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This independent film produced by one Art Diamond was a vehicle for
another Diamond named Bobby. After the Fury series ended young Bobby
Diamond was footloose and this was no doubt to be a film that would
establish him on the big screen. Bobby Diamond for the rest of his
career until he became a lawyer would be cast in these youthful roles.
Diamond is a youthful volunteer for the Airborne service, wanting to be a paratrooper like his uncle who saw service in World War II. But this kid makes Gomer Pyle look like Noel Coward. His character is impossibly naive.
Airborne is not much more than a recruiting film for the Airborne Rangers. It was shot at Fort Bragg and many officers and enlistees at the time play roles here. Having been a weekend warrior a decade later almost, I can testify to the fact that country kids like Bobby Diamond's character are the rule, not the exception in the army. Knowing that fact and seeing the way he was teased because of his country ways just rings too impossibly untrue.
Airborne may have been shot at Fort Bragg, but it was shot on a minuscule budget. The side romance for Diamond could have been done away with, the film just should have concentrated on the training.
The film is dedicated to the 82nd Airborne, but the 82nd Airborne deserves a whole lot better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I will break my review down into three parts. First a review of this
movie then my personal experience at Fort Bragg jump school in 1961 and
lastly a conversation I once had with Bobby Diamond.
To call this film a "B movie" is being very generous because it fails in so many areas. The story line follows many of the military films of the 50's and 60's. Standard in many of these films is an unlikable character that in the end changes his ways and becomes likable. Present also is the love interest. Carolyn Byrd was cast as Jenny May the lead characters love interest. Her scenes are difficult to watch as she takes bad acting to a new low. Or high depending on how you look at it. However, with new technology that was not available in 1962 you can fast forward through her scenes. Bobby Diamond plays the lead and does a good job as Private Slocum. Of the supporting cast Mikel Angel as Mouse and Bill Hale as Sargent Benner added a great deal to this movie. Interesting to note that Bill Hale was the brother of 50's western film start Monty Hale.
Definitely a low budget film it is worth viewing for the Airborne training footage and the jump scenes alone.
When I was 17 years old a friend of mine had attended an Air Show that featured a parachute jump. This convinced him he wanted to be a paratrooper. In January 1961 my friend and I enlisted in the Army and immediate signed up for paratrooper training. After basic training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) I arrived at Fort Bragg, NC in June of 1961 for jump school. At that time enlisted men assigned to the 82nd Airborne were sent to Ft. Bragg for jump school. Enlisted men assigned to the 101st Airborne were sent to Ft. Campbell, KY for jump school. Only officers went to jump school at Ft. Benning. I don't know when this arrangement was started but sometime in late '61 or early '62 jump schools were discontinued at Bragg and Campbell and all training done at Benning. Benning was the only training site that had the 250 foot tower.
This movie was filmed in 1961 while jump school was still conducted at Bragg and released in May 1962. The premier was at the main post theater at Ft. Bragg. The theater was packed when I saw it three days after the premier. I remained with the 82nd until my discharge in January 1964. The training footage was done well with the actual jump school instructors. Each morning trainees would have a formation in the Jump School area and after the command to come to attention the officer in charge would yell "quitters fall out". This practice was not in the film. By the end of jump week about half of the class had quit. My friend that convinced me to go Airborne was among the quitters.
I met Bobby Diamond at a nostalgia film festival about ten years ago and we discussed this movie. He said that he, along with several of the crew, spent a lot of time drinking at a club on base. He described what I believe was the NCO club in the 82nd division area. He said they were not liked at the club because of their behavior and the way he wore his army uniform. He laughed at this. His attitude prompted me to end the conversation after about 15 minutes and let many questions I had go unanswered.
AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I enjoyed this film because my husband was 82nd Airbirne. He did his
basic training in Alabama a good few years after this film but he also
spent time at Fort Bragg so it brought back memories for him that were
fun to share.
The film follows a motley bunch of raw recruits through basic Airborne training at Fort Bragg NC, particularly young farm kid Eddie Slocom (Bobby Diamond) from Indiana who dreams to be a paratrooper like his uncle Charlie, a paratrooper in WWII. Sorting the men from the boys, fellow recruits include Rocky, the bully from Chicago, and Mouse, the "lover" from the Bronx. The two sergeants are tough veteran Platoon Sergeant First Class Benner and his more pleasant but still tough assistant Sgt. White. Eddie is an immature and naive farm-boy, initially mocked by his peers for his solid values but he soon earns their respect even though he's not the best paratrooper, he's a strong teammate with honor, courage, friendship and integrity.
