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Senin, 07 Maret 2011

Captains of the Clouds (1942) - Michael Curtiz

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One of the first war-themed films to hit theatres after America entered World War II tells the expansive tale of rugged bush pilots who bring their flying savvy to the Royal Canadian Air Force. James Cagney plays pilot Brian MacLean with grit and swagger. Michael Curtiz, who would next helm Cagney’s Yankee Doodle Dandy, directs this two-time Academy Award nominee cheered for vivid Technicolor lensing of North Country lakes and forests.



Director : Michael Curtiz
Screenplay : Arthur T. Hohrman, Norman Reilly Raine, Richard Macaulay
From a story by A. Horman and Roland Gillett
Cinematographer : Sol Polito, Wilfrid Cline
Aerial photography : Elmer Dyer, Winton C.Hoch, Charles Marshall
Special effects : Byron Haskin, Rex Wimpy
Music : Max Steiner
Associate Producer : William Cagney
Producer : Hal B. Wallis for Warner Brothers



There could have been a good 10 minutes shorn off of the first half of the film, which basically showcases Cagney as we’ve seen him a thousand times. But, as always, Cagney makes his character likeable if not downright admirable. He gets to act tough and kick some ass when he has to and has perhaps one of his greatest lines ever when he knocks out Johnny early on in the film over Emily. “That was no pleasure. But he’s too big to fool with. Give him a jolt of whiskey.” Delivered by Cagney, it is pure cinematic poetry.
The film does get considerably darker as it goes on starting with Cagney’s realization of Brenda Marshall’s loose morals and his treatment of her upon getting married. The ending is also grim if not somewhat predictable. The real draw here is the gorgeous Technicolor cinematography by Wilfred M. Cline and Sol Polito. The picture is gorgeous to look at, particularly the first half of the film, which was shot in the lush background of Canada. The blues and greens of the rivers and countryside are quite a spectacle.
Despite its shortcomings, Captains of the Clouds is enjoyable even if it reiterates one of the common themes of many of Cagney’s characters; that being that no matter how tough or cool you are; you’ll get a lot further in life in you learn to work with others than if you stubbornly go it alone. Mg dvd review



PLOT DESCRIPTION
James Cagney made his first Technicolor appearance in the morale-boosting aviation flick Captains of the Clouds. Cagney plays Brian MacLean, a hotshot Canadian bush pilot who delights in stealing jobs-and women-away from his competitors. Brian is forced to shape up in a hurry when he's assigned to train other pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force. At the ending of the training period, he is given his first real RCAF assignment: The seemingly unimportant task of shepherding American bomber planes across the Atlantic to England. With startling suddenness, Brian comes to realize the true importance of his job when he is forced into a deadly confrontation with a fleet of Nazi raider planes. Real-life Canadian WW1 flying ace Billy Bishop plays a small but pivotal role in Captains of the Clouds, while the leading-lady duties were handled by Warner Bros. stock actress Brenda Marshall (aka Mrs. William Holden). Cinematographer Sol Polito earned an Oscar nomination for his vivid color photography, though aerial photographers Elmer Dyer, Charles Marshall and Winston Hoch were certainly just as deserving. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide



'Captains of the Clouds,' Heroic Film About Royal Canadian Air Force and Starring James Cagney, Arrives at the Strand
By BOSLEY CROWTHER
TheNew York Times February 13, 1942
The thunderous roar of engines in giant bombers, the thrilling sweep of planes across the sky and the strong and eager faces of young airmen are now familiar in the vocabulary of the screen. But they still can be eloquent and exciting when properly used in a film. And properly is but a mild word for the way in which they and other aerial shots are packed into the Warners' stoutly heroic and exceedingly masculine "Captains of the Clouds," a salute to the Royal Canadian Air Force, which soared into the Strand last night.
As they did on their previous "Dive Bomber," the Warners went all-out on this film. They shot most of it in Canada, with the generous cooperation of the R. C. A. F. Even Air Marshal William Bishop was persuaded to play himself in it. They dressed it in brilliant Technicolor, which gives dramatic point to even a barber's pole. They sent in a first-string line-up of their male actors, headed by James Cagney. And they had Arthur Horman, Richard Macaulay and Norman Reilly Raine prepare a script for it which, inspired by so much abundance, provides enough for not one but two films.



Indeed, had the Warners trimmed the first hour of this hour-and-fifty-three-minutes show they would have had a much better picture than the double-feature which it now seems to be. For Part I is a routine he-man fable about a tough and aggressive "bush" pilot—one of those free-lance fliers of passengers and freight in the Canadian backwoods—who feuds for a while with other pilots, then goes partners with two of them and finally marries a tall-timber doxy to keep her from messing up the life of one of his pals. All of it is prettily photographed, but the old story is obvious and dull.



Not until its second half does the picture take on some consequence. Then the girl-stealing hero, now shed of wife and pal, joins up with the R. C. A. F. He bolts against the discipline and the ruling that he is too old to fly a combat plane. But his big chance to do the usual "big thing" comes, as it obviously must. While ferrying a bomber to England in a squadron commanded by his old pal, he takes on a Messerschmitt fighter which attacks the unescorted planes. And thus, to put it bluntly, the picture ends with a bang.
The story, as one may gather, is bravura to a fault and conveys certain notions of masculine fit-ness which are juvenile, to say the least. But the scenes of R. C. A. F. training are impressive and dignified, a sequence showing the presentation of wings to graduates by Air Marshal Bishop is moving, even though it is marred by some offensive ostentation from the script, and a shot of bombers taking off for England in the hour before dawn is pulse-quickening. A recording of a bit of Winston Churchill's classic "We shall defend our island" speech has been worked into the picture very neatly and strikes a note of strange profundity.
Mr. Cagney is his usual swaggering self in a none too attractive role; Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale and Reginald Gardiner do well as some of his pals, and Brenda Marshall is flip and alluring as the weed that grew up in the wilds.



But this critic had the odd feeling throughout the second half of the film that a company of Hollywood actors, fugitive from a previous picture, had got loose amid the serious activities and the flashing planes of the R. C. A. F.


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