The Wild Blue Yonder (1951)

97-98 mins | Drama | 5 December 1951

Director:

Allan Dwan

Cinematographer:

Reggie Lanning

Production Designer:

James Sullivan

Production Company:

Republic Pictures Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was Wings Across the Pacific . The opening title card reads: " The Wild Blue Yonder, The Story of the B-29 Superfortress ." A written prologue thanks the men and women of the United States Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense for their assistance and participation. Voice-over narration, spoken by Wendell Corey as "Capt. Harold Calvert," is heard intermittently throughout the film. A Feb 1951 HR news item announced that Sterling Hayden had been cast as one of the leads, but he did not appear in the final film. The Wild Blue Yonder marked the first time that Terry Kilburn, a child actor of the 1930s and 1940s, appeared under the name Martin Kilburn. "The Thing," as sung in the film by Phil Harris, was a hit song in 1951.
       As depicted in The Wild Blue Yonder , during World War II, in response to the U.S. War Department's request for a long-range bomber that could carry a heavier payload for longer distances, the Boeing Company designed the B-29. Being the first aircraft capable of reaching Japan from available airbases while carrying 20,000 pounds of bomb payload, B-29s were used in a strategic bombing effort against that country beginning in Jun 1944. After bases were built in the Mariana Islands, sustained air attacks were conducted during the night from 9 Mar through 15 Jun 1945, targeting urban industrial areas of Japan. Two B-29s, the Enola Gay and the Bockscar , dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.
       Portions of the film were shot at March Field ... More Less

The working title of this film was Wings Across the Pacific . The opening title card reads: " The Wild Blue Yonder, The Story of the B-29 Superfortress ." A written prologue thanks the men and women of the United States Air Force, the Marine Corps and the Department of Defense for their assistance and participation. Voice-over narration, spoken by Wendell Corey as "Capt. Harold Calvert," is heard intermittently throughout the film. A Feb 1951 HR news item announced that Sterling Hayden had been cast as one of the leads, but he did not appear in the final film. The Wild Blue Yonder marked the first time that Terry Kilburn, a child actor of the 1930s and 1940s, appeared under the name Martin Kilburn. "The Thing," as sung in the film by Phil Harris, was a hit song in 1951.
       As depicted in The Wild Blue Yonder , during World War II, in response to the U.S. War Department's request for a long-range bomber that could carry a heavier payload for longer distances, the Boeing Company designed the B-29. Being the first aircraft capable of reaching Japan from available airbases while carrying 20,000 pounds of bomb payload, B-29s were used in a strategic bombing effort against that country beginning in Jun 1944. After bases were built in the Mariana Islands, sustained air attacks were conducted during the night from 9 Mar through 15 Jun 1945, targeting urban industrial areas of Japan. Two B-29s, the Enola Gay and the Bockscar , dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.
       Portions of the film were shot at March Field Air Base and Mojave Airport Marine Base in CA; Davis-Monthan Field in Tucson, AZ; and Walker B29 Air Force Base in Roswell, NM, according to Feb and Mar 1951 HR news items. A modern source states that the aerial scenes of the bombing of Tokyo were filmed above Catalina Island. Brief scenes in the film recreate the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima and Sgt. Henry "Red" Erwin's saving of the aircraft, City of Los Angeles . Erwin was paid a $1,500 "portrayal fee" for the scene, according to a modern source. The same source stated that Republic sought permission to quote Winston Churchill in the prologue of the film, but Churchill declined. The film was re-released in 1958. On 24 Sep 1951, Wendell Corey, Vera Ralston and Forrest Tucker recreated brief scenes from the picture for a special Lux Radio Theatre broadcast honoring the 50th anniversary of motion pictures. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
8 Dec 1951.
---
Daily Variety
30 Nov 51
p. 3.
FDYB
1959
p. 249.
Film Daily
5 Dec 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 51
p. 12, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Mar 51
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Mar 1951
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Mar 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Mar 51
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Apr 51
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 51
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jul 51
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 51
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 51
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Dec 51
pp. 1133-34.
New York Times
31 Dec 51
p. 9.
New York Times
2 Jan 52
p. 20.
Newsweek
14 Jan 1952.
---
Variety
30 Nov 1951.
---
Variety
5 Dec 51
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
SET DECORATORS
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"The U.S. Air Force," music and lyrics by Robert Crawford
"The Heavy Bomber Song," music and lyrics by Ned Washington and Victor Young
"The Man Behind the Armor-Plated Desk," music traditional, special lyrics by Allan Dwan
+
SONGS
"The U.S. Air Force," music and lyrics by Robert Crawford
"The Heavy Bomber Song," music and lyrics by Ned Washington and Victor Young
"The Man Behind the Armor-Plated Desk," music traditional, special lyrics by Allan Dwan
"The Thing," music and lyrics by Charles R. Green.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Wings Across the Pacific
Release Date:
5 December 1951
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Omaha, NE: 29 November 1951
Production Date:
3 April--mid May 1951
Copyright Claimant:
Republic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
19 October 1951
Copyright Number:
LP1402
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
97-98
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15323
SYNOPSIS

