A rookie flyer, Ens. Alan Drake, joins the famous Hellcats Squadron right out of flight school in Pensacola. He doesn't make a great first impression when he is forced to ditch his airplane...
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A rookie flyer, Ens. Alan Drake, joins the famous Hellcats Squadron right out of flight school in Pensacola. He doesn't make a great first impression when he is forced to ditch his airplane and parachute to safety when he arrives at the base but is unable to land due to heavy fog. On his first official outing, his poor shooting skills results in the Hellcats losing an air combat competition. His fellow pilots accept him anyway but they think he's crossed the line when they erroneously conclude that while their CO Billy Gray is away, Drake has an affair with his wife Lorna. Drake is now an outcast and is prepared to resign from the Navy but his extreme heroism in saving Billy Gray's life turns things around. Written by
This film received its initial television broadcast in Los Angeles Friday 10 May 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11) but its earliest documented telecasts in San Francisco did not occur until 5 March 1959 on KGO-TV and in New York City 21 May 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »
When Cmdr. Gary is in his hospital bed, after his head/brain surgery, he is still wearing his navy ring. In truth all jewelry is removed for surgery in case of swelling, for one reason. See more »
Swelled head becomes swell guy...in the sort of film MGM did so well.
One of the top fighter plane squadrons is the Hellcats. When the film begins, they have just lost one of their pilots in an accident. His replacement is an extremely cocky new Ensign (Robert Taylor) just out of flight school at Pensacola. On his way from the academy in Florida to the Hellcat base in San Diego, he gets in trouble--everything is fogged in and he can't possibly safely land. Ignoring orders, he tries to land and is nearly killed. Soon after this, he also screws up during gunnery practice and nearly kills himself for the second time!! Clearly, Taylor has a long way to go to fit in with the Hellcats!
In addition to this plot early on in the film, Ruth Hussey plays an interesting part. She's the wife of the group's commander (Walter Pidgeon). The stress of seeing her husband and other men she cares about risking their lives is simply too much. Keeping a 'stiff upper lip' is getting tougher and tougher and unless something changes, she's headed for a breakdown.
The sort of character Robert Taylor played in this film is nothing new for him, as he'd played a similar cock-sure guy in "A Yank at Oxford" a couple years earlier. And, by formula, you know that the character's cockiness will eventually change to make him the team player and all-around swell guy by the time the credits roll at the end of the film. But, because it's all handled so well, the film is a lot of fun. Excellent acting, an interesting script (it's more than just airplanes and Taylor's adjustment to the Hellcats) and direction by one of the era's better directors, Frank Borzage, make this a very good film--even if you aren't into airplane films.
By the way, the biplanes used in this film were the Grumman F3F-3. These dated looking planes were retired from service in 1941 and were pretty much outdated by the time the US entered WWII. It's odd, then, that the Hellcats (a crack fighter squadron) would STILL be using this plane by the time this movie was made in 1940. Top Navy squadrons would have been using more modern monoplanes like the Brewster Buffalo or F4F Wildcat. MGM would probably not had access to these other planes, as the Navy would have been a lot more protective of their newer planes. Of course, few people on IMDb are plane nuts like me, so most of this hardly matters to the average viewer!
And, for ship nuts out there, Miss Hussey reads a newspaper article about the navy going on maneuvers with three aircraft carriers--including the USS Virginia. There never was a carrier with this name and the battleship Virginia was deliberately sunk in 1923.
By the way, I did a little checking and found out some things which are interesting. This is one of Red Skelton's first films. Soon after finishing this film, he and his wife split up...and she married the director, Borzage! Wow...now that's pretty sensational and weird! And, if you are in the mood for more dirt, try reading up on the life of one of the principle actors in the film, Paul Kelly--it's pretty sensational.
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