Wing And A Prayer

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WING AND A PRAYER  offers those fogies who have a passing acquaintance with Madame History (locate hand, count fingers) the revelation that the battle of Midway came about because ‘Carrier X’ (hushed up for ‘security’ reasons) sailed all over the Pacific to be spotted by the Japanese, its pilots told to run from encounters so the enemy would think we were afraid and thus be lulled into a ‘trap’ sprung at Midway.

Screenwriter of this 1944 hoo-haw, Jerome Cady , may have been prodded by the Navy, but he was clearly under the influence of something when he banged out this whopper, which nonetheless managed to snout up an Oscar nomination for Screenplay (losing to the more prestigious bullpucky of Wilson).*

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“Gentlemen, we shall fool the Japanese and, more importantly, the audience.”

The fanciful plot makes sure to include chunks of standard cliches (made standard by movies like this) about the Stern Commander (Don Ameche) and the Chafing for Action Crew (Dana Andrews, William Eythe, Harry Morgan).

Mediocre special effects are intercut with actual action footage when the snap-it’s-done rouser of Movie Midway finally takes place.  Director Henry Hathaway was allowed weeks of co-operative filming on the USS Yorktown II (the original having been sunk—at Midway).

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Andrews has just received the standard ‘dress down’ barking

Cedric Hardwicke plays an Admiral, clearly modeled after the Big Cheese hardass running the Navy, Ernest J. King—he gets to deliver the ‘strategy’ speech, which must have given King, Nimitz, Halsey and others either horselaffs or heartburn.

To their credit, the performances are fine. With Charles Bickford, Richard Jaeckel, Kevin O’Shea, Richard Crane, Glenn Langan (later reduced to–or rather enlarged as–The Amazing Colossal Man), Dave Willock and Ray Teal.  Future director Blake Edwards has a bit part. 97 minutes. It pulled in $2,250,000.

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* The brass did reject an earlier, non-fictional treatment (or at least less fictional) in favor of this hoodwink. Though Midway was a ringing US victory, the Navy felt that letting out the other part of the story—the initial slaughter of our torpedo planes and the sinking of the Yorktown—might not cheer up the crowds.  Cady had written the neat adventure thriller Five Came Back as well as the rousing propaganda classics Guadalcanal Diary and The Purple Heart, both recalled by genre fans while this one is forgotten.

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