In 1943, Capt. Harold "Cal" Calvert is sent to Smoky Hill, Kansas, with other seasoned Air Force pilots, to train on a new kind of aircraft, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Running the training program is Cal's cousin, Tom West, a self-effacing engineer, who, Cal is surprised to hear, has been promoted to major. During the first few weeks of rigorous training, the pilots learn that the B-29 can fly higher, faster and longer than the B-24s currently in use, and can carry more powerful weapons, but like a sensitive thoroughbred, the new plane needs careful handling. Although Tom is an excellent teacher, with twenty-four successful combat missions to his credit, the men barely hide their resentment of his promotion, as they believe he claimed engine trouble during his last mission, a major bombing raid over the Ploesti oil fields, in order to avoid combat. In the mess hall, a crewman taunts Tom in front of Helen Landers, the nurse Tom is seeing, and Cal, who is attracted to Helen, acts as bouncer. Tom quietly confides to Helen how fond he was of the young crewmen who were with him throughout the twenty-four missions and how hard he took it when two were killed. He explains that the twenty-fifth mission was to be their last together, but halfway to the target, they experienced engine trouble. He tells her that if only his life had been at stake, he would have continued, but because he wanted the young men to go on living, he turned back. Later, during the pilots' trial run on the B-29s, the overconfident Cal disobeys Tom by flying higher than instructed, causing a breach in cabin pressure. ... +


In 1943, Capt. Harold "Cal" Calvert is sent to Smoky Hill, Kansas, with other seasoned Air Force pilots, to train on a new kind of aircraft, the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Running the training program is Cal's cousin, Tom West, a self-effacing engineer, who, Cal is surprised to hear, has been promoted to major. During the first few weeks of rigorous training, the pilots learn that the B-29 can fly higher, faster and longer than the B-24s currently in use, and can carry more powerful weapons, but like a sensitive thoroughbred, the new plane needs careful handling. Although Tom is an excellent teacher, with twenty-four successful combat missions to his credit, the men barely hide their resentment of his promotion, as they believe he claimed engine trouble during his last mission, a major bombing raid over the Ploesti oil fields, in order to avoid combat. In the mess hall, a crewman taunts Tom in front of Helen Landers, the nurse Tom is seeing, and Cal, who is attracted to Helen, acts as bouncer. Tom quietly confides to Helen how fond he was of the young crewmen who were with him throughout the twenty-four missions and how hard he took it when two were killed. He explains that the twenty-fifth mission was to be their last together, but halfway to the target, they experienced engine trouble. He tells her that if only his life had been at stake, he would have continued, but because he wanted the young men to go on living, he turned back. Later, during the pilots' trial run on the B-29s, the overconfident Cal disobeys Tom by flying higher than instructed, causing a breach in cabin pressure. One of the men is sucked out of the plane, but saved by the opening of his parachute at the last minute. Tom reprimands Cal for putting the program at risk, as the Air Force brass is closely monitoring the B-29 program and Washington "bigwigs" are questioning its cost. The instruction continues and after several months of grueling training, Maj. Gen. Wolfe, who set up the B-29 program, pronounces the men ready for action. He leads them first to a base in India, where the voice of Tokyo Rose greets them, and then to a Chinese base, where landing strips are "handmade" using the limited equipment and resources available in that area of the world. As the time of their first mission approaches, Tom, struggling with his demons, tells Wolfe the truth about his unsuccessful mission. Wolfe reassigns Tom to design modifications for the B-29s, intimating that he, too, is being replaced. During their first mission, a night raid on Japan, Cal and his men lose one engine. They then narrowly escape the explosion of one of their own bombs when it gets stuck in a bay, before a young crewman, Sgt. Shaker Schucker, dislodges it and sends it on its way. Despite the difficulties, the crew returns triumphantly. Later, both Cal and Tom are transferred to Guam, where Helen, also assigned there, finds that she is falling for Cal. When the area is attacked, she and Tom are injured moving the hospitalized crewmen to safety. Meanwhile, Cal heroically performs many bombing missions, flying at high altitudes mostly out of reach of the Japanese retaliatory shots. However, when Gen. Curtis E. LeMay takes over command, the bombers are ordered to fly lower for more accurate bombing, which makes them more vulnerable to anti-aircraft missiles. Sensing the contempt of the other men, the grounded Tom waits for an opportunity to vindicate himself, but after Helen expresses her admiration of Cal's heroics, he asks to go on one more mission. When Cal leads a squadron of planes, including 452 B-29s, to Tokyo, Tom is assigned to accompany him. Their plane is hit by Japanese flak, and Cal and several others are wounded. Taking over the plane, Tom completes the mission with the damaged aircraft, but is forced to crash land. On the ground, Cal and the other men are evacuated, but when Tom returns to the plane to pull out a panicked crewman, he is killed in the explosion. Several weeks later, the war ends, and Cal and Helen remain together. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.