The P-38 Lightning, featured in this film, was considered one of the best planes of WW2 since it was faster than most Japanese planes, highly maneuverable and could accept heavy damage and still fly. It featured forward firing guns, including a 20mm cannon, rather than the angled wing guns on most planes. It had one bad feature. When bailing out a pilot had to roll the plane and fall out rather than crawling out and jumping since the horizontal stabilizer between the two tails frequently would hit the pilot as he jumped.
Along with Spencer Tracy, Irene Dunne insisted the film's production be halted until Van Johnson was well after his auto accident, in which he was seriously injured. During this period, MGM snatched Dunne up to make The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), released the following year as the MGM 20th Anniversary film. As a thank you for her gratitude, Johnson appears in a small role in 'Dover.'
Reportedly Steven Spielberg's favorite movie, he remade it in 1989 as Always (1989). The remake included the three main characters (Pete Sandich, Durinda Durston and Al Yackey), plus the characters of "Ted" and "Nails."
The General, played by Lionel Barrymore, wears the Medal of Honor ribbon on his uniform, but the ribbon is displayed upside down (the five stars forming a "W" instead of an "M"). Interestingly, James Doolittle also wore the Medal of Honor ribbon upside down, leading some to ask if there might be an aviation connection .
Van Johnson was critically injured in an automobile accident on 31 March 1943 and MGM was set to replace him, reportedly with either John Hodiak or Peter Lawford, but Spencer Tracy insisted that they shoot around him during his convalescence. Johnson didn't return to work until the first week in July of 1943, more than three months later.
There was no way to composite Spencer Tracy's image into the scenes where Van Johnson is flying, so he actually had to be standing behind Johnson and, later, Irene Dunne for the filming of these scenes. The same approach was used for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947) (techniques for superimposing one image onto another were not invented until much later).
The two lines of prophetic poetry that Pete recites to Dorinda while they are by the fireplace (For men must work, and women must weep)are from the English poet Charles Kingsley's "Three Fishers", written in 1851. The poem tells the story of three fishermen who go out to sea, and lose their lives in a storm. It describes the tragic loss of the fishermen to their loved ones.
This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Friday 1 February 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11); it first aired in Seattle 7 March 1957 on KING (Channel 5), in Kansas City MO 26 April 1957 on KCMO (Channel 5), in Portland OR 9 May 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), in Salt Lake City 22 May 1957 on KTVT (Channel 4), in Minneapolis 5 June 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9), in Phoenix 8 June 1957 on KPHO (Channel 5), in Philadelphia 2 August 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), in Chicago 3 August 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), and in Altoona PA 29 August 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), but not in New York City until 4 February 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2), and in San Francisco 8 November 1958 on KGO (Channel 7).
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The Production Code Administration (PCA) objected to the original ending, where Dorinda dies during her mission to destroy an ammunition dump, and is reunited with Pete in heaven. They considered this to be a suicide. Script revisions were made and retakes shot for the current ending, which was panned by most critics. Still, the film was among the top 10 box office hits of the year.