6.9/10
1,539
28 user 14 critic

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, War | 31 December 1955 (USA)
A dramatization of the American general and his court martial for publically complaining about High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces.

Director:

Otto Preminger

Writers:

Milton Sperling (story and screenplay), Emmet Lavery (story and screenplay)
Reviews

Watch Now

With Prime Video

ON DISC
ALL
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Adventure | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

An army major, himself guilty of cowardice, is asked to recommend soldiers for the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Mexican Border Incursion of 1916.

Director: Robert Rossen
Stars: Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

When a leak of information in the African Section of British Intelligence is discovered, security man Daintry is brought in to investigate.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Richard Attenborough, Nicol Williamson, Derek Jacobi
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

At her father's funeral, Ann Chapin thinks back over the last five years of his life, years of apparent political and personal failure dominated by a selfish and dissatisfied wife and eased... See full summary »

Director: Philip Dunne
Stars: Gary Cooper, Diane Varsi, Suzy Parker
Adventure | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A disgraced merchant marine officer elects to stay aboard his sinking cargo ship in order to prove the vessel was deliberately scuttled and, as a result, vindicate his good name.

Director: Michael Anderson
Stars: Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston, Michael Redgrave
The Fan (1949)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Lord Windermere appears to all -including to his young wife Margaret - as the perfect husband. But their happy marriage is placed at risk when Lord Windermere starts spending his afternoons... See full summary »

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Jeanne Crain, Madeleine Carroll, George Sanders
The Cardinal (1963)
Drama | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A young Catholic priest from Boston confronts bigotry, Naziism, and his own personal conflicts as he rises to the office of cardinal.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Tom Tryon, John Huston, Romy Schneider
Distant Drums (1951)
Action | Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

After destroying a Seminole fort, American soldiers and their rescued companions must face the dangerous Everglades and hostile Indians in order to reach safety.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: Gary Cooper, Mari Aldon, Richard Webb
Saint Joan (1957)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

In 1456, French King Charles VII recalls the story of how he met the seventeen-year-old peasant girl Joan of Arc, entrusted her with the command of the French Army, and ultimately burned her at the stake as a heretic.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Richard Widmark, Richard Todd, Anton Walbrook
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A strung-out junkie deals with a demoralizing drug addiction while his crippled wife and card sharks pull him down.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Eleanor Parker
Carmen Jones (1954)
Drama | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Contemporary version of the Bizet opera, with new lyrics and an African-American cast.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Pearl Bailey
Certificate: M/PG Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Two aging playboys are both after the same attractive young woman, but she fends them off by claiming that she plans to remain a virgin until her wedding night. Both men determine to find a way around her objections.

Director: Otto Preminger
Stars: William Holden, David Niven, Maggie McNamara
Drama | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A reformed outlaw becomes stranded after an aborted train robbery with two other passengers and is forced to rejoin his old outlaw band.

Director: Anthony Mann
Stars: Gary Cooper, Julie London, Lee J. Cobb
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Cooper ... Col. Billy Mitchell
Charles Bickford ... Gen. Jimmy Guthrie
Ralph Bellamy ... Congressman Frank R. Reid
Rod Steiger ... Maj. Allan Guillion
Elizabeth Montgomery ... Margaret Lansdowne
Fred Clark ... Col. Moreland
James Daly ... Lt. Col. Herbert White
Jack Lord ... Lt. Cmdr. Zachary 'Zack' Lansdowne
Peter Graves ... Capt. Bob Elliott
Darren McGavin ... Capt. Russ Peters
Robert F. Simon ... Adm. Gage (as Robert Simon)
Charles Dingle ... Sen. Fullerton
Dayton Lummis Dayton Lummis ... Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Tom McKee Tom McKee ... Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker
Stephen Roberts Stephen Roberts ... Maj. Carl Spaatz (as Steve Roberts)
Edit

Storyline

The true story of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneering crusader for the Army's fledgling air corp. In spite of an impressive performance during the First World War, the commanders of America's armed forces still think of the airplane as little more then a carnival attraction. Even after sinking an "unsinkable" captured German battleship from the air, Mitchell sees funds dry up and friends die due to poor equipment. He is court-martialed after questioning the loyalty of his superiors for allowing the air corp to deteriorate. Written by KC Hunt <khunt@eng.morgan.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

He defied the army and navy . . . and they gave him a Court Martial!

