Airing from 1962 to 1967, Combat! remains to this day the longest-running World War 2 television series to air. The series told the story of Sgt. Saunders (Vic Morrow) and Lt. Hanley (Rick Jason) leading their frontline infantry squad into the heart of battle all across Nazi-occupied Europe.
For most of its runtime, the series was shot in black and white. Despite the trend at the time of shows moving to color, Combat! was one of the last remaining shows to be shot in black and white. One primary voice that was especially against the popular war show from moving to color was series lead, Vic Morrow.
“I suppose our show will eventually go to color, but I hope not. I prefer the program in black and white. Combat! is gutsy and raw, and comes across better in stark tones,” said Morrow on the idea of colorizing the series.
Combat! became popular with audiences for its realistic depiction of WWII battles. Morrow and other critics believed adding color would take away the look and feel the show had of actual war footage.
“It would hurt Combat!, if you remember, the newsreels during the last war accurately captured the harshness and cruelty of war because they were filmed in black and white. The same footage in color would have seemed artificial. It would have been a prettified picture of an unpretty situation."
Despite Morrow's hesitation to make the transition, Combat! was filmed in color for its fifth and final season. The new look of the series was welcomed by audiences. Unfortunately, it also may have contributed to its cancellation, but not because of Morrow's initial concerns.
The series had already cost more to produce than the industry standard at the time. Making the transition from black and white to color would bump up the production cost even more from $150,000 to $183,000 per episode. With contracts also ending, the studio knew that it couldn't afford to keep much of the talent around and decided to end the series at the height of its popularity in 1967.
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