Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A YANK IN THE R.A.F. (1941)

One of several pre-war propaganda films set in England designed to promote our eventual entrance in the war. Ultimately, however, this one is more focused on characterization and romance. Tyrone Power is an American pilot who is paid to fly planes being "loaned" to Canada and flown to England (this was a way of technically remaining neutal before Pearl Harbor). Power has no particular stake in the war effort until he meets up with old flame Betty Grable over in London; to impress her, he joins the Royal Air Force. He winds up with a rival for Grable's affections (John Sutton). Power is cocky and impatient; when his first flying assignment culminates in dropping leaflets over Berlin instead of bombs, he decides to drop the leaflets by the box and manages to put out a few searchlights on the ground. Soon, the missions get more dangerous and a friend (Reginald Gardiner) dies heroically. This causes Power to gain more respect for his job and he winds up in a life-threatening position at Dunkirk. I like the fact that the movie has a little more to it than the typical propaganda piece of the time, and it's interesting that Power's character is mostly rather unlikeable, even in the end. He meets Grable when posing as a volunteer during an air raid drill and at the very end, he is still using subterfuge to get ahead romantically. Apparently, some of the airplane footage was shot under dangerous circumstances, though the nighttime scenes are patently artificial (but still effective). Not an important film, but entertaining.

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