Air Force (1943)

124-125 mins | Drama | 20 March 1943

Director:

Howard Hawks

Writer:

Dudley Nichols

Producer:

Hal B. Wallis

Cinematographer:

James Wong Howe

Editor:

George Amy

Production Designer:

John Hughes

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following written foreword: "It is for us the living....to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced....It is...for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."--Abraham Lincoln. The film ends with the following written statement: "This story has a conclusion but not an end--for its real end will be the victory for which Americans--on land, on sea and in the air--have fought, are fighting now and will continue to fight until peace has been won. Grateful acknowledgement is given to the United States Army Air Force, without whose assistance this record could not have been filmed."
       HR news items add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. tried to borrow Alan Ladd from Paramount for a role in the film and cinematographer James Wong Howe replaced Tony Gaudio when the latter became ill. Because people on the West Coast were concerned about a Japanese invasion, the studio was unable to shoot locally any scenes with planes dressed to appear Japanese. For this reason, the aerial scenes were filmed at Drew Field in Tampa, FL and Randolph Field in San Antonio, TX. Several international airports were recreated for the film, including Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, HI; Wake Air Force Base and Clark Field in Manila. Warner Bros. showed the film starting at 9:00 AM to accommodate defense workers on the graveyard shift. According to ... More Less

The film begins with the following written foreword: "It is for us the living....to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced....It is...for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."--Abraham Lincoln. The film ends with the following written statement: "This story has a conclusion but not an end--for its real end will be the victory for which Americans--on land, on sea and in the air--have fought, are fighting now and will continue to fight until peace has been won. Grateful acknowledgement is given to the United States Army Air Force, without whose assistance this record could not have been filmed."
       HR news items add the following information about the production: Warner Bros. tried to borrow Alan Ladd from Paramount for a role in the film and cinematographer James Wong Howe replaced Tony Gaudio when the latter became ill. Because people on the West Coast were concerned about a Japanese invasion, the studio was unable to shoot locally any scenes with planes dressed to appear Japanese. For this reason, the aerial scenes were filmed at Drew Field in Tampa, FL and Randolph Field in San Antonio, TX. Several international airports were recreated for the film, including Hickam Air Force base in Honolulu, HI; Wake Air Force Base and Clark Field in Manila. Warner Bros. showed the film starting at 9:00 AM to accommodate defense workers on the graveyard shift. According to a press release included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, twenty-seven-year-old Captain Hewitt Wheless, whom modern sources say acted as a technical advisor, was commended by president Franklin D. Roosevelt after his B-17 was attacked by eighteen Japanese planes. Even though one of his crew members was killed and another wounded, Wheless completed his mission and returned to base. According to contemporary sources, the film was made at the suggestion of General H. H. (Hap) Arnold, Commander of the U.S. Air Forces.
       According to information in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Major Sam Triffy and Major Theron Coulter were assigned by the Army Air Force to act as technical advisors. A letter from the YMCA at the University of California, Berkeley, included in the Warner Bros. Collection, protests the film's portrayal of sabotage by Hawaiian Japanese on 7 Dec 1941. The letter states that reports of this activity were denied by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Honolulu police chief William Gabrielson. Modern sources add the following information about the production: Major Triffy spent eight weeks assisting director Howard Hawks and writer Dudley Nichols in developing the story and dialogue and also did some of the stunt flying. Triffy was joined as technical advisor by Wheless during location shooting. The surface water combat sequences were shot on Santa Monica Bay before the screenplay was completed; although reviewers assumed the sea battle in the film was a recreation of the Battle of the Coral Sea, the miniature shooting had been completed before that battle took place. One modern source adds, however, that some real combat footage was included, probably from the Battle of the Coral Sea or Midway. (According to daily production reports in the Warner Bros. Collection, much of the miniature footage was shot in May and June of 1942. The first of several battles that comprised the battle of the Coral Sea began in early May 1942.) Modern sources also add that William Faulkner contributed to the screenplay. John O. Watson and Dudley Nichols wrote a novelization of the film that was published in 1943. George Amy received the Oscar for Best Editing. Dudley Nichols's screenplay was nominated for an Oscar; James Wong Howe, Elmer Dyer and Charles Marshall were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Cinematography; and Hans Koenekamp, Rex Wimpy and Nathan Levinson were nominated for Best Special Effects. Harry Carey reprised his role in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 12 Jul 1943, co-starring George Raft. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Apr 43
p. 135.
Box Office
6 Feb 1943.
---
Daily Variety
3 Feb 43
p. 3.
Film Daily
3 Feb 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jun 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jul 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jul 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 43
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Mar 43
p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald
6 Feb 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
6 Feb 43
p. 1145.
New York Times
4 Feb 43
p. 29.
Variety
3 Feb 43
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Members of the crew of the "Mary Ann" B-17 plane no. 05564
Edward S. Brophy
Marjorie Hoschelle
Charles Lang
David Alison
Fred Steele
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Howard Hawks Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Aerial photog
Aerial photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff dir
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Chief pilot for Warner Bros.
Tech adv
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 March 1943
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 3 February 1943
Production Date:
18 June--26 October 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 March 1943
Copyright Number:
LP11920
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
124-125
Length(in feet):
11,179
Country:
United States
SYNOPSIS

