The Fighting Lady (1945)

61 mins | Documentary | January 1945

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was The Big Y . The following written statement, presented in the form of a letter, appears onscreen before the film's opening titles: "The Secretary of the Navy, Washington, December 18, 1944. My Dear Admiral: The picture you are about to see is the most convincing statement of the Navy's achievement in this war yet given to the public. I believe that the best publicity for the Navy is victory in battle. But these battles must be honestly and vividly reported to the people at home--or they cannot be expected to understand the Navy's role in the war. We need more pictures like this one. Sincerely Yours, James Forrestal, Admiral C. W. Nimitz, USN." The following written statements appear onscreen directly after the main title card: "A drama of the Pacific/U.S. Naval Communications--This is an authentic record--every scene photographed in zones of combat by men of the United States Navy." The title card also notes that the final 35mm film was blown up "from a 16mm original."
       Studio publicity material contained in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library indicates that the idea to make the picture was first suggested in 1942 by Captain H. B. Miller, U.S.N.R., Bureau of Aeronautics. The Var review states that the film was "started by Lieut.-Commander Dwight Long," who in civilian life was known for his round-the-world voyages and newsreel travelogues. After entering the Navy, Long was assigned to "follow the activities of an airplane carrier," the U.S.S. Yorktown . When the story became too difficult for one man to cover, the assignment was handed to ... More Less

The working title of this film was The Big Y . The following written statement, presented in the form of a letter, appears onscreen before the film's opening titles: "The Secretary of the Navy, Washington, December 18, 1944. My Dear Admiral: The picture you are about to see is the most convincing statement of the Navy's achievement in this war yet given to the public. I believe that the best publicity for the Navy is victory in battle. But these battles must be honestly and vividly reported to the people at home--or they cannot be expected to understand the Navy's role in the war. We need more pictures like this one. Sincerely Yours, James Forrestal, Admiral C. W. Nimitz, USN." The following written statements appear onscreen directly after the main title card: "A drama of the Pacific/U.S. Naval Communications--This is an authentic record--every scene photographed in zones of combat by men of the United States Navy." The title card also notes that the final 35mm film was blown up "from a 16mm original."
       Studio publicity material contained in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library indicates that the idea to make the picture was first suggested in 1942 by Captain H. B. Miller, U.S.N.R., Bureau of Aeronautics. The Var review states that the film was "started by Lieut.-Commander Dwight Long," who in civilian life was known for his round-the-world voyages and newsreel travelogues. After entering the Navy, Long was assigned to "follow the activities of an airplane carrier," the U.S.S. Yorktown . When the story became too difficult for one man to cover, the assignment was handed to a group of ten to complete. According to studio publicity, some of the battle scenes were shot using a new, "secret" type of camera that was synchronized with the machine guns of the plane on which it was mounted. A Sep 1944 NYT news item notes that the picture was filmed over the course of fifteen months. Contemporary sources list widely varying figures for the total amount of raw film footage shot for the picture--ranging from 60,000, as reported by a NYT article, to 120,000, as listed in a studio publicity release. (A NYT preview review figure of 500,000 feet is probably a typographical error.)
       Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library indicates that in May 1944, the Navy donated "several thousand feet" of Long's 16mm Kodachrome film taken aboard the Yorktown and the Yorktown's combat planes to the studio, along with a story outline by prominent screenwriter Commander Frank Wead. The extent of Wead's contribution to the completed film, if any, has not been determined. Producer Louis de Rochemont of Twentieth Century-Fox's "March of Time" series then was assigned to compile the footage into a feature. A 24 Sep 1944 NYT article claims that although the name of the carrier was being kept a secret for security reasons, de Rochemont had hoped that the Navy would permit the name to be used before the final commentary was put on the screen. The ship's name was not used, however, and the fictional carrier, The Fighting Lady , was billed in publicity as a "composite of all the Pacific Fleet carriers." The commander of The Fighting Lady , "Captain Dixie," was in real life Commodore Dixie Kiefer. Kiefer died in Nov 1945, when a bomber plane crashed onto the deck of the Yorktown .
       As indicated in legal records, Twentieth Century-Fox agreed to pay all production costs associated with the picture, including blowing up the 16mm Kodachrome footage into 35mm Technicolor, and then release the film, retaining thirty percent of the gross receipts to cover distribution charges. All profits from the film were to be donated by the studio to the Navy Relief Society and Naval Aid Auxiliary. The Fighting Lady was the first film made by the U.S. Armed Forces to be released by a commercial studio. The picture was narrated by M-G-M star Robert Taylor, who was a lieutenant in the Navy at the time of production.
       Contemporary sources give conflicting lengths for the final film, with the NYT and a publicity item listing the footage at 7,500, and the copyright records listing it at 5,506. According to a contemporary news item, the film was shown aboard "The Fighting Lady" (the Yorktown ) on 6 Feb 1945 while the carrier was still at sea "somewhere in the western Pacific." According to NYT , the film was to be the first in a series of "journalistic features" to be produced by de Rochemont. The next feature film in the de Rochemont series was an FBI picture called The House on 92nd Street (see below). Photographic supervisor advisor Philippe de Lacy appeared as a child actor in many films from the silent era. The Fighting Lady received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature of 1944. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Feb 45
pp. 45-46, 66, 70
Box Office
13 Jan 1945.
---
Daily Variety
20-Dec-44
---
Film Daily
20 Dec 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 44
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 45
p. 8.
Los Angeles Examiner
13 Nov 1945.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
9 Feb 45
p. B-12.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
23 Dec 44
p. 2237.
New York Times
24 Sep 1944.
---
New York Times
28 Dec 44
p. 12.
New York Times
14 Jan 1945.
---
New York Times
18 Jan 1945.
---
Variety
13 Dec 44
p. 17.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Lt. Robert Taylor U.S.N.R.

