Flight Command

Last updated
Flight Command
Flight Command FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Frank Borzage
Produced by J. Walter Ruben
Frank Borzage (uncredited)
Written byHarvey S. Haislip (story and screenplay)
John Sutherland (story)
Wells Root (screenplay)
Starring Robert Taylor
Ruth Hussey
Walter Pidgeon
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Edited by Robert Kern
Production
company
Distributed byFrank Borzage Production
Release date
  • December 27, 1940 (1940-12-27)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$837,000 [1]
Box office$2,292,000 [1]

Flight Command is a 1940 American film about a cocky U.S. Navy pilot who has problems with his new squadron and with the wife of his commander. It stars Robert Taylor, Ruth Hussey and Walter Pidgeon. Flight Command has the distinction of often being credited as the first Hollywood film glorifying the American military to be released after the outbreak of World War II in Europe, a year before the U.S. entered the conflict. [2]

Contents

Plot

Hotshot ensign Alan Drake (Robert Taylor), fresh from flight school at Pensacola, Florida, gets off to a bad start with the pilots of an elite squadron, VF-8, nicknamed the "Hellcats", to which he has been posted in San Diego. Making a nearly disastrous landing attempt in heavy fog against orders and disqualifying the squadron during a competitive shooting exercise by colliding with the target drogue does not endear him to his fellow pilots. He also asks out a woman he has met, Lorna (Ruth Hussey), not knowing that she is the squadron commander Billy Gary's (Walter Pidgeon) wife.

However, Drake is earnest and contrite. He mixes with the Hellcats at the Garys' large house, which the sociable couple have opened as an unofficial officers' club. His flying and his social errors are forgiven, and his fellow pilots accept him, nicknaming him "Pensacola".

Drake further proves himself when he helps Lieutenant Jerry Banning (Shepperd Strudwick) solve a problem in a blind-landing apparatus he is developing. Just after Commander Gary is sent out of town on assignment, Banning decides the apparatus is ready to test in fog but it fails and Banning is killed. Working with Banning's assistant, Drake soon identifies the problem, but no further testing is allowed until Commander Gary's return.

Banning had been a childhood friend of Lorna Gary, and is not her first friend to die. She sinks into a deep depression. She also knows that Gary will expect her to hide her feelings and carry on, something that is very much not in her nature. Drake, appreciating the help the Garys gave him when he arrived, visits her at her home, and convinces her she should not suffer alone. They go for walks, drives, and tennis; he amuses her with jokes. Finally, at a restaurant she reaches for his hand and in doing so realizes she is falling for him. She quickly breaks away, and says she cannot see him any more.

As soon as her husband returns, she tells him she needs to leave him for a while. She explains that she cannot again hide her feelings and carry on after a tragedy, as he expects. He is surprised, and says she should have said so before. Not mentioning Drake, she also says that she has changed. He tells her to leave if she must, but that he still loves her and hopes she will come back to him, but only if she loves him.

Because Drake and Lorna were seen together, and Lorna went away shortly after, Lieutenant Commander Dusty Rhodes and the squadron confront Drake, accusing him of trying to take Lorna from Gary. Out of respect for her privacy, Drake says nothing. But he is extremely offended that they would accuse him of this, and files a letter of resignation. Commander Gary tries to discourage him, but reluctantly puts it through channels. While waiting for a response, they participate in an emergency search and rescue, during which Gary's engine fails, and he is badly injured in a crash-landing. Drake acts against orders, and goes to his rescue. Learning that San Diego is fogged in, he arranges to use Banning's equipment to land, and then removes his radio and places Gary in the tail of the plane. Drake then uses the new equipment to lead his group of five down through the fog to a safe landing.

In response to a telegram about Gary's crash, Lorna Gary returns to San Diego and visits her husband in the hospital. Rhodes witnesses her praying for him, their tearful reunion, and her promise to come home. Rhodes tells Drake that his resignation has been turned down, and apologizes to Drake for his behavior. But, Drake is still angry and says he will get a transfer. Mugger Martin says, "Come on Pensacola, give in!" and the rest of the squadron urge him to stay. He agrees.

Although operational in 1940, the Grumman F3F series was obsolete by the time the US entered World War II. F3F-1 4-F-7 Jax.jpg
Although operational in 1940, the Grumman F3F series was obsolete by the time the US entered World War II.

