Hawks's 'contribution to the war effort', for all its then topical anti-Japanese propaganda, now comes across as a typical Hawksian examination of the isolated, all-male group, here the crew of an American B-17 Bomber operating in the Pacific shortly after Pearl Harbor. As so often, the predominant themes are self-respect, loyalty, professionalism, and the problems of integration facing the newcomer/outsider, in this case cynical rear-gunner Garfield. Rather like a bleak version of the director's earlier Only Angels Have Wings, it's an unusually moving example of the 'why-we-fight' genre, with genuinely horrific scenes of widespread destruction alternating with more intimate, introspective scenes depicting the tensions between the various vividly characterised members of the crew.
Cast and crew
Edward S Brophy