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The story of Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Although unaware of the full potential of this new weapon, he knows that it is capable of doing tremendously more damage than any other weapon used before, and that the death toll resulting from it will be enormous. He is reluctant to be the person who will end so many lives, but if using it may bring an end to the war, then not doing so may result in even more lives being lost in continued ground assaults as the fighting goes on. At the same time, the intense secrecy surrounding this mission leaves him with no one he can express his thoughts and doubts to, not even his wife. As time goes on, the pressure upon him only increase. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The B-29 representing Tibbet's plane, shown landing on Tinian, has a tail designation of "T - Square - 5". In actuality, this was "Joltin' Josie, The Pacific Pioneer." It was the very first B-29 to land on the new runways on Saipan. The film of it landing may very well be the original film of the actual plane arriving at Saipan on 12 October 1944. The "T" on the tail is for the 498th Bomb Group, the "square" means the 73rd Bomb Wing, and plane number 5 was part of the 873rd Bomb Squadron. This aircraft, piloted by Capt. Wilson C. Currier, crashed on takeoff from Saipan on 1 April 1945 with the loss of the entire crew according to the book, "Rain of Fire, B-29s over Japan, 1945" by Charles L. Phillips (USAF Ret.). See more »
The name Enola Gay is inscribed on the left (pilot's) side of the real airplane, not on the right as shown in the film. See more »
Considering that "Above and Beyond" was made during the height of the hysteria now known as McCarthyism, one would have expected a jingoistic flag-waver out of Hollywood. Instead, surprisingly, the screenplay as written allows the Paul Tibbets character (Robert Taylor) the opportunity to register a variety of emotions, in a most realistic and compelling performance.
This is ironic, seeing as the real Tibbets, decades after the event (the bombing of Hiroshima), is to this day unrepentant. Not to criticize his position in any way, because that was a different time and place, and it's Tibbets' view that he had a job to do, and the morality of it all, he has stated, is best debated by others.
But the film is all the more compelling because of the ambivalence written into the Tibbets character, and Taylor's especially fine work. There are uniformly strong performances throughout the cast, notably those of Eleanor Parker (Lucy Tibbets), James Whitmore (the security officer) and Larry Keating (General Brent).
Another surprise: the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (screenplay, direction) had been best known for their Bob Hope comedies, when under contract at Paramount. Their first dramatic effort was "Above and Beyond," and they acquitted themselves admirably.
Final note: the musical score by Hugo Friedhofer is immensely satisfying: stirring in an emotional sense, with just a touch of, but not too much of, militaristic flavor.
Dore Schary, a Democrat, had succeeded fervent Republican Louis B. Mayer at MGM in 1951, and had encouraged the production of "Above and Beyond." One wonders if (a) the film would have been made at all on Mayer's watch, and (b) if it had, would it have been more of a cornball, John Wayne-type flag-waver. Thankfully, those questions are moot. "Above and Beyond" is a stirring, finely-crafted film. I would stress again the unusual nature of the protaganist's ambivalence as portrayed in a film made during a very sensitive time in America's history.
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