Thursday, November 02, 2006


Though made after WWII, this is the kind of movie that Hollywood pumped out in the years before America was officially engaged in the war: a quick history of a particular branch of the military or of a military breakthrough. Here, Gary Cooper serves as the focus for a story about the development of the aircraft carrier as a practical addition to the forces of the United States Navy. The film begins with Cooper retiring and then flashes back to 25 years earlier when pilots were just learning to land on the first carrier of its kind, the Langley. Some Navy brass and Congressmen are against developing a carrier fleet, and Commander Walter Brennan enlists Cooper to go to Washington to do some sweet talking; instead he gets into a spat with a powerful lawmaker (Stanley Ridges) when he speculates that Japan might have sinister intentions and a carrier fleet would be a perfect defense. We follow Cooper over the years as he gets demoted to a desk job, put back into a flying job, suffers through a crash, marries Jane Wyatt (widow of a fellow Navy pilot), and continues promoting aircraft carriers (and continues to antagonize Ridges). Of course, Cooper's predictions about a sea war with Japan come true and his career comes to its peak when he winds up on the Enterprise, the last carrier left in action. The bulk of the film is in black & white, with the last reel (about 20 minutes worth) in color, for no apparent reason. Cooper was entering what I think of as his "old man" phase and he's not particularly convincing as a young man. There's a decent supporting cast which includes Wayne Morris, Bruce Bennett, and John Ridgely as fellow pilots, and singer Julie London as Morris's gal. It's predictable (you just know that some tangential character is gonna die at Pearl Harbor so that "this time, it's personal") and a fair amount of newsreel footage is worked in toward the end. Not a bad movie, but at two hours, not one I'd care to sit through again. [TCM]

No comments: