John Garfield, John Ridgely, and Gig Young star in this hard-hitting, realistic story that celebrates America's airborne heroes during WWII. Year: 1943 Director: Howard Hawks Starring: John Garfield, John Ridgely, Gig Young
Director Howard Hawks casually referred to Air Force
(1943) as his "contribution to the war effort." It's also a masterpiece, standing with John Ford's They Were Expendable
as the best WWII films Hollywood made while the war was still on. On the evening of December 6, 1941, a B-17 flies out of San Francisco on a routine peacetime training mission to Hickam Field in Hawaii. While en route, the officers and crew overhear radio traffic of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor ("Whatcha got there," somebody asks the radio operator, "Orson Welles?"). They touch down in a smoking world like a vision out of Dante, then hop from one Pacific outpost to the next as the clouds of war roil. The plane itself, the Mary Ann, is the movie's main character; the biggest star, John Garfield, actually gets last billing as her newly assigned tail gunner. Air Force
is one of Hawks's supreme guys-doing-their-job movies, and the definitive war-movie portrait of America as a melting-pot of diverse individuals and types making common cause. The ensemble (Garfield, Gig Young, John Ridgely, Arthur Kennedy, the great Harry Carey, et al.) is superbly directed, there's a strong Dudley Nichols screenplay (with an uncredited contribution by William Faulkner) and breathtaking editing of the battle scenes (which won George Amy an Oscar), and the camerawork is by James Wong Howe in peak form.