Aerial Gunner (March 20, 1943)
Released March 20, 1943: It is the middle of WWII, and this is the story of two men that fought each other, the enemy, and fought for the love of the same woman.
Directed by Maxwell Shane
Written by Maxwell Shane and Jack F. Dailey.
The Actors: Chester Morris (Sergeant 'Foxy' Pattis), Richard Arlen (Sergeant/Lieutenant Jonathan 'Jon' Davis), Jimmy Lydon (Private Sanford 'Sandy' Lunt), Amelita Ward (Peggy Lunt), Dick Purcell (Private Lancelot 'Gadget' Blaine), Keith Richards (Sergeant Henry 'Jonesy' Jones), William 'Billy' Benedict (Private Jackson 'Sleepy' Laswell), Olive Blakeney (Mrs. Sanfod Lunt), Kirk Alyn (Officer in canteen), Jeff Corey (flight crew member), Edward Earle (Squadron Commanding Officer), Frank Fenton (Colonel HAGS Co.), Gil Frye (Lieutenant Brandt, bomber pilot), John Hamilton (doctor), John James (Johnson, failed gunnery trainee), Charles J. Jordan (trainer), William Marshall (Sprague, Air Corps stenographer), Robert Mitchum (Sergeant Benson), Barbara Pepper (blonde at shooting gallery), Ralph Sanford (Private Barclay, target tow operator), Beth Stone (girl at canteen), Brick Sullivan (man at Coney Island), Allen Wood (leave pass checker).
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Okay, now all you girls, it's time to go shopping, because this movie is just for the guys. Men, send the little lady out, call your poker buddies, pop lots of popcorn, grab an adult beverage, and settle down for a real man's movie. Sure, there are a couple of dames in this one, but it's mano-a-mano as these two men fight each other, the WWII enemies, and battle for the love of a woman. No tissues needed for this drama, just some real, honest-to-goodness men.
As our movie opens, we are at war, and the planes are flying in pursuit of the enemy. When one plane comes back late and damaged, we get to go bedside with one of the surviving gunners and learn the story of two men at war . . . with each other, as well as with the enemy. But to understand the dynamic between these two men, we must go back a bit to Coney Island, where we find Foxy and a pretty blonde at a shooting gallery. Foxy is trying to teach the blonde to shoot, and trying to make a pass at her. Jon approaches, and the hostility factor rises through the roof. Jon is a straight arrow, and Foxy's dad has always been on the wrong side of the law. Foxy grew up on the rough side of town, where no one got an even break, and he grew up tough as nails, ready to fight anyone, anywhere. Jon had it a little better, and even though they were never 'friends,' Jon would like to have a truce between them, as he has enlisted in the Air Force to join the fight against our WWII enemies. Foxy calls him a dope for joining, and we leave them.
Later, we discover that Foxy has been drafted, and when Jon joins the gunnery training outfit, he discovers that Foxy is his superior. How the tables have turned! Now Foxy is not the hunted, but the hunter. Foxy tells Jon that whatever it takes, he is going to wash Jon out of the service, and have fun doing it. We follow them through training, and at the end of training we will meet a young Robert Mitchum in his fourth movie bit part, before he becomes a leading man in the movies. But I digress . . .
These two men, Jon and Foxy, both try to get the same girl, both try to be the best machine gunners in the Air Force, and both try to get the enemy more than the other. With the rousing military music, the rat-a-tat-tat of the machine guns and the roar of the planes, by the end of the movie you will be ready to go to the nearest recruiting office and sign up, convinced that you are also just as manly as Jon and Foxy. And I'm confident that when this movie hit the box office in 1943 that a lot of good men did just that.