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Lafayette Escadrille (1958)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, War  |  March 1958 (USA)
5.7
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Ratings: 5.7/10 from 431 users  
Reviews: 12 user | 5 critic

American youth and flying ace flys for France in World War I; meets & loves a French girl & prostitute.

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Title: Lafayette Escadrille (1958)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Thad Walker
Etchika Choureau ...
Renée Beaulieu
...
Drill Sergeant
...
Duke Sinclair
...
U.S. General
Veola Vonn ...
The Madam
Will Hutchins ...
Dave Putnam
...
George Moseley
Robert Hover ...
Dave Judd (as Bob Hover)
...
Arthur Blumenthal
...
Frank Baylies
Henry Nakamura ...
Jimmy
Maurice Marsac ...
Sgt. Parris
...
Amos J. Walker
William Wellman Jr. ...
Bill Wellman Sr.
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Storyline

American youth and flying ace flys for France in World War I; meets & loves a French girl & prostitute.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

March 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

C'est la guerre  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

William Wellman Jr., the director's son, plays a pilot, Bill Wellman, who is based on his father. See more »

Goofs

Aviators in World War I generally didn't wear the high-collar tunics like the one worn by Thad. This is because they needed to be able to turn their heads while flying. Rather, they wore a uniform coat that required a shirt and tie. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: A half-forgotten corner of France in a wholly-forgotten war. In memory of the heroes of the Lafayette Escadrille, who died in defense of life and of liberty. This monument, this patch of foreign sky, belongs to a handful of Americans who flew for France and died for France in the First World War. They came with an air of adventure or a sense of impatience in the days before America entered the war. The wore French uniforms, they fought in French planes, and they fell in love with ...
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Crazy Credits

And Introducing Bill Wellman, Jr. Jody McCrae Dennis Devine See more »

Connections

Version of Flyboys (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A shadow of the film it could have been
17 July 2013 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Starring a young Paul Newman and, in his first major role, Clint Eastwood, director William Wellman returned to the theme of his Oscar-winning Wings and his own experiences as an American pilot flying for the French in World War One with 1958's epic Lafayette Escadrille, a fitting swansong for one of the great directors of the golden age - or at least that's what SHOULD have happened. Instead Jack Warner balked at the budget, insisted on casting Tab Hunter instead of the lesser-known actors (Eastwood's role went to David Janssen, leaving him in a small bit part), added a happier ending and cut the film to ribbons in post-production before changing the title to Hell Bent for Glory, with the bitterly disillusioned director never making another film. The scars are all too visible in the rushed pacing and jarring plot holes left by scenes that never made it to the final cut, the opening of the film in particular looking like someone attempted to crudely shoehorn 20 minutes of plot development from an already badly compromised script into five minutes of surviving footage that looks like it's been edited with a lawnmower.

Some moments do survive, but they're few and far between. The heroes' first night in their barracks moves from a flat comic scene to a quietly mournful one where Wellman's own narration identifies of the real-life pilots sleeping alongside them by name and describes their impending deaths, and its here that you see the kind of no-nonsense tribute to the friends he left behind that he so clearly wanted to make. Wellman himself is actually a supporting character in the film, played by his own son, while Tab Hunter's hero isn't a million miles away from the kind of troubled delinquent 'Wild Bill' was himself, a spoiled brat running away from a hit-and-run accident (it's tempting to see Wellman's original ending that saw him die as a kind of survivor's guilt that so many who survived the Great War when 'better' men died sometimes expressed).

Unfortunately the result is just a flat, Earthbound backlot melodrama with some variably staged service comedy that abandons the fledgling fliers at the halfway point as Hunter deserts to marry Etchika Choureau's hustler-turned-nice-girl. Choureau's a pretty girl and there's a nice sequence with her blowing on the sleeping Hunter's face to wake him up, but they never make a strong or convincing enough couple to make you regard their romance as anything but a distraction from what a film called Lafayette Escadrille should really be about. The film rarely gets off the ground and does little that's interesting when it does, becoming surprisingly dreary in the mid-section with Hunter hiding out in her apartment and making a furtive living trawling bars and persuading servicemen to visit one of the local brothels. Naturally his conscience gets the better of him when the film finally realises there's a war on (something there's very little sense of for most of the running time) and he rejoins the squadron, earns his wings and the film finally gets round to having some aerial footage and a dogfight in the last reel. This footage is often quite good, but it's too little too late, feeling arbitrarily slapped on. Worse, there's no real connection to or affection for the character to get you involved, something that would have been just as big a problem had the original ending where Hunter died and his sweetheart committed suicide been retained. All in all it's a sad swansong for a great director and a poor memorial to the pioneer air aces he flew alongside.


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