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Unlike John Wayne's more famous movie turkey, The Conquerer, this film
is so bad that it is lots of fun to watch. It is incredibly poorly
written (even for an RKO picture) and makes his earlier Republic Films
look like masterpieces by comparison (and a few actually were). And,
combined with the terrible dialog and dopey plot is the absolute worst
performance of Janet Leigh's life! She plays a Russian Airforce pilot
with less conviction than perhaps any actress could have approached the
role. Not once does she even give the least hint of a Russian accent,
though through the use of very thick sweaters she DOES appear to be the
poster girl for Playboy Magazine. This nymphet role is combined with
stoic "Russian" dialog that sound like it's right out of a grade school
play. It's unintentionally hilarious.
As for Wayne, he pretty much plays himself. A REALLY, REALLY horny self, that is! FYI--Apparently the Russians flew Lockheed Shooting Stars (F-80s). You see, when you stick a red star on it, it becomes the spitting image of a MIG-15. Well, that is if you squint REALLY hard and maybe get REALLY drunk first and hit yourself on the head with a frying pan, and,...
At the ripe old age of 50, I was amazed to see JET PILOT today for the very first time. Not many Wayne films have escaped me, but this one had. As I was watching the film, it occurred to me that ol Duke must have enjoyed being a fighter pilot (as he should) because he played a pilot in at least 6 films I could think of off the top of my head. Janet Leigh was not overly convincing as a Soviet, but WOW is she gorgeous... WHO CARES. Still, if she had a convincing Russian accent and some leather this would have been the Duke's best effort! Great film of some wonderful machines, and such a treat to see them as well. I became a fighter pilot because of the F-86 though I was too old to fly one... this film features them constantly. Chuck Yeager stunted for the film and broke a tail in a Sabre pressing the envelope. Overall, just a nice film, that was totally unlike any Wayne film I had ever seen. Normally, you know exactly how the plot will go, and that Good, Truth, and the American Way will prevail... but this one... actually makes you wonder if that is going to be the case?!?! Maybe not for the Duke, you know he has a trick up his sleeve, but Janet Leigh?? She is a wild card and you never know till the end who will win out. This movie was akin to finding a $20 bill in your pocket from last year... it has been there a long time, and just a nice treat to come across it.
Howard Hughes original intension was to do another Hell's Angels for
the Cold War Era. Remember that film was equally famous for the
aviation shots as for the debut of Jean Harlow as sex symbol.
Well if sex and flying worked before, why not again. Hughes filmed some really great aviation footage and then worked to build a story around it, one with some sex. So he reworked the plot of Ninotchka and adapted it to the wild blue yonder.
The reason originally for the delay in release was that we were making great strides in aviation post World War II. So he re-shot and re-shot the aviation sequences and then eventually lost interest. Jet Pilot was released seven years after it was originally filmed and by then the planes really looked out of date. Our's and the Soviet's. One of the players, Richard Rober, in fact was killed in an automobile crash in 1952.
The only thing you can say about Jet Pilot is that the Russians were far in advance of us on feminist issues. Why then would you have the shapely Janet Leigh filling out a flight suit after allegedly going off course and landing in the USA?
Air Force Colonel John Wayne interrogates Janet about the latest in Soviet technology, but then he gets other things on his mind. After a while he's got the hots for her so bad, he marries her and they go back to the USSR to see what he can find out about their aircraft.
Does it sound pretty silly to you? Even for a propaganda film I doubt this one affirmed anyone's Americanism. Remember this was released on top of The Conqueror and between them they put and end to Wayne's seven year reign as number one at the box office.
By the way at the time this was being filmed, Howard Hughes was panting after Janet Leigh the same way he'd earlier panted after Ava Gardner. He got MGM to send her to RKO for three films, this, A Holiday Affair and the musical Two Tickets to Broadway. Poor Janet.
And poor everyone else connected with Jet Pilot.
Howard Hughes produced this ahead-of-its-time film in the late 1940's, but
couldn't get it released until US Air Force clearance was approved in 1957.
It sat on a shelf in storage for 8 years until its release. John Wayne is
his usual macho self, an American flyer, ladies man, infatuated with a
Russian pilot who treats him like a spy. A very young Janet Leigh is the
pilot who falls in love with tough-guy Wayne and agrees to defect to the US
as his wife.
The special effects in this film are quite convincing in spite of its age. Of course, the US Air Force helped everywhere needed to make the picture seem real. Thought that the idea of a female Russian pilot was interesting since the movie was made long before women's lib.
John Wayne and Janet Leigh are especially good together as are the usual cast of colorful characters who help pad out the storyline. This is one of my favorite John Wayne pictures. He is surprisingly natural in his performance with a light touch of good humor thrown in for good measure. Most any John Wayne fan would enjoy this film heartily.
"Jet Pilot" is one of John Wayne's best and most unusual efforts. In it he is very natural and convincing, quite unlike his typically more stylized and sometimes wooden approach to roles. And his interesting interpretation of an Air Force colonel tempted by a seductive Russian spy is a real departure from his usual gung-ho offering. When US authorities are going to deport the defecting Russian pilot for espionage, he risks losing his military career by marrying her, and when it appears that she will get a long prison sentence, he not only helps her escape to the USSR, but by all appearances, must defect, himself. Say what? John Wayne selling out his country for the love of a woman? Needless to say, this is not his usual on screen behavior. The result is a compelling story and a very romantic movie, with Wayne and Janet Leigh rocketing through the skies in their twin jets or discussing sex and politics. These two make a very convincing young couple and the sexual chemistry and tension run high. Not only is Wayne at the top of his game, but Janet Leigh is particularly appealing as the shapely Russian pilot. I particularly enjoyed the scene in which he must search her. It is sad that Janet Leigh is remembered only for the shower scene in "Psycho." She ought to be remembered, instead, for the strip search in "Jet Pilot."
