Flying Leathernecks (1951)

102 mins | Drama | 28 August 1951

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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Flying Devil Dogs (also spelled Devildogs ) and Devil Dogs of the Air . The film's opening credits conclude with the following dedication: "Dedicated to the United States Marine Corps, and especially to Marine aviation. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their participation and assistance which made this picture possible." Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film.
       In Sep 1950, LAT announced that both Montgomery Clift and Tim Holt were considering roles in the picture. According to the Var review, the picture contains rare color footage of "battle action in the Pacific...blended with studio shots....Scenes from Guadalcanal, air strikes at enemy fleets, Kamakazi strikes at U.S. ships, are among real sequences cut in...." An Aug 1950 HR news item announced that Flying Leathernecks would be the first Hollywood feature to incorporate "actual scenes of the present Korean conflict" and noted that editor Robert Belcher had reviewed footage shot by cameramen with the U.S. Marine Corps Air Wing. According to a Sep 1950 HR item, Belcher selected sequences from combat footage taken at Guadalcanal. In Jan 1951, HR reported that producer Edmund Grainger had received several thousand feet of film from Korea, depicting infantry battles with air support from land and carrier-based planes. The inclusion of Korean footage in the final film has not been confirmed, however.
       In Jun 1950, following meetings with Grainger, Marine Corps officials in Washington, D.C., granted the production permission to use its facilities. However, because of the fighting in Korea, the Navy reneged on its agreement ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Flying Devil Dogs (also spelled Devildogs ) and Devil Dogs of the Air . The film's opening credits conclude with the following dedication: "Dedicated to the United States Marine Corps, and especially to Marine aviation. Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their participation and assistance which made this picture possible." Voice-over narration is heard intermittently throughout the film.
       In Sep 1950, LAT announced that both Montgomery Clift and Tim Holt were considering roles in the picture. According to the Var review, the picture contains rare color footage of "battle action in the Pacific...blended with studio shots....Scenes from Guadalcanal, air strikes at enemy fleets, Kamakazi strikes at U.S. ships, are among real sequences cut in...." An Aug 1950 HR news item announced that Flying Leathernecks would be the first Hollywood feature to incorporate "actual scenes of the present Korean conflict" and noted that editor Robert Belcher had reviewed footage shot by cameramen with the U.S. Marine Corps Air Wing. According to a Sep 1950 HR item, Belcher selected sequences from combat footage taken at Guadalcanal. In Jan 1951, HR reported that producer Edmund Grainger had received several thousand feet of film from Korea, depicting infantry battles with air support from land and carrier-based planes. The inclusion of Korean footage in the final film has not been confirmed, however.
       In Jun 1950, following meetings with Grainger, Marine Corps officials in Washington, D.C., granted the production permission to use its facilities. However, because of the fighting in Korea, the Navy reneged on its agreement to allow the filmmakers' use of the carrier Bataan for filming at sea, but did provide several planes, according to a Nov 1950 DV item. As noted by reviews, most of the picture was shot at Camp Pendleton and El Toro Marine Air Station in Southern California. Production was threatened with delay when crew members from I.A.T.S.E. and other unions balked at accepting lodgings at Camp Pendleton, declaring the officers' quarters unfit. After legal arbitration in the matter, however, production resumed. Grainger replaced director Nicholas Ray for a few days when Ray fell ill with the flu.
       Flying Leathernecks marked Grainger's first producing effort for RKO. Modern sources note that director Rodney Amateau , a friend of Ray, helped Ray organize the shooting script and acted as a dialogue director on the production. HR announced in May 1951 that the picture would have its first screening in Korea for Marine Corps airmen. In Jul 1951, HR reported that General C. B. Gates had declared the film the "best service picture made to date" and that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff had requested a "command performance" screening. A Dec 1953 DV news item noted that RKO was holding up the release of the picture in Japan at the request of the State Department, out of concern that the story was "too sharp a reminder of World War II."
       The film marked the first time that actor John Mallory, brother of actor Robert Mitchum, was billed under the surname Mallory. Previously he had been billed as John or Jack Mitchum. He changed his name back to John Mitchum in 1953 and was billed under that name from that time on. On 24 Sep 1951, John Wayne, Robert Ryan and Howard McNear presented scenes from Flying Leathnecks as part of Lux Radio Theatre 's broadcast Movie Time, U.S.A. . More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
28 Jul 1951.
---
Daily Variety
17 Nov 1950.
---
Daily Variety
18 Jul 51
p. 3.
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1953.
---
Film Daily
18 Jul 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jun 50
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 50
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 50
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 50
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 50
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 50
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 50
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jan 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Feb 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Feb 51
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jul 51
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 51
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 51
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
5 Sep 1950.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
21 Jul 51
pp. 937-38.
New York Times
20 Sep 51
p. 37.
Variety
25 Jul 51
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
John Mallory
Douglas Henderson
Richard Wessel
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
An Edmund Grainger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Fill-In dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Devil Dogs of the Air
Flying Devil Dogs
Release Date:
28 August 1951
Production Date:
20 November 1950--3 February 1951 at RKO-Pathé Studios
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
14 August 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1163
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
102
Length(in feet):
9,190
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
14994
SYNOPSIS

