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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.


Otto Preminger


Milton Sperling (story and screenplay), Emmet Lavery (story and screenplay)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »




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)


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 | Plot Synopsis


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


Biography | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The appearance of Major H. H. ("Hap") Arnold, played by Robert Brubaker in the film, is significant, for it was he who would authorize the famed Doolittle air attack on Tokyo in April 1942. The raid consisted of B-25 Mitchell bombers - named in honor of Billy Mitchell. See more »


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 »


Admiral William S. Sims: Just because you read a lot of books about golf, doesn't make you a good golfer.
See more »


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


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

User Reviews

Good Movie But Incorrect History
27 July 2003 | by thomasja5See all my reviews

This movie which is supposed to be about Billy Mitchell, an early proponent of air power and of his subsequent court martial for insubordination was entertaining, but as with most Hollywood productions which are made from true stories, was filled with errors.

During the first part of the movie, Billy Mitchell allegedly violated orders by using one-ton bombs that he was told not to use. That is a falsehood. Mitchell had permission to use the heavier bombs. In addition, in the movie, the general overseeing the bombing tests was a General Guthrie. There was no such person.

The movie showed Mitchell being reduced in rank for violating orders which was another falsehood. He was reduced in rank, but not for this reason. As previously stated, Mitchell had permission to use the heavier bombs.

The movie also portrayed Mitchell as being a bachelor, when in reality, he was married. In fact, pictures of Mitchell at his court martial show his wife sitting next to him!

The movie also showed Mitchell telling Congressman Reed, that he wouldn't go along with Reed wanting to challenge Army members of the court for prejudice. In reality, Mitchell had one general removed for that reason. After his removal, the general remarked that he and Mitchell were now enemies.

Just once, I wish that Hollywood, when making a movie of a true event, would make it like it really happened and stop changing things to suit what they want the public to see.

I think the biggest mis-casting was having Gary Cooper playing Billy Mitchell. The real Billy Mitchell was a firebrand who wasn't afraid to speak his mind. Cooper, in the movie, was more laid back and just didn't impress me as being the right actor to play Mitchell.

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Release Date:

31 December 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell See more »

Filming Locations:

El Monte, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

United States Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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



Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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