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The War Lover (1962)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, War | 25 October 1962 (USA)
Buzz Rickson is a dare-devil World War II bomber pilot with a death wish. Failing at everything not involving flying, Rickson lives for the most dangerous missions. His crew lives with this... See full summary »



(screenplay), (novel)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
'Buzz' / Buzz Rickson
'Bo' / Ed Bolland
Shirley Anne Field ...
Lynch: Crew of 'The Body'
Junior' / Junior Sailen: Crew of 'The Body
Bill Edwards ...
Brindt: Crew of 'The Body'
Chuck Julian ...
Lamb: Crew of 'The Body'
Handown: Crew of 'The Body'
Prien: Crew of 'The Body'
Tom Busby ...
Farr: Crew of 'The Body'
George Sperdakos ...
Bragliani: Crew of 'The Body'
Bob Kanter ...
Haverstraw: Crew of 'The Body'
Jerry Stovin ...
Vogt (as Edward Bishop)
Richard Leech ...


Buzz Rickson is a dare-devil World War II bomber pilot with a death wish. Failing at everything not involving flying, Rickson lives for the most dangerous missions. His crew lives with this aspect of his personality only because they know he always brings them back alive. Written by KC Hunt <khunt@eng.morgan.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


... came with their BIG bombers, BIG talk, BIG money - and went over BIG with the women! See more »


Adventure | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

25 October 1962 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El amante de la muerte  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film used three B-17's in the production of this film. Over fifty years after this film was made, there are only twelve B-17's in the world that are airworthy. There are thirty-three additional B-17's that are either on display in museums, restored and in storage or are being restored. See more »


When the bomber takes off on the first mission the pilot calls out "gear up" telling the co-pilot to raise the landing gear. The co-pilot activates the landing gear retrieval switch without saying anything, a breach of safety protocol. Raising the landing gear is a checklist item and requires the co-pilot to immediately respond "Gear up" when executing the order. This checklist challenge-response procedure is followed religiously by all air crew, no matter how loose the crew might be otherwise. See more »


Captain Buzz Rickson: What's the matter Bolland, afraid to die?
1st Lt Ed Bolland: Damn right I am. But you're scared to live.
See more »


Featured in The Many Faces of...: Michael Crawford (2013) See more »


Roll Me Over
Written by Robert Musel and Desmond O'Connor
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

More Gripping as a Human Drama than as a War Story
19 September 2006 | by (Tunbridge Wells, England) – See all my reviews

Unlike a number of those who have reviewed this film, I have never read John Hersey's novel. (Indeed, I only knew Hersey as the author of "Hiroshima" and did not realise that he was also a novelist). I caught it by chance because it was on television when I took a day off work last week, and decided to watch because it was a Steve McQueen film I had not seen before or even heard of. (McQueen is one of my favourite actors).

The use of black-and-white film in the cinema survived for rather longer in Britain than it did in America, largely because colour television did not arrive in Britain until the end of the sixties, several years after it came to America. I have heard it suggested that "The War Lover" was made in black-and-white to allow the filmmakers to insert actual newsreel footage rather than recreating aerial dogfights as was done in a number of later films. The use of monochrome, however, is also a clue to the filmmakers' intentions. Even in Britain it would have been unusual for an action-adventure film to be made in black-and-white in the early sixties, and "The War Lover", although it is set against the background of the World War Two Allied bombing campaign against Germany, is not really an action picture along the lines of, say, "The Guns of Navarone" or "Where Eagles Dare". The aerial combat scenes, even if they are genuine, are less thrilling than those in later films such as "The Battle of Britain" or "Memphis Belle", or even an earlier one such as "The Dambusters". "The War Lover" is really a character study, a human drama of the sort for which the British cinema was still routinely using black-and-white at this period.

Although the film was made in Britain by a British director, it is about the US Army Air Force rather than the RAF and the two leading roles are played by American actors. McQueen plays bomber pilot Captain Buzz Rickson, the "War Lover" of the title. Rickson is a brilliant pilot but is regarded with suspicion by his superiors because of his arrogant, insubordinate attitude. On one raid against the German submarine base at Kiel he blatantly disregards orders to abandon the mission because of bad weather, leads the aircraft under his command through a gap in the clouds, and succeeds in hitting the target. The men under his command, especially his co-pilot Lieutenant Ed Bolland, have mixed feelings about him.

Bolland, played by Robert Wagner, is the other main character in the drama. Unlike Rickson, he is the conformist, by-the-book, type of officer. He has an idealistic belief in the rightness of the Allied cause, which means that he hates war but loves what he is fighting for. He suspects, however, that Rickson is indifferent to the cause he is fighting for but comes dangerously close to loving war for its own sake. Nevertheless, he chooses to carry on flying with Rickson, whose flying skills he admires, even giving up the chance of promotion when he is offered command of his own plane. (To complicate matters still further, both men are in love with the same girl, Daphne). The difference between the two men's characters is best summed up by the exchange between them when Rickson accuses Bolland of being afraid to die. Bolland admits that he is, but counters that Rickson is afraid to live.

What gives this film its force is not so much the changing fortunes of war but rather the changing dynamics of the triangular relationship between Rickson, Bolland and Daphne. Daphne is played by the lovely Shirley Anne Field, who was one of the rising stars of the British cinema in the late fifties and early sixties but seemed to fade away later. Perhaps this was because the British cinema itself seemed to be fading away in the seventies, and because she never really adapted to Hollywood. Incidentally, her cut-glass accent, which one reviewer took exception to, would have been historically correct for an upper-class young woman in the forties. (I was also interested to see a young Michael Crawford as an American flyer). McQueen is particularly good as Rickson, one of his few unsympathetic roles but also one of his best. (In later films McQueen generally managed to keep the audience's sympathy, even when his character was on the wrong side of the law, as in "The Thomas Crown Affair"). McQueen receives good support from Wagner and Field, and while "The War Lover" may not be a particularly gripping war adventure (except perhaps for its tragic climax), it is certainly gripping when seen as a human drama. 7/10

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