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The Movie was shot on the back lot of 20th Century Fox. The studio used sailors from NAS Longbeach Ca. as extras for about 2 weeks . In the Scene when a Bomb hits the Ship i am the first man on the fire hose . They had built part of a Carrier Deck over a lake and used SBD'S on this deck for close ups but then used film footage from actual battle scene's in between . This explains difference of planes and ships.
The best characteristic of this film is the fine quality of the film in terms of cinematic depth-of-field and clarity. There is excellent camera work, especially in the complicated action scenes. Each scene is balanced and seemingly well-edited. The theme of the movie is somewhat weak relative to the fight/no fight stance of the U.S. Navy, and it is overpowered by the many action scenes which resemble a "Victory at Sea" format. The facts of the battle at Midway Island as presented in this movie are somewhat questionable. The superior forces of the Japanese Imperial Navy could best any navy in early June of 1942. That good fortune played a role in the American fleet's victory is not in question, that poor planning and accident forced the Japanese Imperial Navy's tactics is also accepted. Beyond these general facts it is difficult to accept the overstatement that the position of the U.S. Navy was that "This is the battle we've been praying for." There is also some question in the film as to the accuracy of the reports concerning the U.S. torpedo planes' success. In essence, the Battle of Midway was decisive, and very lucky for the Americans. To present the battle and victory as well planned and well coordinated is misleading. A word on acting: Don Ameche as Commander Bingo Harper is outstanding. His performance is solid in terms of the classic dramatic hero. As commander, he never wavers from his responsibility, he does what must be done, and he understands both how much victory means and what price must be paid.
This is a pretty rudimentary war flick, the story of Torpedo Squadron 5
aboard a US carrier after Pearl Harbor and during the battle of Midway.
Nobody is more than one dimensional and everybody is predictable. The
acting isn't bad, though, and the scenes of TBFs or TBMs landing and
taking off are exciting to watch. These were big airplanes with 3-man
crews and pretty cozy inside. George Bush flew one during the war and
chose to do so because it gave him a chance to work aloft with a team
instead of alone. (He didn't pass that impulse along to his sons!)
Most of the combat footage is familiar from other movies but some is not. The real footage is pretty much a sloppy lash up as was usual at the time. Curtiss Helldivers are repeatedly shown although they weren't deployed at the time, nor were they an improvement over the dive bombers they replaced. Ditto for the Gruman Hellcats. There are some shots of F4F Wildcats, which DID participate at Midway, but they're used as stand-ins for Japanese Zeroes!
As for the accuracy of the story itself, there were carrier strikes against Japanese bases after Pearl Harbor and before Midway, although they were more a matter of showing the flag than doing substantial damage. And at Midway, alas, American torpedo planes not only failed to damage the Japanese forces but were savaged by Japanese fighters and by AA. The dive bombers saved the day for us, aided by submarines, and all four Japanese carriers went down, along with all their airplanes and many of their most experienced pilots, while we lost the hastily repaired Yorktown. The chief reason for our success was our having broken the Japanese code, so we knew they were coming. The Japanese also canceled the attack on Midway even though there was a decent chance they could have succeeded without their carriers. They were to do something similar at Leyte Gulf two years later. If Halsey, who was given to issuing orders like "Attack -- repeat -- attack," had been in charge at Midway instead of the more cautious Spruance things might have turned out differently. But these sorts of twists, errors, and lack of subtleties were common in war movies at the time. It's a decent, watchable movie. It gives you a rather good feeling for what it was like to be a crew member of a TBF, where the crew members were positioned with respect to one another -- that sort of thing. Its spirit is true to the times, so to speak.
Movie gives authentic view of TBM carrier torpedo bombers of mid-WWII. The
tensions before the battle as well as the battle and aftermath are well
Acting is down-to-earth and realistic in terms of Combat Aircrew and Deck crews. More of a 'documentary' and memory bank for those who flew...and those who died! The USA won the battle AND the War. The TBM survived and saw service in the Korean War.
A REAL FLAG WAVER!!!
If you want to see the actual story of the battle of Midway than
definitely see the film that came out in the Seventies. If you can fast
forward through the fictional plot involving Charlton Heston and his
family problems you will see a very good documentary about the battle
and how close run it was.
Wing and a Prayer came out two years after and there were restrictions placed on the details, probably due to the fact that one of the reasons we won it was because we had broken the Japanese naval code. Still some of the restrictions were a bit ridiculous.
Whose idea was it to cast Sir Cedric Hardwicke as an American Admiral, presumably the Chief of Naval Operations who gave us an overview of the film we were about to see in a prologue. The Chief of Naval Operations at that time was one Ernest J. King who was a rather profane man given to using universally understood words in his normal conversations. He must have had one good laugh at the very prim and proper Cedric Hardwicke playing him, in on a pass from the Royal Navy.
The aircraft carrier where the story takes place is unnamed, but I think we can assume it's the Enterprise. In charge is Admiral Charles Bickford playing most probably Raymond Spruance who had tactical command of the task force at Midway.
