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BOMBARDIER (director: Richard Wallace; screenwriters: from the short story by Martin Rackin & John Twist/John Twist; cinematographer: Nick Musuraca; editor: Robert Wise; music: Roy Webb; cast: Pat O’Brien (Maj. Chick Davis), Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Oliver), Anne Shirley (Burt Hughes), Eddie Albert (Tom Hughes), Walter Reed (Jim Carter), Robert Ryan (Joe Connors), Richard Martin (Chito Rafferty), Barton MacLane (Sgt. Archie Dixon), Russell Wade (Paul Harris); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert M. Fellows; RKO; 1943)
“This entertaining but dated wartime propaganda film from RKO could just as easily serve as a recruitment poster.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A box office hit, this entertaining but dated wartime propaganda film from RKO could just as easily serve as a recruitment poster. It’s directed by Richard Wallace and is based on the short story by Martin Rackin and John Twist; the routine script turned in by John Twist is helped by its fast-pace. It tells about Colonel Patrick Ryan, who invented the modern “bombsight.” Here he’s called Major Chick Davis and is played by Pat O’Brien.

The film opens as real-life Brigadier-General Eugene L. Eubanks delivers an impassioned talk on the importance of the bombardier during WWII. The action opens as the cynical dive bomber Captain Buck Oliver (Randolph Scott) argues for training pilots to come in low to hit their target, while the unflappable Major Chick Davis argues for using precision bombing from an altitude of 20,000 that can be accomplished with his invention of the “golden goose.” During a test of both methods before the military brass, Chick wins the day and the Army decides to back his plan of bombsights. Chick is given a group of volunteer pilots who attend his training program in the fictional Hughes Field, New Mexico (filmed in Kirtland Field, Albuquerque), named after a legendary flyboy now deceased. But his son Tom (Eddie Albert) and daughter Burt (Anne Shirley) are still working there. The recruits include Joe Connors (Robert Ryan), Chito Rafferty (Richard Martin), Jim Carter (Walter Reed) and Paul Harris (Russell Wade).

Buck and Chick try to lay claim to the best recruits in a recruitment war, while the teachers and students chase after the pretty Burt. Chick proves he’s right during a bombing mission over Tokyo, and by the film’s end gains the skeptic Buck’s respect. When Buck and his crew are captured and tortured by the Japanese, the enemy hisses as they carry out their torture. The severely wounded Scott, after heroically escaping from his captors, sets fire to a gas truck, providing a target for the bombardiers. It ends with the narrator announcing there’s more of that to follow.

It received an Academy Award nomination for Special Effects.REVIEWED ON 8/30/2005 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”