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John Phillip Law
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Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
The title river unites a farmer recently released from prison, his young son, and an ambitious saloon singer. In order to survive, each must be purged of anger, and each must learn to understand and care for the others.
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The true story of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneering crusader for the Army's fledgling air corp. In spite of an impressive performance during the First World War, the commanders of America's armed forces still think of the airplane as little more then a carnival attraction. Even after sinking an "unsinkable" captured German battleship from the air, Mitchell sees funds dry up and friends die due to poor equipment. He is court-martialed after questioning the loyalty of his superiors for allowing the air corp to deteriorate. Written by
KC Hunt <email@example.com>
Although Gary Cooper had said long ago that he would make no more biopics, he signed for The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955). It was a poor Otto Preminger film and even Billy Mitchell's widow expressed disappointment with Cooper's performance. Possibly the story had appealed to Cooper on political grounds and Mitchell may have been a hero of his - the general who accused the government of neglecting military needs. Cooper went on Ed Sullivan's TV show to promote the film and home viewers were quite disappointed - David Shipman referred to Cooper's "effeminate mannerisms in his TV interviews". See more »
In the opening sequence Colonel Mitchell arrives for the test he is flying a Grumman JF "Duck". This airplane was not first flown until 1932 when the date of the scene is 1921. See more »
Otto Preminger was perhaps honing his skills as a director, because this film seems to be a dress rehearsal for his greatest achievement, "Anatomy of a Murder", which is a classic of the courtroom drama genre.
The movie is interesting in that it presents a man of honor, Billy Mitchell, who not only was an aviation pioneer, but a visionary that pointed out to the future in uncanny ways. He realized that wars were going to be fought in the air, and that soon the world would shrink thanks to faster planes than the primitive two engine jobs he was flying during WWI.
Billy Mitchell was an outcast, rejected by the same people that were too obtuse to realize the upcoming revolution in aeronautics. In trying to prove a point, Billy is found guilty and tried for disobeying orders. It's a sad story in which a highly developed mind, like Billy's has to contend with the ignorance of his peers. Testimony from other leading figures of the time, such as Eddie Rickenbacker, and others speak volumes about Mitchell's incredible insight on the new technology and how vulnerable America was from air raids by enemies.
Gary Cooper's approach to the role doesn't clarify much about the real life Mitchell. He is not quite as effective as in many of his most outstanding films. Somehow we don't get any passion out of his character, where perhaps another actor would have run away with the role. Mr. Cooper's take on Mitchell, or perhaps Otto Preminger's direction, doesn't shed much insight in the character.
The best thing in the movie is Rod Steiger as Allan Gullion, who is brought to the trial to help the main prosecution officer. He steals the picture in his short time in front of the camera. Mr Steiger brings a different concept to this officer; he stands out against all the other people around him. What a presence he had! In contrast with Mr. Cooper's stoic presence, Mr. Steiger was ready to smolder the screen if given the chance.
The rest of the cast is outstanding. Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy, Elizabeth Montgomery, Jack Lord, James Daly, Fred Clark, among others, enhance this movie.
The only problem with the copy I saw, is the horrible coloring that tends to give a fading images. This is a film in need of restoration.
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