THE FLYING TIGERS—-“Not all of us get to go out in a blaze of glory like Blackie did” waxes John Carroll at one point, and that about sums up the sentiments and stand of this flag-waver from the dark days of 1942.
John Wayne leads the fight against the eagles of Nippon in occupied China, as commander of the hot-dog air outfit that sent more than 300 skilled Zero pilots off to their proverbial ancestors. The acting and scripting are predictably dated and the action scenes vary between the nifty and the hokey. Those model miniatures and explosions mixed with life-sized planes and footage saw that Special Effects did grab one of the films three Oscar nominations, along with nods for Sound and Victor Young’s music score.
The popular old chestnut came in at #60 in its year of release, making over $3,300,000. It was The Duke’s first war film*, and one of seven flicks the busy 35-year old actor ground out that same year.
The script borrows heavily (as in nearly outright) from Only Angels Have Wings. Directed by David Miller, running 102 minutes, with Anna Lee, Paul Kelly, Mae Clarke, Gordon Jones, Addison Richards, Tom Neal and the schedule-packed Richard Loo (11 flix in ’42)*.
- *By my count he starred in thirteen and pulled cameos in two more: after this came Reunion In France, The Fighting Seabees, Back To Bataan, They Were Expendable, Sands Of Iwo Jima, Operation Pacific, Flying Leathernecks, The Wings Of Eagles, The Horse Soldiers (Civil War), The Longest Day, How The West Was Won (cameo in Civil War segment), In Harms Way, Cast A Giant Shadow (cameo) and The Green Berets.
- To add uniforms to the lineup, he played a Marine on leave in the comedy Without Reservations, a German (!) freighter captain in The Sea Chase, an Air Force hot shot in Jet Pilot, cavalry officers in Fort Apache, She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, Rio Grande, The Undefeated and Rio Lobo, and went out with a ker-boom as a civilian volunteer Colonel Davy Crockett in The Alamo. “At ease!” In some future piece we’ll weigh into the He Didn’t Serve blame-game spoil sporting. “Awright, move out!”
- ** Urbane Chinese-American with a voice rich in mellifluous insinuation, Richard Loo impersonated Japanese officers in at least thirty-seven movies, most famously as the cruel interrogator of The Purple Heart.