Genres:

Biography | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

31 December 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Condamné au silence See more »

Filming Locations:

El Monte, California, USA See more »

Edit

Box Office

Gross USA:

$3,000,000, 31 December 1955
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

United States Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (optical prints)| 4-Track Stereo (RCA Sound Recording) (magnetic prints)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall was the original presiding judge until he was challenged by Mitchell's defense team and subsequently dismissed before testimony commenced. Summerall later gave evidence on the stand as a prosecution witness. Moreover, in interviews with the press, he described Mitchell as "one of that damned kind of soldier who's wonderful in war and terrible in peace." See more »

Goofs

An aerial shot of Washington D.C. prior to a scene set in 1925 shows the US Supreme Court Building, which opened in 1935, and several structures built during the Second World War. See more »

Quotes

Admiral William S. Sims: The Navy hasn't got any policy on flying, they are ignoring the aeroplane in hopes that it will just go away.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in M*A*S*H: 5 O'Clock Charlie (1973) See more »

Soundtracks

The U.S. Air Force
(uncredited)
Music by Robert Crawford
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
The Auto-Destruction of a Pioneer Air Power Visionary
23 January 2004 | by lawprofSee all my reviews

Few who aren't students of the history of airpower today recognize the name of William "Billy" Mitchell. An early pilot in the U.S. Army's fledgling Air Corps, he served in World War I when no American-produced plane saw action above the trenches of France. Notwithstanding the Wright brother's initial breathtaking powered flight, by 1914 England, France and Germany were far ahead of us in not only aircraft design but also in fashioning tactics for a new kind of warfare.

Mitchell returned from the war not only a convert to the future of airpower but as a zealot advocating his prophecy to all who would listen (and to very many who didn't want to). The post-war Army suffered massive cutbacks. Mitchell reverted from brigadier general to his permanent rank of colonel, a more gentle demotion than many others experienced.

The Army's first postwar chief of staff was the only man ever to hold the rank of General of the Armies, John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. Pershing actually appreciated aviation's potential to a real degree but he faced a budget-cutting congress while leading an army with too many senior officers who dimly recalled fighting Indians from the saddle.

Mitchell was given the opportunity to sink the German war prize battleship "Ostfriesland." A rather foolish cabinet member offered to watch the aerial bombing from the warship's deck, so certain was he that the vessel couldn't be destroyed from the air. Fortunately for him his offer was not taken up.

Gary Cooper turns in a quietly passionate role as the Air Corps leader who did sink the "Ostfriesland." In the film he's shown disobeying war game rules and using one-ton bombs not approved for the exercise. That never happened. He went by the rules (that time). His and his pilots' achievements were dismissed, however, by battleship-loving admirals who claimed that the test was meaningless since the ship wasn't defending itself. Some Japanese observers were less sure that this was a valid analysis.

Gary Cooper's Billy Mitchell, despite deviations from the real story, is a remarkably accurate picture of a dedicated officer with unrestrained hubris whose public and volatile denunciations of Army and Navy superiors for numerous fatal crashes led to his then highly-publicized court-martial.

Ralph Bellamy as Congressman Frank Reid is Mitchell's chief counsel. A blistering but unreal cross-examination by the young Rod Steiger as MAJ Allan Gullion is the the dramatic high point of the film. It's something we expect from the courtroom genre. Mitchell is convicted of, in essence, disobedience, and is placed on a long-term suspended status (in reality the effective and actual termination of his military career without the continuing public interest that incarceration would have brought).

Cooper is strongly expressive while exuding a powerful sense of personal morality and duty as Mitchell defined that quality. That largely matches the real Mitchell.

As defense witnesses we see the young H.H. Arnold (to achieve five-star rank in World War II) and Carl Spaatz, a four-star architect of strategic bombing in the next war. These officers persevered in their dedication to birthing a powerful air force and they did it without losing their careers and thus their effectiveness (in that regard they mirrored young field grade officers such as George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower in their crusade to take the Army from the horse to the tank).

Cooper walks out of the film in civilian clothing, a slightly confused expression on his face. He should have been confused. For the remainder of his life, which ended before the war he predicted, he was essentially marginalized as aviation expanded and America slowly recognized the need to build a world class air force.

Overall, for historical accuracy "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell" is solid on the central story and fictional on the margins.

This DVD transfer, however, borders on dreadful. Colors are washed out and voice levels shift slightly over and over. But it's well worth watching.

7/10.


32 of 34 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 28 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending TV Series With Prime Video

Explore popular and recently added TV series available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed