ABOVE AND BEYOND —controversy about the 1945 dropping of atomic bombs on Japan rages to this day, and will no doubt continue. We’ll leave pro/con arguments to the side for this glance at the 1952 movie that focuses on the Hiroshima mission itself, and more personally on the strain to pilot Paul Tibbetts. The captain must deal professionally as an officer, and domestically as his marriage rumples under the secrecy demands of the situation.
Directed & produced by Melvin Frank & Norman Panama, who also co-wrote the script (with Air Corps expert Beirne Lay, Jr.), the 122-minute drama is sober and detailed, effectively covering the preparations for the raid and the enormous stress factor on the crew of the Enola Gay.
Robert Taylor gave a very credible accounting of Tibbetts; it’s one of his best performances (he thought so), and the bulk of the film is involving, as it outlines the tactical training and hush-hush atmosphere. The supporting cast is yeoman, anchored by the always sincere James Whitmore
Meshing not too evenly with the flying drama is the living room conflict engendered between Tibbetts and his wife, Lucey. She’s played by Eleanor Parker, who rolls out her arsenal of emotional theatrics as Lucey is driven to distraction by hubby’s tight-lipped secrecy and jumpiness. Some look-at-your-watch minutes could have been shed from the home front scenes to tighten things up.
The raid sequence itself is appropriately tense, and the special effects work of the horrendous fiery aftermath of the bombing is excellently done. Oscar nominations went to the Story and to Hugo Friedhofer for his score. Budgeted at $1,397,000, it was successful, bringing in $7,400,000, ranking 25th place for the year.
With Larry Keating, Larry Gates, Marilyn Erskine, Robert Burton, Hayden Rorke, Lawrence Dobkin, Jeff Richards, Jim Backus and an uncredited 19-year old Robert Fuller.