Personal relationships soften the drama as Eddie meets a local farm girl by, Jenny May, providing the "love-interest" as a lighter sub-plot. As Eddie proves himself the teasing subsides, except from Rocky who likes Jenny and tries but fails to steal her away from Eddie, cutting in at a dance, ridiculing his love letters and physically threatening him, but the other members step up. Rocky is overheard ridiculing farmers and 4-H-ers, SFC Benner reminds Rocky that he's a farmer so he instructs Slocum to educate the others by reciting the 4-H values, Rocky backs down.
The sergeant arranges a guided tour of the Division's museum so the recruits can earn a true appreciation of what it means to be Airborne. Rocky isn't really impressed by the courage of the Division during WW1&2, including the Sgt Alvin York, another "country boy".
The film ends with the platoon's first real jump from an actual aircraft. Rocky messes up, collided with Eddie, and Eddie saves them both. The rest of the group all rush over to see if Rocky is OK. Eddie is hailed a hero and Rocky learns the others really do care about him. The group is bonded in camaraderie and the film ends with some new proud members of the US 82nd Airborne Division.
My husband said that while some of the training had changed when he went through it; it's a pretty accurate reflection of the era.
Airborne - All the way!
The best I can rate this movie is 5 stars, and that is based on the
good scenes of some of the Airborne training. Otherwise, the accuracy
of the film leaves much to be desired, and the story itself is just too
hokey. The script of the naïve country boy away from home and the
street-wise city guys and their machismo is right out of the book of
the handful of WW II fluff films that were as much propaganda as they
were entertainment. And, in my real day and place, we didn't have base
"Airborne," came out on May 30, 1962, although I doubt it had much of a release. Less than two months before that I graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne School that has been at Fort Benning, Georgia, since it was established in 1940. But this film was made at Fort Bragg, N.C. Two of my brothers also graduated from Jump School at Fort Benning. One four years later was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Viet Nam. The other one, seven years later, went to the 82nd at Fort Bragg. I served in the 504th and then the 509th Airborne in Germany. They made up the 1st Brigade (Airborne) of the 8th Infantry Division the only American airborne troops in Europe in the early years of the Cold War. Through the end of 1962, we got newly trained paratroopers from Fort Benning almost every week. I've never met anyone who went to Jump School anywhere but Fort Benning.
Yes, Fort Bragg is "Home of the Airborne," as an early scene shows when the trainees arrive at the base. The 82nd (All American) Division and XVIII Airborne Corps have made Fort Bragg home since the end of WW II. The 101st Airborne (Screaming Eagles) Division has been at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. It is no longer a parachute unit but an air assault division (helicopters).
Fort Bragg apparently has some jump training facilities, as shown in the film. We too had such in Germany, where we also ran a small jump school at Weisbaden. It was to train volunteers who signed up while on duty in Europe, and for those who were going into the Special Forces over there. I suppose it made more sense and cost much less to train GIs there than to send them back to the States for three weeks, and then back overseas.
The scenes in this film that show Jump School training are good up to a point. One thing obviously missing is scenes of the 250-foot towers. They surely would be shown in any Airborne training film. But you'll only see them at the Fort Benning Jump School. Several other things are wrong in this film. It shows this group of GIs going to Jump School right out of basic training. But, before we went to Jump School, we had to first complete our Advanced Individual Training. In my case, AIT was infantry. So, I had 8 weeks of basic, then 8 weeks of advanced infantry training before I got to Jump School. By then, I was in good physical shape.
In this movie, after the group arrives for Jump School, Sgt. White marches them to their platoon barracks. The men appear to have glider patches on their caps. Then, within a few days, they are wearing 82nd Airborne shoulder patches. Neither of these things would happen. They would only be able to wear the glider patch after earning their wings. And, they wouldn't have been assigned to their units until after graduating from Jump School (or dropping out). During training, GIs are assigned temporary duty to the schools, so they don't wear the patches or insignia of those training units. It's obvious that most of the men shown in this film were actual paratroopers. So, but for the dozen or so movie stars in the film, the rest were already trained and assigned to units of the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg.