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Lt. Robert Taylor U.S.N.R.
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Louis de Rochemont Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Narr wrt by
Narr wrt by
Contr wrt to narr of British version
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Mus dir
Orch arr
Orch arr
Orch arr
Orch arr
PRODUCTION MISC
Maps by
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Big Y
Release Date:
January 1945
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 17 January 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
24 December 1944
Copyright Number:
MP15860
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
61
Length(in feet):
5,506
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10393
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

This film examines the military service of a United States, Essex Class aircraft carrier, nicknamed The Fighting Lady , during its tour of duty in the Pacific. In 1943, after the newly built ship has left its Eastern seaboard port, its course through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean is followed. A complement of warplanes is seen joining The Fighting Lady , after which the film offers a detailed description of everyday life aboard the carrier. The film also discusses the role of the many non-combat personnel aboard the ship, including the ship's barber, a pharmacist and cobbler. As the carrier is seen making its way to its destination, the men on board pass the time by playing cards. The first mission of The Fighting Lady is a dawn attack on Japanese bases on Marcus Island, and as the carrier approaches the islands, fighter planes, followed by bombers, are seen taking off from the carrier. The dawn attack is followed by a Japanese torpedo plane retaliation. The narrator reports that, in all, nineteen Japanese planes were downed in that particular skirmish. One year after its commission, The Fighting Lady is credited with having destroyed 757 Japanese aircraft. The film concludes with a salute to those who died serving on the ... +


This film examines the military service of a United States, Essex Class aircraft carrier, nicknamed The Fighting Lady , during its tour of duty in the Pacific. In 1943, after the newly built ship has left its Eastern seaboard port, its course through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean is followed. A complement of warplanes is seen joining The Fighting Lady , after which the film offers a detailed description of everyday life aboard the carrier. The film also discusses the role of the many non-combat personnel aboard the ship, including the ship's barber, a pharmacist and cobbler. As the carrier is seen making its way to its destination, the men on board pass the time by playing cards. The first mission of The Fighting Lady is a dawn attack on Japanese bases on Marcus Island, and as the carrier approaches the islands, fighter planes, followed by bombers, are seen taking off from the carrier. The dawn attack is followed by a Japanese torpedo plane retaliation. The narrator reports that, in all, nineteen Japanese planes were downed in that particular skirmish. One year after its commission, The Fighting Lady is credited with having destroyed 757 Japanese aircraft. The film concludes with a salute to those who died serving on the carrier. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.