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Bombardier (1943)

Bombardier (1943)

Directed by Richard Wallace with writing credits for Martin Rackin (story) & John Twist (story & screenplay) this World War II propaganda film focuses on the technical role of the title job. It features an all star cast including: Pat O’Brien Randolph Scott Anne Shirley (Stella Dallas (1937)) Eddie Albert Walter Reed Robert Ryan (Crossfire (1947)) Barton MacLane and Russell Wade who played a similar role in The Bamboo Blonde (1946).

The film begins with a monologue (by Brigadier-General Eugene L. Eubanks himself) emphasizing the importance of the bombardier and the vision it took to create train and staff the job prior to World War II so that we were prepared to join the fight. Major Chick Davis (O’Brien) with his “golden goose” sighting equipment challenges dive bomber Captain Buck Oliver (Scott) to see whose method will be most effective in the conflict should the United States choose to enter the war. Though Buck misses the target Chick hits it from 20000 feet convincing his critics to fund a training school (actually in Kirtland Field Albuquerque) in New Mexico. The mythical site is reported to be an airfield owned by a former and now deceased dive bomber named Hughes whose daughter Burton (Shirley) and son Tom (Albert) still work there. Gruff Chick arrives to find an environment too cozy for the Army Air Force because of Burton’s woman’s touch and has Sgt. Dixon (MacLane) rough it up a bit. Buck arrives to help as one of the pilots for the bombardiers and is greeted by Burton who he evidently has been dating. Apparently Tom has enlisted as a bombardier too based on the fact that his best friend a star football player Jim Carter (Reed) had joined.

The film then spends quite a bit of time giving an overview of the education which begins with extensive classroom and other ground training before the students are ever taken up in a plane. Besides Tom & Carter some of the other recruits include Joe Connors (Ryan) Chito Rafferty (Richard Martin) and Paul Harris (Wade). Some of the pupils do better than others: Connors is distracted until we learn the reason – someone had been offering him money for one of the “golden goose” sighting apparatuses. Chick uses Connors to catch the culprits. Chick must also fight for his men to be treated with respect in the Army e.g. to get commissions making them equal to their pilots. Scott’s character Buck serves the function of the skeptical pilot trying to “steal” the best of Chick’s recruits and as one who must be convinced of the bombardier’s value. Shirley’s character as the lone credited female in the film is not only a romantic interest for the competing Buck and Carter (and even to the smallest degree Chick) but also serves to “soften up” the tough Chick a bit acting as his sounding board loyal employee and voice of reason. Joan Barclay does appear uncredited as a romantic interest for Rafferty however briefly. The most dramatic and character revealing moments in the film revolve around Arnold’s character who must justify why Chick and the Army board should keep him given his fear of jumping out of a disabled plane AND later is doomed to a tragic fate.

The final phase of the film is the realization of all the extensive training after it is learned that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Though this film received an Academy Award nomination for Special Effects they are vastly inferior to those in another film nominated film that same year Air Force (1943). There is of course a moment late in the film when Buck sees the light and appreciates the role of the titled soldier. The film ends oddly enough for the time with its credits.

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