Cast

Production

Flight Command had impressive aerial scenes due to the full cooperation of the US Navy, with the loan of VF-6 squadron, flying Grumman F3F biplanes. [4] Noted film pilot and aerial sequence director Paul Mantz was the "air boss" on the production, in charge of all the flying scenes. [5] The USS Enterprise based in California and operating during maneuvers off Hawaii, also featured prominently in the production. [6]

Taylor was especially busy in 1940, with three films in production. He also starred in MGM's Escape and Waterloo Bridge . [7] [N 1]

Reception

Flight Command was received as a mild attempt to bolster patriotic spirits, but as Bosley Crowther of The New York Times observed, the film had some obvious strengths as well as annoying encumbrances."... as usual in these big flying pictures, the actual air shots are beautiful— the scenes of planes flying in tight formations above the majestic clouds, dropping away in screaming power dives, taking off and landing on a carrier's deck. Then you feel it really has wings. Otherwise, 'Flight Command' is just a routine adventure film— exciting for the youngsters, no doubt, but rather pulpy for a grown-up's taste." [8]

According to MGM records, the film earned $1,445,000 in the US and Canada and $847,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $707,000. [1]

Nominations

A. Arnold Gillespie and Douglas Shearer were nominated for the Oscar for Best Special Effects. [9]

Related Research Articles

Blue Angels United States Navys flight demonstration squadron

The Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron was formed in 1946 by the United States Navy. The unit is the second oldest formal aerobatic team in the world, after the French Patrouille de France formed in 1931. The Blue Angels' Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets are currently flown by five Navy demonstration pilots and one Marine Corps demonstration pilot.

<i>Twelve OClock High</i> 1949 film by Henry King

Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force, who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II, including a thinly disguised version of the Black Thursday strike against Schweinfurt. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King (uncredited) and Beirne Lay Jr. from the 1948 novel 12 O'Clock High, also by Bartlett and Lay. It was directed by King and stars Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell and Dean Jagger.

<i>The Dam Busters</i> (film) 1955 film directed by Michael Anderson

The Dam Busters is a 1955 British epic war film starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave. It was directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF's 617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder, and Sorpe dams in Nazi Germany with Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb.

<i>Hell Divers</i> 1932 film

Hell Divers is a 1932 American pre-Code black-and-white film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starring Wallace Beery and Clark Gable as a pair of competing chief petty officers in early naval aviation. The film, made with the cooperation of the United States Navy, features considerable footage of flight operations aboard the Navy's second aircraft carrier, the USS Saratoga, including dramatic shots of takeoffs and landings filmed from the Curtiss F8C-4 Helldiver dive bombers after which the movie was named.

Daniel James Jr.

Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force who, in 1975, became the first African American to reach the rank of four-star general in the United States Armed Forces.

Godfrey Chevalier

Lieutenant Commander Godfrey de Courcelles Chevalier, USN was a pioneering naval aviator of the United States Navy of World War I and the early 1920s.

<i>A Yank in the R.A.F.</i> 1941 American black-and-white war film directed by Henry King

A Yank in the R.A.F. is a 1941 American black-and-white war film directed by Henry King and starring Tyrone Power and Betty Grable. It is considered a typical early-World War II production. Originally titled The Eagle Squadron, it is based on a story by "Melville Crossman", the pen name for 20th Century Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck. It follows an American pilot who joins the Royal Air Force (RAF), during a period when the United States was still neutral.

USS <i>Massey</i>

USS Massey (DD-778), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, was a United States Navy ship that served between 1944 and 1973.

<i>Task Force</i> (film) 1949 film by Delmer Daves

Task Force is a 1949 war film filmed in black-and-white with some Technicolor sequences about the development of U.S. aircraft carriers from USS Langley (CV-1) to USS Franklin (CV-13). Although Robert Montgomery was originally considered for the leading role, the film stars Gary Cooper, Jane Wyatt, Walter Brennan, Wayne Morris, Julie London and Jack Holt. Task Force was the only film Gary Cooper and Jane Wyatt made together, and was the last of the eight films Cooper and Walter Brennan made together. The U.S. Navy provided complete support in not only loaning naval vessels and facilities, but also allowed the use of archival footage of the development of naval air power.

<i>God Is My Co-Pilot</i> (film) 1945 film by Robert Florey

God is My Co-Pilot is a 1945 American black-and-white biographical war film from Warner Bros. Pictures, produced by Robert Buckner, directed by Robert Florey, that stars Dennis Morgan and co-stars Dane Clark and Raymond Massey. The screenplay by Abem Finkel and Peter Milne is based on the 1943 autobiography of the same name by Robert Lee Scott Jr.. It recounts Scott's service with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma during World War II.

<i>Air Force</i> (film) 1943 film by Howard Hawks

Air Force is a 1943 American World War II aviation film directed by Howard Hawks and starring John Garfield, John Ridgely, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, and Harry Carey. The film was distributed by Warner Bros. and produced by Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner. Made in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, it was one of the first of the US patriotic films, sometimes referred to as wartime propaganda.

<i>Fighter Squadron</i> 1948 American war film directed by Raoul Walsh

Fighter Squadron is a 1948 American World War II aviation war film in Technicolor from Warner Bros., produced by Seton I. Miller, directed by Raoul Walsh, that stars Edmond O'Brien, Robert Stack, and John Rodney.

Richard Halsey Best United States Navy pilot

Richard Halsey Best was a dive bomber pilot and squadron commander in the United States Navy during World War II. Stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, Best led his dive bomber squadron at the 1942 Battle of Midway, sinking two Japanese aircraft carriers in one day, before being medically retired that same year due to damage to his lungs caused by breathing bad oxygen during the battle.

<i>Wings of the Navy</i> 1939 film by Lloyd Bacon

Wings of the Navy is a 1939 American drama film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring Olivia de Havilland and John Payne. Like many of the Warner Bros. features in the pre-World War II era, it was intended to serve as propaganda for the U.S. military and received heavy support from the U.S. Navy which also considered the film as a recruiting tool.

<i>Men of the Fighting Lady</i> 1954 film by Andrew Marton

Men of the Fighting Lady is a 1954 Korean War drama film starring Van Johnson, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, and directed by Andrew Marton. The screenplay was written by U.S. Navy Commander Harry A. Burns, who had written a Saturday Evening Post article, "The Case of the Blinded Pilot", an account of a U.S. Navy pilot in the Korean War, who saves a blinded Navy pilot by talking him down to a successful landing. Men of the Fighting Lady was also inspired by another Saturday Evening Post article, "The Forgotten Heroes of Korea" by James A. Michener. The original music score was composed by Miklós Rózsa.

<i>Flight</i> (1929 film) 1929 film

Flight is a 1929 adventure and aviation film directed by Frank Capra. The film stars Jack Holt, Lila Lee and Ralph Graves, who also came up with the story, for which Capra wrote the dialogue. Dedicated to the United States Marine Corps, the production was greatly aided by their full cooperation.

Frederick T. Moore Jr. United States Navy officer

Frederick T. Moore Jr. was a United States Navy captain. During World War II, he was executive officer of Fighter Squadron 1 operating off the carrier USS Yorktown (CV-10) and commanding officer of the Air Group 35 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Chenango in the Pacific. During the Korean War, he was the commanding officer of naval air training at NAS Pensacola and the air officer on USS Coral Sea. His first sea command was aboard USS Suribachi. In 1962–1963, Moore was the eighth commanding officer of USS Saratoga. Late in his career during the Vietnam War, he was Chief of Staff of the Naval Air Training Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola from October 1965 to July 1969.

Wing Commander David William Holford was a Royal Air Force officer who was the youngest bomber squadron commanding officer in RAF history. He was killed after crashing his Lancaster in thick fog near Kelstern following an operation to bomb Berlin.

Lance Edward Massey Recipient of the Navy Cross

Lance Edward "Lem" Massey was a U.S. Navy pilot during World War II.

Tammie Jo Shults American aviator

Tammie Jo Shults is an American retired commercial airline captain, author, and former naval aviator. Known for being one of the first female fighter pilots to serve in the United States Navy, following active duty she became a pilot for Southwest Airlines. She retired from Southwest Airlines in 2020.

References

Notes

  1. Taylor was caught up in the excitement of flying and obtained his own flying license as a result. During World War II, he served as a US Navy flying instructor. [4]

Citations

  1. 1 2 3 "The Eddie Mannix Ledger." Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study (Los Angeles). Retrieved: August 3, 2014.
  2. Eames 1982, p. 158.
  3. Crosby 2002, pCommander. 77.
  4. Nixon, Rob. "Articles: Flight Command (1940." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: August 3, 2014.
  5. Wynne 187, p. 161.
  6. Orriss 1984, p. 15.
  7. Malkin 1994, p. 869.
  8. Crowther, Bosley. "Flight Command (1940); Emphasis on defense in "Flight Command" at the Capitol." The New York Times , January 17, 1941.
  9. "Nominees and Winners: The 14th Academy Awards (1942)." oscars.org. Retrieved: June 21, 2013.

Bibliography

  • Crosby, Francis. Fighter Aircraft. London: Lorenz Books, 2002. ISBN   0-7548-0990-0.
  • Eames, John Douglas. The MGM Story: The Complete History of Fifty Roaring Years. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1982, First edition 1979. ISBN   978-0-51752-389-6.
  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia. New York: Dutton, 1994. ISBN   0-525-93635-1.
  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN   0-9613088-0-X.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN   0-933126-85-9.