At a San Francisco Air Force base, the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed the "Mary Ann," prepares for a routine flight to Hawaii. The crew, consisting of Captain Irish Quincannon, co-pilot Bill Williams, bombardier Tommy McMartin, navigator Monk Hauser, crew chief Robbie White, assistant crew chief Corporal Weinberg and radio operator Peterson, are joined by two new soldiers, assistant radio operator Chester and aerial gunner Joe Winocki. This is Chester's first flight and he is enthusiastic about it. Winocki, on the other hand, had wanted to be a pilot, but failed flight school and now, bitter about his disappointment, is counting the days until his enlistment is over. As the Mary Ann flies over the Pacific on 7 December 1941, the crew hears Japanese voices over their radio and soon learns that Hickam Air Field in Pearl Harbor is under attack. The news turns Winocki's cynicism around, and he announces that he is now in the air force for the duration of the war. The flight is diverted to an emergency air field on Maui, where the crew finishes emergency repairs just before fifth columnist snipers advance toward the plane. Despite the danger, the Mary Ann heads for Hickam. When the crew lands, they learn that McMartin's sister was wounded during the bombing. They have time to visit her briefly in the hospital before they are sent out, fully armed, to Manila, which has also been devastated by Japanese bombers. Flying along with the crew is pursuit pilot Tex Rader. Before a fuel stop on Wake Island, they receive a shortwave communication reporting that McMartin's sister will recover. The Marines on ... +


At a San Francisco Air Force base, the crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed the "Mary Ann," prepares for a routine flight to Hawaii. The crew, consisting of Captain Irish Quincannon, co-pilot Bill Williams, bombardier Tommy McMartin, navigator Monk Hauser, crew chief Robbie White, assistant crew chief Corporal Weinberg and radio operator Peterson, are joined by two new soldiers, assistant radio operator Chester and aerial gunner Joe Winocki. This is Chester's first flight and he is enthusiastic about it. Winocki, on the other hand, had wanted to be a pilot, but failed flight school and now, bitter about his disappointment, is counting the days until his enlistment is over. As the Mary Ann flies over the Pacific on 7 December 1941, the crew hears Japanese voices over their radio and soon learns that Hickam Air Field in Pearl Harbor is under attack. The news turns Winocki's cynicism around, and he announces that he is now in the air force for the duration of the war. The flight is diverted to an emergency air field on Maui, where the crew finishes emergency repairs just before fifth columnist snipers advance toward the plane. Despite the danger, the Mary Ann heads for Hickam. When the crew lands, they learn that McMartin's sister was wounded during the bombing. They have time to visit her briefly in the hospital before they are sent out, fully armed, to Manila, which has also been devastated by Japanese bombers. Flying along with the crew is pursuit pilot Tex Rader. Before a fuel stop on Wake Island, they receive a shortwave communication reporting that McMartin's sister will recover. The Marines on Wake, knowing that they are facing almost certain annihilation, hand the Mary Ann's crew letters to mail to their families and also persuade them to take their little dog Tripoli along with them when they leave for Manila. White is eager to reach Manila because his son is a pilot with the air force there. Upon landing at Clark Air Force Base, however, he receives the sad news that his son was killed during the first Japanese strike. The Mary Ann is loaded with bombs and when the Japanese return, the crew engages in a fierce battle during which Quincannon is fatally wounded, and Chester is also killed. Back on the ground, the crew hurriedly salvages parts from other planes to rebuild the badly damaged Mary Ann. When Manila falls to the Japanese, the Mary Ann heads for Australia with Rader as their new co-pilot and a former Marine as assistant radio operator. On the way they spot a Japanese fleet and radio their position to the Allied fleet. During the ensuing battle, the Japanese are routed. Later, the men prepare to lead an attack on Tokyo. +

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.