CAPTAIN EDDIE delivered a patriotic morale booster late in WW2 using the life and exploits Eddie Rickenbacker, famed WW1 ace and noted businessman. Entertaining if synthetic biopic is well-produced and acted, but when it came out in June of 1945, audiences were tiring of war-themed stories, and critics gave it a Bronx cheer. Too short (107 minutes) and too careful to do justice to the daring Rickenbacker’s achievement-stuffed life, it’s nonetheless better than a lame rep would indicate. Grosses of $2,800,000 only brought it to 102nd place for the year.
Proficient Warner’s workhorse Lloyd Bacon directed (he’d just done another Americana/war saga, The Fighting Sullivans), John Tucker Battle wrote the script, which skips through highlights in the all-American hero’s life, omitting much, inventing a good deal. With WW2 still raging, it uses the framing device of Rickenbacker’s 24 days of life-raft survival in the Pacific in 1942, with flashbacks to his childhood, courting of his wife, daredevil auto racing career and heroic WW1 service whittling down the Kaiser’s pilot roster .
Fred MacMurray is a likable and sensible choice for the lead, and Lynn Bari does quite well as his wife Adelaide Frost. Charles Bickford and Mary Philips play his parents, Thomas Mitchell and James Gleason are auto dealers who give him a break. He’s done as a boy by Darryl Hickman (10-year-old kid brother Dwayne plays another Rickenbacker child) and in the WW2 life-raft scenes, among the crew are Lloyd Nolan and Richard Conte.
The special effects earned an Oscar nomination. Enjoyable Americana, even if it just makes a cursory swipe at the facts. Others in the cast: Spring Byington, Richard Crane, Stanley Ridges, Grady Sutton, Clem Bevans, John Dehner.