Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1945)

135 or 138 mins | Drama | January 1945

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Writer:

Dalton Trumbo

Producer:

Sam Zimbalist

Cinematographers:

Robert Surtees, Harold Rosson

Editor:

Frank Sullivan

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Paul Groesse

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

The film's opening credits conclude with the following written statement: "One-hundred and thirty-one days after December 7, 1941, a handful of young men, who had never dreamed of glory, struck the first blow at the heart of Japan. This is their true story we tell here." Although Spencer Tracy is listed eleventh in the opening credits, he is listed last in the end credits. In addition to the above-listed songs, "The Star Spangled Banner," sung in Chinese by a children's choir, is included in the film. According to M-G-M music files, Dr. Philip Lee, a pastor, conducted the choir and translated the verse into Chinese. "Auld Lang Syne," "Long, Long Trail" and the USC fight song are also heard in part in the film.
       Onscreen credits list Ted W. Lawson and Robert Considine as authors of both "the book" and a "story" in Collier's magazine. Lawson was the sole author of the book Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , however, and Considine is not listed in contemporary sources as Lawson's co-author in any published Collier's story or article. In the credits of the copyright cutting continuity, which was submitted two months prior to the film's release, the word " Collier's " is crossed off, leaving the word "story." Considine did co-write an article with Lawson entitled "Birth of a Book: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," which was published in the 19 Jul 1943 issue of Time magazine, but it is not known if that article was a source of the film, or if Considine, who was an M-G-M contract writer, merely worked on a story treatment with Lawson. ... More Less

