Strategic Air Command (1955)

110-111 or 114 mins | Drama | July 1955

Director:

Anthony Mann

Producer:

Samuel J. Briskin

Cinematographer:

William Daniels

Editor:

Eda Warren

Production Designers:

Hal Pereira, Earl Hedrick

Production Company:

Paramount Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Air Command . The film opens with the following written dedication: “America today is watching her skies with grave concern. For in these skies of peace, the nation is building its defense. To the officers and men of the United States Air Force, to The Strategic Air Command, whose cooperation is gratefully acknowledged, and to the young men of America who will one day take their places beside them, this motion picture is dedicated.”
       Modern sources state that James Stewart, who, like his character “Dutch,” was a World War II bomber pilot and was still active in the Air Force Reserve in the 1950s, achieving the rank of brigadier general in 1959, persuaded Paramount to make a picture about SAC, arguing that it would be patriotic and financially sound. Stewart also convinced the studio to assign Anthony Mann as director, according to modern sources. HR news items add Maj.-Gen. Frank Armstrong, Jr., Byron Poindexter, George Washburn, Jack Downs, Robert Templeton and Lee Miller to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity materials state that the following St. Louis Cardinals and ex-Cardinals played themselves in the picture: Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Peanuts Lowrey and Memo Luna. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however.
       According to studio publicity materials, location filming took place at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, and Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, TX, and at Al Lang Field and Plant Stadium in Florida. In its advertising, Paramount claimed that the ... More Less

The working title of this film was Air Command . The film opens with the following written dedication: “America today is watching her skies with grave concern. For in these skies of peace, the nation is building its defense. To the officers and men of the United States Air Force, to The Strategic Air Command, whose cooperation is gratefully acknowledged, and to the young men of America who will one day take their places beside them, this motion picture is dedicated.”
       Modern sources state that James Stewart, who, like his character “Dutch,” was a World War II bomber pilot and was still active in the Air Force Reserve in the 1950s, achieving the rank of brigadier general in 1959, persuaded Paramount to make a picture about SAC, arguing that it would be patriotic and financially sound. Stewart also convinced the studio to assign Anthony Mann as director, according to modern sources. HR news items add Maj.-Gen. Frank Armstrong, Jr., Byron Poindexter, George Washburn, Jack Downs, Robert Templeton and Lee Miller to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Studio publicity materials state that the following St. Louis Cardinals and ex-Cardinals played themselves in the picture: Enos Slaughter, Stan Musial, Red Schoendienst, Peanuts Lowrey and Memo Luna. Their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed, however.
       According to studio publicity materials, location filming took place at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, and Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, TX, and at Al Lang Field and Plant Stadium in Florida. In its advertising, Paramount claimed that the picture showed “previously secret installations” for the “first time.” Strategic Air Command was Paramount’s second VistaVision release. According to the HR review, during a special preview in Omaha, NE, where the film was projected on a 50-by-27 foot curved screen, shots of the B-36 “caught in majestic solitude against the sky…brought awed gasps and wild applause” from the audience. For the New York premiere of the film, held under the auspices of the Air Force Association, Paramount installed a new horizontal VistaVision projector and “the largest motion picture screen in the world,” according to a HR news item.
       The New York premiere was attended by many military and government dignitaries, including Senator H. Alexander Smith of New Jersey and Gen. Thomas D. White, Vice Chief of Staff, U.S.A.F. As noted in a HR news item, the Air Force Association awarded Paramount its annual Citation of Honor for “distinguished public service” in producing the film. The AFA also bestowed a citation on Stewart, for “distinguished public service and outstanding artistic achievement.” According to a late Apr 1955 HR news item, a five-minute television promotion for the film was broadcast over the CBS regional (West Coast) network, in place of a canceled atomic test. Strategic Air Command was nominated for a Best Writing (Motion Picture Story) Academy Award. Modern sources note that the film was the seventh most profitable release of 1955. Paramount re-issued the picture in late 1961. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Sep 55
pp. 532-33, 547.
Box Office
2 Apr 1955.
---
Daily Variety
30 Mar 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
30 Mar 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Mar 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Mar 1954
p. 5, 8.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1954
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1954
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1954
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Sep 1954
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Oct 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jan 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Apr 1955
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Aug 1961.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Apr 55
p. 385.
New York Times
21 Apr 55
p. 33.
Time
2 May 1955.
---
Variety
30 Mar 55
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Aerial photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
PRODUCTION MISC
Aerial unit supv
Scr supv
Prod mgr
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Air Force Takes Command," music by Victor Young, lyrics by Ned Washington and Major Tommy Thompson, Jr.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Air Command
Release Date:
July 1955
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 20 April 1955
Los Angeles opening: 28 April 1955
Production Date:
began late March 1954
addl scenes 13 August, 2 September and mid November 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
21 April 1955
Copyright Number:
LP4673
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
VistaVision Motion Picture High-Fidelity
Duration(in mins):
110-111 or 114
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17126
SYNOPSIS

