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Men of the Sky (1942)

Approved | | Short, Drama, War | 25 July 1942 (USA)

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A propaganda film, made in the early months of World War II, dramatizing a new group of U.S. Army Air Force pilots receiving their wings from Lt. General H.H. Arnold: on off-screen narrator... See full summary »





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Cast overview:
Tod Andrews ...
Cadet Frank Bickley (as Michael Ames)
Mrs. Frank Bickley
Cadet Dick Mathews
Ray Montgomery ...
Cadet Jim Morgan
Ruth Ford ...
Cadet Gladdens' Sweetheart
Bob 'Sir Galahad' Gladdens (as David Willock)
Owen Crump ...
Narrator (voice)


A propaganda film, made in the early months of World War II, dramatizing a new group of U.S. Army Air Force pilots receiving their wings from Lt. General H.H. Arnold: on off-screen narrator introduces four of them to us, we see them before the war, during flight training, and in their first assignments as pilots. In flashbacks, we see one with his parents, we meet another's younger brother, we see one with his wife, and meet the fourth pilot's sweetheart. By the film's end, they are flying planes and matériel to General MacArthur in Australia and their families see Air Force planes flying overhead, protecting the nation from invasion. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Short | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 July 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Technicolor Specials (1941-1942 season) #6: Men of the Sky  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Vitaphone production reels #1017-1018. See more »

Crazy Credits

The narrator identifies General Arnold, and General Arnold identifies General Cousins. See more »


America, the Beautiful
Music by Samuel A. Ward
Performed by the orchestra toward the end
See more »

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User Reviews

Recruiting short remains a colorful reminiscence of 1940's self image
13 March 2008 | by (Jersey City, United States) – See all my reviews

21st century eyes may see the stereotypes heavy handed (racist "gung-ho" "kill the evil enemy" pep speeches and sexist views of the women back home) and the introductory message to graduating air recruits in the Midwestern nasal twang of real life Army-Air Corps commander "Hap" Arnold quaint, but that accent was familiar to viewers when the film was first released. Give a listen on "archive.org" to famous radio news broadcasters H.V. Kaltenborn or Elmer Davis. The Army Air Corps (the army and navy each had their own air branches before a unified air force was later created) six months into the start of World War II was scrambling to fill its ranks with the best men it could find and Hollywood co-operated with "human interest" short.

Films like this (and full blown plotted programmers) combined promise of adventure, honor and idealized pictures of the nation's self image - what the fighting men felt they were being called upon to defend. Of equal concern - nicely addressed in this lavish Technicolor short - was the morale of those either left behind or working in war support production industries. They needed to be assured they were important too.

The image may seem too well scrubbed and naive at sixty plus years remove, but it was a fairly accurate picture of what most of non-urbanized "middle America" thought of itself in 1942 - and the little touches can be fascinating. A notable part in the latter half of the one reeler deals with domestic military facilities being camouflaged and defended "when they arrive" to attack or bomb them. In mid-1942, the tide of battle had not yet turned in Europe or the Pacific, and this was a real concern for the target audience.

MEN OF THE AIR may not be great film making, but it is a colorful and honest (if idealized) snapshot of middle-America at the start of an earlier crisis - just as it was coming out of the Great Depression and before the depth of rationing and total commitment to the war effort reached a country that thought of itself as safe.

An interesting side note is the subsequent career of the cast. Unless they were featuring pre-war movie stars who had been "called to the colors," these recruiting shorts usually tried to cast unknown "everymen" that the audience could theoretically identify with. When this film was first released as "filler" between the main films you paid to see in the theatre - just the way Turner Classic Movies is showing it un-billed today - the biggest recognizable name to most audiences was General Arnold, but most audiences today will recognize the faces and voices of several of the recruits and their sweethearts (even if you don't know their names immediately) from long careers in films and TV work after the war.

Worth a look - whether or not you feel called upon to set your video recording device.

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