In the summer of 1942, Major Dan Kirby is assigned to command U.S. Marine fighter squadron VMF247, to the dismay of the unit's men, who had hoped that their executive officer, Capt. Carl "Griff" Griffin, would be promoted to the post. After their first strafing run in Guadalcanal, the squadron's headquarters on Cactus Island is bombed by the Japanese and many U.S. planes are destroyed. Kirby, a no-nonsense veteran, then grounds pilot Lt. Simmons for breaking formation to go after an enemy craft and orders that Simmons be held for court-martial. The popular Griff denounces Kirby's punishment as too harsh, arguing that Simmons is merely young and zealous, but Kirby is adamant. Later, however, Griff defends Kirby when some of the other pilots complain about his seeming lack of compassion. That night, the camp is bombed again, and the squadron suffers its first casualty. During another aerial attack, Capt. Harold Jorgenson repeats Simmons' mistake and is shot down and killed by the Japanese. Although Griff now admits to Kirby that his treatment of Simmons was justified, Kirby is forced to reinstate the lieutenant, as many of the men have contracted jungle fever. Kirby then asks pilot Lt. Ernie Stark, who the others suspect is a coward, to be his "wing man." Dismissing Griff's concerns that the squadron is too tired and sick to fly another mission, Kirby agrees to help out a colonel in need, and during the battle, another pilot, Lt. Billy Castle, is lost. That night, while his men get drunk on sake, Kirby writes an appreciative letter to Billy's family and listens to an old phonograph message from his ... +


In the summer of 1942, Major Dan Kirby is assigned to command U.S. Marine fighter squadron VMF247, to the dismay of the unit's men, who had hoped that their executive officer, Capt. Carl "Griff" Griffin, would be promoted to the post. After their first strafing run in Guadalcanal, the squadron's headquarters on Cactus Island is bombed by the Japanese and many U.S. planes are destroyed. Kirby, a no-nonsense veteran, then grounds pilot Lt. Simmons for breaking formation to go after an enemy craft and orders that Simmons be held for court-martial. The popular Griff denounces Kirby's punishment as too harsh, arguing that Simmons is merely young and zealous, but Kirby is adamant. Later, however, Griff defends Kirby when some of the other pilots complain about his seeming lack of compassion. That night, the camp is bombed again, and the squadron suffers its first casualty. During another aerial attack, Capt. Harold Jorgenson repeats Simmons' mistake and is shot down and killed by the Japanese. Although Griff now admits to Kirby that his treatment of Simmons was justified, Kirby is forced to reinstate the lieutenant, as many of the men have contracted jungle fever. Kirby then asks pilot Lt. Ernie Stark, who the others suspect is a coward, to be his "wing man." Dismissing Griff's concerns that the squadron is too tired and sick to fly another mission, Kirby agrees to help out a colonel in need, and during the battle, another pilot, Lt. Billy Castle, is lost. That night, while his men get drunk on sake, Kirby writes an appreciative letter to Billy's family and listens to an old phonograph message from his wife Joan and son Tommy. Kirby's reverie is interrupted by a summons from the general in charge, who tells him that in order to convince the "brass" that their air-ground strategy is working, more raids must be undertaken. The next day, having observed Griff drunk and angry the night before, Dr. Joe Curan, the unit's physician, questions Griff's stability. After Kirby assures Joe that Griff can handle the pressure, he leads another attack against the Japanese. During the fight, Shorty Vegay, a Navajo pilot, is shot and later loses his leg. Kirby then is ordered to intercept a fleet of Japanese ships on its way to do battle. Although the mission proves a success, Simmons crashes and dies while exchanging fire with the enemy. Later, Kirby is relieved of duty but does not recommend Griff as his successor, a decision Griff accepts with resigned indifference. Kirby's reunion with his wife and son is short-lived, as he is quickly promoted to colonel and reassigned to Guadalcanal. Kirby again is teamed with Griff, whose popular Texan brother-in-law Cowboy is also in the squad. When Cowboy's plane is hit by a Japanese pilot during a battle in which Kirby is forced to parachute to safety, the other men want to break formation to help him. Realizing that rescuing Cowboy could cost lives, Griff orders the pilots to stay on course, and Cowboy is killed. Later, Kirby, whose shoulder was broken during his fall, is relieved of duty. Seeing Griff's sacrifice as proof that he has finally become a strong leader, Kirby recommends that he take over as commander, then leaves for home. +

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

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