The aerial footage is nice, but once people start talking, the film goes into a tailspin. The plot seems as though it was made up as they went along (on a few occasions, I thought a reel must be missing) and I don't think I'm giving anything away (like there was any suspense anyway) by saying John Wayne must really love Janet Leigh to stay with her after she pistol whips him. Twice. It's unintentionally hilarious but unbelievably bad. I always like Hans Conreid, but he doesn't show up until the very end. All of the other actors in the film have a wooden presentation, as though they brought in actual air force officers to appear in the film. And if the U.S. military really hatched a plan like this, there should be courts martial all around.
I don't see why so many people hated this film, i actually sort of liked it. It's much better than several other John Wayne movies like The Sea Chase and Blood Alley. This was Joseph Von Sternberg's last film and he didn't like it either. This was made in 1950 but wasn't released until 1957. It stars off with a landing on an air force base and the pilot turns out to be Janet Leigh. The air force just want to get information out of here and give John Wayne the job. Wayne falls in love with her pretty quickly but you don't know about Janet Leigh. The air force find out she's a spy and are going to deport her but John Wayne marries her first. The air force doesn't like it but decides to send John Wayne over to Russia to get information out of them. John Wayne is good as usual and Janet Leigh is very sexy in this movie, just watch the first scene in John Wayne's office, you'll see what i mean.
I waited a long time to see this movie, now I have and I must say I
found it better than I had reason to expect. It is a fast moving comedy
with many really funny scenes. Could it be this was the first movie
that made fun of the Cold War? Could it be it was shelved for years for
that reason (maybe the war in Corea made it inopportune to laugh about
such matters)? Josef von Sternberg, steeped in German Expressionism,
would be the last director you'd expect to helm a movie that at first
sight seems to be an older version of Top Gun. But things are set
straight very soon as it becomes evident that this is supposed to be a
comedy in the vein of something by Ernst Lubitsch or Billy Wilder.
Ninotchka comes to mind, and in a way - a hilarious way - Janet Leigh
as the (intentionally?) grounded Russian jet pilot is in the footsteps
of Greta Garbo here. So John Wayne as American jet pilot is a reticent,
rather shy Melvyn Douglas. In his part you'd rather expect Cary Grant,
and Wayne does seem to be slightly embarrassed throughout the movie.
Vivacious Janet Leigh's physical assets are highlighted as much as possible and with great success. There is a nice striptease scene in which she gets out of her cute white overalls, and each time she starts peeling off a new layer of clothing - woooosh - a jet plane is heard diving down. It's really a hoot. Soon she reappears in the American's war room in a neatly pressed Red Army uniform, full of medals and fruit salad (she must have stashed it somewhere in that jet plane of hers). Soon she and Wayne are off to Palm Springs, so that she can see what the Commies are missing. Wayne, in turn, gets a whiff of Socialist reality later on, as he accompanies the Russien pilot he sort of married back home. It's grim and Stalag-like, of course.
There is a lot of aerial footage in Jet Pilot and it is high quality material that still fascinates. A lot of elegant acrobatics is performed and filmed from different angles. But even the jets are well embedded in the comedy this movie ultimately is. One of the scene I liked best: Janet Leigh escapes. She runs to a jet with its er engine already running, pushes away the ladder and dashes of as if it were a little sports car or some getaway after a heist in a gangster movie. It's unparalleled and one of many laughs Jet Pilot offers.
The French title of the film was : 'les espions s'amusent' : Spies have
Which is closer to the real plot.
Janet Leigh who just passed away last Sunday was a very attractive actress and was a credible young Russian pilot cum spy. John Wayne was his usual self. It's a nice and funny little love story about a period which was very dark : the constant growing threat of starting a 3rd world war while senator McCarthy was active in pursuing 'Commies'. Hence the reason why the film was released in 1957. 8 years after it was made.
The technical point of view is also interesting : F89 Scorpion, F86 Sabre, T33 Tbird, B36 huge bomber, F94c night interceptor, B29 Superfortress as the motherplane for the X1 and last but not least, the last flight of the aircraft (Bell X1) which exceeded the speed of sound in 1947 piloted by no less than Chuck Yeager himself.
Some of the aerobatics in F86 supposed to be made by the Duke were actually performed by Chuck and are worth seeing them.
But 55 years after, who cares that the film was actually seen much later than originally thought : Janet Leigh and John Wayne were eight years younger : this is the bonus of the film !
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A little bit on the corny side, but still and over all good movie. John
Wayne is pretty straight forward in this movie. He plays Air Force Col.
Jim Shannon who get a surprise landing at his base by none other Janet
Leigh. Who is a Lt, in the Russian Air Force. She pretends to want to
defect and woos John Wayne. It's all just a Russian plot to get
information to take back to the mother land. Big John falls for it hook
line and sinker, only to find out after they are married she is just a
spy. But who wouldn't fall for Janet Leigh? John Wayne in turn goes
back to Russia with her to feed them useless information. Leigh then
really falls in love with the Duke. Then they have to make a daring
escape back to the good old USA.
Janet Leigh is just beautiful in this movie. There is a scene where she changes out of her flight suite that will keep you glued to the screen. Just watching her on the screen makes this movie worth watching.
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