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Command Decision (1948)

Passed | | Action, Drama, War | February 1949 (USA)
Army generals struggle with the decision to prioritize bombing the German factories producing new jet fighters over the extremely high casualties the mission will cost.

Director:

Sam Wood

Writers:

William R. Laidlaw (screenplay), George Froeschel (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Clark Gable ... Brigadier General K.C. 'Casey' Dennis
Walter Pidgeon ... Major General Roland Goodlow Kane
Van Johnson ... Technical Sergeant Immanuel T. Evans
Brian Donlevy ... Brigadier General Clifton I. Garnet
Charles Bickford ... Elmer Brockhurst
John Hodiak ... Colonel Edward Rayton Martin
Edward Arnold ... Congressman Arthur Malcolm
Marshall Thompson ... Captain George Washington Bellpepper Lee
Richard Quine ... Major George Rockton
Cameron Mitchell ... Lieutenant Ansel Goldberg
Clinton Sundberg ... Major Homer V. Prescott
Ray Collins ... Major Desmond Lansing
Warner Anderson ... Colonel Earnest Haley
John McIntire ... Major Belding Davis
Moroni Olsen ... Congressman Stone
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Storyline

General Dennis of the US Force in England in World War II finds that he must order his planes deeper and deeper into Germany to prevent the production of military jet planes that will turn the tide of battle to the Germans. He must fight congressmen, and his own chain of command to win the political battle before he can send his planes out. His problem is complicated by a very narrow window of good weather necessary to allow his effort to be successful. Adapted from a stage play, it attempts to look at the challenges of command in the political arena. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Heroes, cowards, fighters, braggarts, liars...and what goes on in their hearts! See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama | War

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

February 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sublime decisión See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,467,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,901,000, 31 December 1948

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,685,000, 31 December 1948
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

Black and White (archive footage)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film did big business at the box office, but because of high production costs, MGM lost $130,000 ($1.37M in 2018) according to studio records. See more »

Goofs

When Casey is wondering about the weather for the third straight day of maximum effort, he tells his staff to keep him informed with weather updates. But when he does so, his lips don't move. See more »

Quotes

Maj. Gen. Roland Goodlaw Kane: Casey, this may pull down the work of twenty years. All right, let's have it.
Brig. Gen. K.C. 'Casey' Dennis: The day after you left, sir, weather conference gave us a clear break over Central and Northeast Germany 44 days running. There was a chance to do the job, possibly the last one, so I laid on 'Stitch.'
Maj. Gen. Roland Goodlaw Kane: Regardless of the fact that you might be upsetting the larger picture
Brig. Gen. K.C. 'Casey' Dennis: Larger than what, sir? The outcome of the war?
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

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User Reviews

 
The political process of a military decision
3 April 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Command Decision was adapted from a Broadway play that ran for 409 performances the previous year. Tony Awards were won by Paul Kelly who played General K.C. Dennis and James Whitmore for Tech Sergeant Emanuel Evans. The play shows the process of making military decisions when you have to factor in the politicians who control the purse strings. It's a necessary evil in a society that values civilian control of the military.

Both during and after World War II there was a debate among the British and American air commanders over the value of daylight versus nighttime bombing attacks. The British did night raids over Germany, responding in kind to what the Luftwaffe had done to them. Fly over at high altitudes and just drop the bombs. It did make for fewer casualties among the RAF pilots of their Lancaster bombers.

The Americans opted for daylight raids at a lower altitude trying to hit certain strategic objectives. In Command Decision it involves three factories that intelligence has learned are manufacturing new jet aircraft. If the Nazis had ever developed the far advanced jets against the Allied propeller aircraft in any number, the course of the war over Europe might have changed. Just like the V-2 rockets were developed too late to help the Axis cause.

Command Decision has Clark Gable leading a distinguished cast as the general who has to make the decision about whether to bomb or not, to go into Germany's heartland without fighter escort. Unfortunately his purely military outlook is not shared by his immediate superior Walter Pidgeon who has to factor in the politicians in Congress who read the dispatches by correspondents like Charles Bickford here about the appalling losses in American life.

In many ways Pidgeon has the most difficult part in the film. He has to take in the voices of objection raised by the visiting Congressional delegation led by Edward Arnold. Pidgeon is a politician, but purely by necessity. We admire Gable's stand on principle, but the audience also respects Pidgeon and sympathizes with him.

On Broadway Command Decision takes place in the headquarters and to make it better for the screen, playwright William Wister Haines wrote an additional scene that Paul Kelly did not do on Broadway. Clark Gable on a radio microphone tries to talk down a bombardier who is piloting a plane where the pilot and co-pilot are wounded and killed. It's a harrowing scene and one of the best Clark Gable ever did. Gable must have drawn from his World War II experience, he was a tailgunner in our Army Air Corps and flew many a B-17 mission over Germany.

Rounding out a distinguished group of MGM contractees are Van Johnson, Brian Donlevy, Marshall Thompson, Cameron Mitchell, Warner Anderson, Ray Collins, John McIntire and John Hodiak. They all cast well as Army Air Force personnel. Johnson plays the part that James Whitmore originated on stage and provides what little humor there is in this film.

The main criticism of Command Decision has always been that it is too stagey. But I found it an absorbing account of the decision making process in a military command.


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