US, 1951, 94 minutes, Black and white.
Steve Mc Nally, Gail Russell, Alex Nicol, Richard Long, Charles Drake, Robert Arthur, Rock Hudson, Peggy Castle, James Best.
Directed by Joseph Pevney.
Air Cadet was filmed during the Korean war. It serves as a morale booster for the American public as well as a recruiting film for the American Air Force. It shows the atmosphere of the times, the earnestness and patriotism of young men, the support of the women. However, it also touches on tensions in the forces, the hardships of officers ordering men to their deaths, the psychological repercussions.
The film could be compared to Top Gun – which appeared thirty-five years later. This is much more modest, less glamorous although it focuses on a group of young men, their training, ambitions, dangers and overcoming dangers.
Stephen Mc Nally is the veteran instructor, Gail Russell is his estranged wife. The film focuses on a group of three young recruits, Alex Nicol (cynical in his attitude and boasting), Richard Long (decent but haunted by the suicide of his Air Force officer brother), Robert Arthur as an enthusiastic young wealthy man wanting to prove himself. The film opens with Rock Hudson as an instructor – only twenty-five at the time of making the film but seeming older, a strong screen presence.
Joseph Pevney was a regular director at Universal Studios at this time who also made the war film with Jeff Chandler, Away All Boats.
1.The interest in the film at the time? Now? It seeming like a piece of American ancient history?
2.Post-World War Two atmosphere? People proud of being GIs? Ambitions in the Air Force? Yet indications of pressure in war action, in training? The pressure of officers, responsibilities, psychological pressure and suicides?
3.The Korean war, the film as a recruiting film, as a patriotic film?
4.The technology of the period, the beginning of the jet era? The planes shown, flights, training, stunts?
5.The young recruits and their arrival, the upper-class man and his severity, picking on them, the clashes with Joe, his dealing with Walter? Rock Hudson in this role?
6.The group of three: arriving, introductions, friendship, tensions, their wanting to be together? Joe and his background as a GI, wanting to be a commercial pilot, his cynical attitude? Russ, living up to his brother’s ideals, his brother’s suicide, his trying to prove himself? Walt, wealthy, wanting to stand on his own feet?
7.The instruction, the details of lectures, the flying, training? The results – and their all going together?
8.Major Page, the background of his work, responsibilities? His being the commander when Russ’s brother killed himself? His severity with the trainees? Wanting perfection, not wanting them to be responsible for killing others? His severity with Russ? The flight, the crash-landing? The investigation? His severe testimony in the investigation? His going up with Russ for the test flight? His relationship with his wife, their estrangement? His decision to have the group as a special squad? Still testing Russ, his going up, the manoeuvres, blacking out? The crash-landing, in the desert together? His relenting, supporting them? His nightmares, talking in his upset state? His healing and his being able to reunite with his wife?
9.Janet, at the dance, the men’s advances, Joe and the dance, her exhaustion, the gentleness of Russ? Her estrangement, her discussions with Jim, trying to work out what was best for her husband? Telling Russ the truth about his brother? Russ and his going to use it against Jack? The final reconciliation?
10.Walt, young, his achievement?
11.Captain Sullivan, a more genial instructor, supporting the men? The clashes with Major Page?
12.Pat, at the dance, her being a lieutenant, with the men, Joe and Walt?
13.Armed servicemen and Air Force personnel acting as themselves in the background of the film?
14.A piece of Americana, an insight into American attitudes in the early 1950s?