At the St. Louis Cardinals’ winter baseball camp in Florida, third baseman Robert “Dutch” Holland reunites with his old Air Force buddy, Gen. Rusty Castle, and invites him to his wife Sally’s housewarming party that night. During the evening, Rusty informs Dutch, a reservist, that his colleague, Gen. Ennis C. Hawkes, has called Dutch back to duty for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. Dutch, who was a bomber pilot during World War II, reacts to the announcement with anger, as he enjoys playing baseball and is newly married. Although sympathetic, Rusty explains to Dutch that the Air Force needs seasoned pilots to fly the SAC planes, which carry atomic bombs. After Dutch tells Tom Doyle, his coach, about his situation, he prepares to break the news to Sally. To his surprise, Sally already knows about his twenty-one month assignment and assures him that she can cope with military life. Later, when Dutch reports for duty at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, he witnesses a staged enemy invasion, a test overseen by Gen. Hawkes. Dutch then goes for his physical and Sally calls him repeatedly, anxious to get settled in their new quarters. Dutch, an operations officer, continues his general training on a huge B-36 aircraft, reuniting with his World War II flight engineer, Sgt. Bible. While flying round trip to Alaska in one day, Dutch is introduced to the plane’s crew, including co-pilot Lt. Col. Rocky Samford and navigator Ike Knowland, who complains bitterly about being called up during peacetime. Later, Dutch convinces Hawkes to allow him to leave his desk job to learn more ... +


At the St. Louis Cardinals’ winter baseball camp in Florida, third baseman Robert “Dutch” Holland reunites with his old Air Force buddy, Gen. Rusty Castle, and invites him to his wife Sally’s housewarming party that night. During the evening, Rusty informs Dutch, a reservist, that his colleague, Gen. Ennis C. Hawkes, has called Dutch back to duty for the Strategic Air Command, or SAC. Dutch, who was a bomber pilot during World War II, reacts to the announcement with anger, as he enjoys playing baseball and is newly married. Although sympathetic, Rusty explains to Dutch that the Air Force needs seasoned pilots to fly the SAC planes, which carry atomic bombs. After Dutch tells Tom Doyle, his coach, about his situation, he prepares to break the news to Sally. To his surprise, Sally already knows about his twenty-one month assignment and assures him that she can cope with military life. Later, when Dutch reports for duty at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas, he witnesses a staged enemy invasion, a test overseen by Gen. Hawkes. Dutch then goes for his physical and Sally calls him repeatedly, anxious to get settled in their new quarters. Dutch, an operations officer, continues his general training on a huge B-36 aircraft, reuniting with his World War II flight engineer, Sgt. Bible. While flying round trip to Alaska in one day, Dutch is introduced to the plane’s crew, including co-pilot Lt. Col. Rocky Samford and navigator Ike Knowland, who complains bitterly about being called up during peacetime. Later, Dutch convinces Hawkes to allow him to leave his desk job to learn more about the Air Force’s new technology. After Dutch discovers that Sally is pregnant, he is assigned his own plane and asks Ike to join his crew. Two weeks before Sally is due, Dutch is sent on a four-day mission to Greenland to test his plane’s performance in extremely cold weather. Sally is unhappy and worried about the mission, but Dutch insists on going. As the plane nears its destination, a fuel leak develops and a fire erupts on the wing. On Dutch’s orders, everyone bails out except for Dutch and Ike, who chooses to remain on board to alert air control of their position. Dutch crash-lands the plane in the snow, injuring his shoulder in the process. Ike also is injured, but after a few days in sub-zero temperatures, the men are found by a rescue team. Upon arriving at the nearest base, Dutch receives word that Sally has given birth to a girl and, although he admits to having wanted a boy, celebrates with his comrades. Hawkes then questions Dutch about the crash and, impressed by his clear-headed handling of the situation, shows him the Air Force’s newest plane, the B-47. Dutch is thrilled by the powerful plane and agrees to fly it, but Sally continues to worry about his safety. After Dutch and Sally are transferred to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Dutch and Ike attend a briefing by Hawkes, who reminds his men that planes like the B-47 are necessary to maintain world peace. Dutch flies some test missions in the B-47, and when he admits to Sally that his shoulder is still bothering him, she beseeches him to see a doctor, as Hawkes had ordered, but he refuses. The B-47’s biggest test comes when Hawkes arranges for a squadron to fly non-stop to Japan, using mid-air fueling planes. At the same time, Sally learns that the Cardinals’ third baseman has been injured and that Tom wants Dutch, whose twenty-one months is up, to return to the team. To Sally’s dismay, Dutch turns down the offer and declares that he has already agreed to stay in the Air Force. Sally denounces Dutch for making the decision without consulting with her and tells him he has become a stranger to her. After a depressed Dutch takes off for Japan, Sally rushes to the base and yells at Hawkes for manipulating Dutch with promotions and warns him that Dutch is headed for a “crack-up.” Though the mid-air fueling is successful, the long flight is grueling for the pilots, and Dutch’s shoulder grows stiff. Near Japan, Dutch has to increase his plane’s altitude to compensate for a strong jet stream, using up precious fuel. A dense fog then rolls in, and Dutch, groggy and in pain, is forced to make a difficult landing in Okinawa. As he does, he finds he cannot move his shoulder and asks his co-pilot to work his throttle for him. Dutch lands safely, but is reprimanded by Hawkes for hiding his shoulder problem. Hawkes then sadly informs Dutch that because of his ailment, he can no longer fly planes and offers him a desk job. After turning Hawkes down, Dutch reunites with an apologetic Sally. +

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

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