The plot of Wing and a Prayer centers around a conflict between Dana Andrews head of a torpedo squadron assigned to the carrier and Don Ameche, a stern by the book Naval commander in charge of the airplanes and their crews. Ameche and Andrews have conflicts similar to what Ameche had with Tyrone Power in films like In Old Chicago. If Power hadn't been in the Marines at the time serving in the real war in the Pacific, I'm sure he would have had Andrews's part.
The usual wartime clichés and characters abound in Wing and a Prayer. One unusual part is that played by William Eythe, a Hollywood actor enlisted in the service and who's one of Andrews's pilots. This might have been Darryl F. Zanuck's idea of a tribute to his main star who as I said was actually serving.
Wing and a Prayer is not a bad film, but with Midway out there it's just not the best film on the subject.
The movie itself is entertaining and rather predictable at times. Kind
of like the movie mill war stories of that era. The roll played by Don
Ameche was not a Don Ameche roll. Ameche is better known for his humor,
IE: The Bickersons and Cocoon. The roll of a sad, by the book Navy
officer must have been a stretch for him, but he did it in perfection.
He became a dark shadow in scenes where he just walks through and
always alone. The lonely man, hardly cracking a smile. Everyone hating
him, tough to the point, lonely, misunderstood and doing the job he was
appointed to do. It makes you wonder how many men had to be this way
during any war.
Ameche should have won an Acadamy Award for his role in this movie.
I'm intrigued by war movies, especially war movies within a country at
war. This also happens to be my country, and in fact -- though I will
never know the details -- my dad was in this action. This has the
required swelling of patriotic fervor at the end, and does so with a
minimum of racist demonization.
Its about the one really risky time in the war. There was never any doubt that the Germans (and Italians) would lose in Europe once the US entered the war; the only question was the cost. But in the Pacific, the situation was truly dire between Pearl Harbor and this battle. After this battle, it was a war of factories.
But before, it was touch and go. Everyone in the States would have known the pivotal role of the event and would have their stories about tactics and bravery.
There are three notable things about this movie.
The first is that it is nearly all wrong in terms of the history. The reason for this is that the US had broken the code (JN-25). This was not something that could be announced; the US knew the details of the Japanese plans and were able to stage an ambush. But that hardly explains the other, gratuitous historical inaccuracies. One can only think that no one cared what the actual tactics were as long as communal dedication was apparent.
A second rather shocking thing is that all the combat footage is genuine. These are real warriors in the real place, with less than half of the movie (obviously overlain) produced as a fiction. Looking at these men and operations deepens the experience, knowing how rare it is to see this before Vietnam.
But the most interesting to me is one character. He's pretty much the central character of the fiction: a torpedo plane pilot. Now picture this; you have a real story of national import around which history does swing. You have actual footage which in other, later, contexts with narration stands strong. You have all this and you want to insert Hollywood; what do you do?
Well, you insert a character who is a Hollywood actor, someone who has left Hollywood and enlisted but who still carries his Oscar on combat missions! Its yet another example of this phenomenon I call the narrative fold. Pretty cool.
Oh, the fictional parts are bad in nearly all respects, excepting one scene. An airman has been killed and his buddy is packing his effects for transport back to his girl. Going through things to place in a suitcase, he finds an empty tube of toothpaste and tosses it in the trash. Then he reconsiders -- a very poignant moment -- and pulls it out of the trash to send to the woman. Its one thing that works. All the rest would wait to be decoded.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
Movie gives authentic view of TBM's, carrier torpedo bombers of mid-WWII. The tensions before the battle as well as the battle and aftermath are well covered. Acting is down-to-earth and realistic in terms of Combat Aircrew and Deck crews. More of a 'documentry' and memory bank for those who flew...and those who died! The USA won the battle AND the War. The TBM survived and saw service in the Korean War. A REAL FLAG WAVER!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie is very interesting, and according to my own researches and familiarities ( since I am presently in my eighth decade ), one of the pleasures for me was NOT to see the time-worn scene of the bullet-riddled F4F "crashing" onto the deck and sliding into the command tower, as is shown in 9 out of 8 movies about WWII Navy pictures. Don Ameche does, if fact, do a very "military" version of the man-in-charge. Me Dear-departed mither into her ninth decade felt that Dana Andrews was the true Hollywoodie-Hero of all times. But what intrigues me MOST about the movie, since we have cruised through the islands of the tropical Pacific ( Figi, Samoa, American Samoa ), is that the film makers felt it necessary for the pilots, when retiring at night aboard ship, to wear PAJAMAS, and sleep under SHEETS and BLANKETS. WE did no such thing !!!
"Wing and a Prayer" really gives those of us not born yet a realistic idea of what life on a carrier was like going up against Japan in World War II. The tough decisions brought on by war were very poignant as were the losses of friends and shipmates in combat. The film was a bit murky at the end as to how the carrier (name?!) fit in with the Battle of Midway and the Japanese ship models were pretty cut-rate, even by 1940's standards. Using U.S. Navy Wildcat planes with white circles painted over their US star to represent Japanese planes was campy, but understandable since the US was in the process of really shooting all of the real zero's out of the sky during the time of the movie. Harry "MASH" Morgan was a 29 year old pilot hotshot that was nice to see him in his prime. Don Ameche did a very good job being a serious-as-death commander who had to be a hard *ss in order to send men into mortal combat. A great film!
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