white gloves and belts.


A HBC reader reports that a favorite of his is "The Private War Of Major Benson." It was Tim Hovey's performamce that really made the film.All in all, a very good 1950's comedy.


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Created: October 31, 2001
Last updated: 4:20 AM 8/10/2004