The actor who played the trainees' platoon sergeant, Bill Hale, doesn't fit the physical mold of a paratrooper at all much less a Jump School leader. He's far too big and bulky. He doesn't show the leg muscles that are prominent on paratroopers. Think of marathon runners and long- distance walkers. Oh sure, he double-times with the platoon in a scene or two, but that guy would never last consecutive 20-mile jogs that we did during PT week (the first). The film only shows a couple of guys falling out and then because of fear in jumping from the 34-foot tower. I don't recall anyone ever quitting for that reason, but some did freeze in the door of the planes. Most of our dropouts were men who were set back a week because they couldn't pass the physical tests at the end of PT week. Pull-ups often got them, more than anything else. They would get two more weeks to try to advance to jump training. Some would, but many just didn't make it. The muscular, big men had the most difficulty. Airborne service calls more for stamina and endurance, rather than brute strength mostly used for frontal assault.
The film shows the actual jumps over a sandy field at Fort Bragg. From Fort Benning we jumped onto a field of hard red clay somewhere nearby in Alabama. We jumped out of C-119 (Flying Boxcars) as shown in the film. They were cramped, packed planes. In Europe, we jumped from C-130s and C-124 Globemasters. Today's paratroopers jump from C-17 four-engine jet troop transports that are bigger and much roomier. You can find video clips of Jump School and paratroop jumps on the Web.
This so-so drama purports to tell the story of a new paratrooper in the 82nd division of the army. Eddie Slocum is a wet behind the ears kid who has dreams of becoming a paratrooper just like his Uncle Charlie. As is custom with movies like this, he meets up with a motley of crew members all from different backgrounds, like Rocky, the bully of the group, and Mouse, the uh, jive-talking "lover" of the group. Anyways, they all get put through exercises, and we get to follow them, and actually this is all very interesting. However some 'Drama' develops when Eddie meets a doe-eyed country girl by the name of Jenny May. And well, the love interest side falls flat, because the actress playing her is sort of a airhead, and since her character really is no one we should care about, we just wait around to get the action pumping again (sort of like Top Gun actually). The ending is sort of lovey dovey too with the new chutists, as well, but all in all, I enjoyed this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** Far better then you would have expected movie about a
group of green and young volunteers wanting to become airborne rangers
in the elite 82nd airborne division which incidentally is now, in 2014,
being regulated to a US Army infantry support unit: Very probably in
not having enough man, or volunteers, to fill its ranks. The movie has
to do with 18 year old Pvt. Eddie Slocum, Bobby Diamond, who in trying
to prove himself is at the same being put down and ridiculed by fellow
paratrooper Pvt. Rocky Layman, Robert Christian, as being a wimp and
momma's boy. In the end Eddie heroically saves Rocky's life, by risking
his own, on his first parachute drop thus earning a grateful Rocky's
life long respect.
That's also Eddie's friend Pvt. Mike "Mouse" Talliaferro played by 45 year old, looking like he's in his early 20's, Mike Angel a wise cracking Fonzi type some 12 year before Fonzie came on the scene in the TV series "Happy Days". Training at Fort Benning Georgia Eddie on a one day pass meets local girl Jenny May, Carolyn Byrd, at a dance who takes a shine to him but is too embarrassed to ask out for a date. Rocky trying to pick up Jenny May gets the cold shoulder from her, she's not at all impressed by his macho he-man attitude, making him take it out on Eddie in him being able to get the girl that he was after.
***SPOILERS*** During the rest of the movie Rocky makes Eddie's life miserable putting him down at every instance and waiting to really show him up in the upcoming parachute drop that he feels that Eddie would chicken out on. Finally psyching himself up and going through with it Eddie sees that Rocky's parachute is tangled up in the webbing and heading straight for him. With instructions from the ground by his company Sergeant Benner, Bill Hale, Eddie not only avoids colliding with Rocky's deflated parachute but grabs it and with Rocky holding on for dear life glides down to safety some 3,000 feet below. Heart warming ending with Eddie proving that he got what it takes to be an Airborne Rnger as well, to no one's surprise, gets the girl Jenny May as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Spoiler/plot- Airborne, 1962. This film follows the induction of
young, friendly, naive soldier into 1950's US Army and into paratrooper
jump school with his barrack's mates.
*Special Stars- Bobby Diamond, Robert Christian, Whitey Hughes.
*Theme- Country common sense in recruits will win the day in combat.
*Trivia/location/goofs- Filmed at paratrooper jump school Fort Bragg. When Bobby Diamond's 'Fury' TV series ended, his father produced this film to help in the transition for Bobby to be an adult male marketable working actor. I'm not sure it worked.
*Emotion- A mediocre film starring a teen-age kid's TV show star. The plot has all the comedy and dramatic military stereotypes with very little interesting plot twists to make this will worth your time. It's a time capsule that maybe does NOT need to be opened.
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