The film's opening credits conclude with the following written statement: "One-hundred and thirty-one days after December 7, 1941, a handful of young men, who had never dreamed of glory, struck the first blow at the heart of Japan. This is their true story we tell here." Although Spencer Tracy is listed eleventh in the opening credits, he is listed last in the end credits. In addition to the above-listed songs, "The Star Spangled Banner," sung in Chinese by a children's choir, is included in the film. According to M-G-M music files, Dr. Philip Lee, a pastor, conducted the choir and translated the verse into Chinese. "Auld Lang Syne," "Long, Long Trail" and the USC fight song are also heard in part in the film.
       Onscreen credits list Ted W. Lawson and Robert Considine as authors of both "the book" and a "story" in Collier's magazine. Lawson was the sole author of the book Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , however, and Considine is not listed in contemporary sources as Lawson's co-author in any published Collier's story or article. In the credits of the copyright cutting continuity, which was submitted two months prior to the film's release, the word " Collier's " is crossed off, leaving the word "story." Considine did co-write an article with Lawson entitled "Birth of a Book: Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo," which was published in the 19 Jul 1943 issue of Time magazine, but it is not known if that article was a source of the film, or if Considine, who was an M-G-M contract writer, merely worked on a story treatment with Lawson. In addition, War Department records, Bureau of Public Relations, contained at NARS, indicate that the file on the film included galleys for a Collier's article by Lawson entitled "Aeronautical Engineer," but it is not known if that article was used in any way, or if it was published under another title. Lawson book, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , was first published in Collier's between 22 May and 26 Jun 1943.
       As depicted in the film, James H. Doolittle's bombing raid, the first to be made on Japan, took place on 18 Apr 1942. It also marked the first time that land-based planes had taken off from a Navy carrier. All of the planes in the raid crashed, and three fliers were killed. Doolittle, Lawson and his co-pilot, Dean Davenport, who served as a technical advisor on the picture, were promoted after the mission. Doolittle went on to become commander of the Eighth Air Force in the European and Pacific theaters. Lawson reportedly approved the film's script prior to production. For more information on the raid and its aftermath, see above entry for The Purple Heart .
       Phyllis Thaxter and former New York stage actor-turned-Marine Tim Murdock made their screen debuts in the film, as did Steve Brodie. HR news items add the following information about the production: M-G-M reportedly paid $100,000 for the screen rights to Ted Lawson's story. Richard Carlson and Beatrice Pearson were tested for "top roles" in Jul 1943, but were not cast. In Aug 1943, Brian Donlevy was set to play Doolittle, a casting choice endorsed by Doolittle. In Dec 1943, Henry O'Neill tested for the role of "William F. Halsey," a part that was eventually played by Morris Ankrum. The CBCS lists Dr. Kung Chuan Chi in the part of "Dr. Chung, Sr.," but onscreen credits list "Dr. Hsin Kung." Although HR announced that Joseph Kim and M-G-M contract player Danny Morton were cast in the film, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
       According to documents contained at NARS, the War Department gave general approval to the script of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , but issued the following warnings about the project: "It is hoped that this picture will result not in the glorification of one officer, but of the heroic exploits of the Army Air Force as a whole in relation to the 'Tokyo Raid'....As Captain Lawson was one of a great number of men on this particular mission, it is expected that this picture will result in giving equal credit to all....Damaging repercussions might result if the film emphasizes the part the Chinese play as a nation in assisting the flyers out of enemy-occupied territory. This angle should be reduced to a minimum..."
       According to news items and War Department documents, location shooting was done at Eglin Air Force base near Pensacola, FL, Mines Field in Los Angeles, Mills Field in San Francisco, and at the Alameda Naval Air Station near San Francisco. War Department records add that second-unit aerial shooting, directed by photographer Harold Rosson, was conducted over the Los Angeles area to simulate Tokyo, and over Santa Maria, CA, to simulate the China coast. Napa County in Northern California, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge, which was photographed from a plane flying underneath the structure, were also filmed by the second unit.
       A 11 Feb 1944 HR news item reported that the film was to be shot in sequence, beginning with the training scenes in Florida, followed by interior shooting in Hollywood and exteriors at Aladema. LeRoy directed the bombers in flight from a radio-equipped Jeep, which allowed him to communicate with both the ground camera and the camera plane, according to HR . Plans to build an aircraft carrier for the picture, which could be set up on a Malibu beach, were scuttled because of interference from seagulls. Instead, art director Paul Groesse designed an interior flat-top set that could carry three real B-25 bombers. According to an early May 1944 HR news item, a sequence in which Japanese raiders board the aircraft carrier Hornet was shot, but was not included in the final film. The following Air Force pilots were requested for some of the flying sequences, according to War Department records: Lt. G. K. Stone, Lt. C. N. Fuller, Lt. Eberts, Lt. Benjamin P. Brooks and Capt. M. Sykes. It has not been determined, however, if these officers appeared in the final film.
       The film received favorable reviews and was noted as one of Look magazine's five best films of the year and the National Board of Review's eighth-best film of the year. The HR reviewer called the picture "one of the greatest war pictures ever made." The film's New York premiere was the first benefit of the Sixth War Loan drive, and its Los Angeles opening was a benefit for the Volunteer Army Corps. Premiere Chiang Kai-Shek and other dignitaries were scheduled to appear at the picture's Chungking, China, premiere. According to a Sep 1952 LAT item, M-G-M decided against showing the film in post-war Japan because of concern that scenes depicting the bombing raid might "cause bad feelings." The film won an Academy Award in the Special Effects category and was nominated in the Cinematography (Black-and-White) category. According to modern sources, footage from Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo was used in the 1976 picture Midway . More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
16 Nov 1944.
---
Daily Variety
14 Nov 44
p. 3, 14
Film Daily
15 Nov 44
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 43
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Sep 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Nov 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Nov 43
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Dec 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 43
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 44
p. 14., 16097
Hollywood Reporter
11 Feb 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 44
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 44
p. 46.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
3 May 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jun 44
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 44
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 44
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 44
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 44
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Nov 44
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 44
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 44
p. 1, 16
Life
13 Nov 44
pp. 49-50.
Look
6 Mar 1945.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Dec 1944.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1952.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 May 44
p. 1889.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Nov 44
p. 2181.
New York Times
16 Nov 44
p. 19.
Variety
15 Nov 44
p. 8.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Crew of the "Ruptured Duck":
Horace McNally
Dorothy Ruth Morris
William Healy
Johnnie James
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Mervyn LeRoy Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
2d cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Assoc art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Assoc
MUSIC
Mus score
Choir cond
SOUND
Rec dir
Unit mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Re-rec and eff mixer
Mus mixer
Mus mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Tech adv for Army Air Force
Tech adv for Navy
Tech adv on Chinese seq
Scr clerk
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted W. Lawson (London, 1943) and the article by Lawson and Robert Considine (publication undetermined).
SONGS
"I Love You (Sweetheart of All My Dreams)," words and music by Art and Kay Fitch and Bert Lowe
"Deep in the Heart of Texas," words by June Hershey, music by Don Swander.
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1945
Premiere Information:
World premieres in New York and Chungking, China: 15 November 1944
Los Angeles opening: 4 December 1944
Production Date:
early February--late June 1944
addl scenes late July and early September 1944
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 November 1944
Copyright Number:
LP13020
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
135 or 138
Length(in feet):
12,496
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10248
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

When Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle calls for volunteers for a top-secret Army Air Force mission, pilot Lieut. Ted Lawson is one of many men to offer his services. Lawson and his B-25 crew, co-pilot Dean Davenport, gunner David Thatcher, bombardier Bob Clever and navigator Charles McClure, are sent for training at Eglin Field in Florida, and speculate along with the other crews about the nature of the mission. During the first of many briefings, Doolittle informs the men that the mission will be tough and dangerous and encourages anyone with doubts to drop out. Ted's friend and fellow pilot Bob Gray suggests to Ted that because he has recently married, he has too much to lose, but Ted shrugs off Bob's concerns. Even after he finds out that his wife Ellen, who shows up unexpectedly at the training camp, is going to have a baby, Ted remains determined to continue the mission. A devoted, sympathetic wife, Ellen supports Ted's decision and assures him that she is unafraid of the future. While still keeping the details of the mission secret, Doolittle and naval lieutenant Miller then begin training the crews for short-distance take-offs. As with all the B-25 crews, Ted and his men, who have named their plane "The Ruptured Duck," initially have trouble performing the difficult manuever, but eventually master it. Then, after ten weeks of training, the men are called to a briefing in the middle of the night and are told that they are leaving immediately for the Alameda Naval Air Base near San Francisco. Ted says a hurried, brave goodbye to Ellen, who promises to write him ... +


When Lt. Col. James H. Doolittle calls for volunteers for a top-secret Army Air Force mission, pilot Lieut. Ted Lawson is one of many men to offer his services. Lawson and his B-25 crew, co-pilot Dean Davenport, gunner David Thatcher, bombardier Bob Clever and navigator Charles McClure, are sent for training at Eglin Field in Florida, and speculate along with the other crews about the nature of the mission. During the first of many briefings, Doolittle informs the men that the mission will be tough and dangerous and encourages anyone with doubts to drop out. Ted's friend and fellow pilot Bob Gray suggests to Ted that because he has recently married, he has too much to lose, but Ted shrugs off Bob's concerns. Even after he finds out that his wife Ellen, who shows up unexpectedly at the training camp, is going to have a baby, Ted remains determined to continue the mission. A devoted, sympathetic wife, Ellen supports Ted's decision and assures him that she is unafraid of the future. While still keeping the details of the mission secret, Doolittle and naval lieutenant Miller then begin training the crews for short-distance take-offs. As with all the B-25 crews, Ted and his men, who have named their plane "The Ruptured Duck," initially have trouble performing the difficult manuever, but eventually master it. Then, after ten weeks of training, the men are called to a briefing in the middle of the night and are told that they are leaving immediately for the Alameda Naval Air Base near San Francisco. Ted says a hurried, brave goodbye to Ellen, who promises to write him a letter every day, even though she knows he will never receive them. In San Francisco, as the planes are being loaded onto the U.S.S. Hornet , a Navy aircraft carrier, Ted learns that another crew has been dismissed from the mission because their plane developed minor mechanical problems. Although "The Ruptured Duck" has been having its own minor problems, Ted decides not to say anything about them, for fear that the plane will be grounded. Soon after the huge ship sets sail, Doolittle finally reveals to the men that they will be conducting the first ever bombing mission on Japan. When Ted and the others are told that the planes are to take off from the deck of the carrier, a feat never before attempted, they fully understand the purpose of their training. That night, Ted and Bob discuss the mission and agree that, while they do not hate the Japanese people, they have no qualms about the bombing raid. As the Hornet approaches the Japanese coast, Doolittle gives the men a final briefing, noting that while all of the targets are military, some Japanese civilians will be killed. Once again, Doolittle offers the men a chance to back out, but no one accepts. The next day, the carrier is spotted by the Japanese, forcing the mission, which had been planned for night, to start early. Doolittle, who has ordered the ship's crew to push overboard any plane that fails to start quickly, is the first to take off. "The Ruptured Duck" has trouble starting, but a determined Ted gets the engine going just in time. Although its left engine is misfiring, "The Ruptured Duck" drops its bombs over Tokyo and heads for the free Chinese coast, where crude airstrips have been built. As they are flying there, however, a storm blows in, causing Ted to crash-land just short of the beach. The plane sinks, but the crew swims to shore. All but David are injured, and Ted's leg is severely cut. Soon after, sympathetic Chinese villagers appear and carry the Americans to safety. Ted and the others are befriended by a Chinese resistance fighter nicknamed "Guerilla Charlie," who helps them to a small town. There Dr. Chung attends to the men's wounds, but as he has no medicine, orders that they be carried to his father's hospital sixteen miles away. With the Japanese Army not far behind, the men reach the hospital and learn that another crew has been rescued and is on its way there. Although the two crews enjoy their reunion, Ted is told that his leg, which has developed gangrene, must be amputated. While recalling happier days with Ellen, the near-delirious Ted faces the operation with courage. Later, having recovered enough to be moved, Ted is evacuated to Chungking along with the other injured men. After thanking their Chinese rescuers, who helped save many other Americans, including Bob, the crew of "The Ruptured Duck" returns to the U.S. Ellen then receives a phone call from Doolittle and learns about Ted's injury and his refusal to see her until he has received his artificial leg. Urged by Doolittle and her mother, the now visibly pregnant Ellen goes to see Ted at the hospital and, after reassuring him that she is still very much in love, embraces him. +

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

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