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Thursday, October 30, 2014

PILOT #5 (1943)

Spectacularly unconvincing WWII programmer from M-G-M was an early credit for George Sidney who’d soon find his niche megging splashy musicals & sudsy bio-pics. There’s not much he can do here as flyboy Franchot Tone tries for a bit of personal redemption when he volunteers for a suicide bomb run out of war-torn Java. As we wait to hear the outcome, his fellow flyers fill in the island’s Dutch commander (and us) with flashbacks covering his misspent civilian days working for a corrupt political machine. Hopelessly padded even at a brief 70 minutes, there’s enough bad acting for a film twice as long. Gene Kelly gets the worst of it as an Italian-American with naive fascist leanings, while Marsha Hunt, as Tone’s sadder-but–wiser wife, and Steve Geray as a Dutch Major with a French/Hungarian accent fight over the scraps. (Sidney & scripter John Hertz survived this one, but producer B. P. Fineman never made another feature.) Look quick for an early walk-on from Peter Lawford who looks & sounds like a real soldier in this company.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Kelly didn’t fare much better in his other WWII drama (CROSS OF LORRAINE/’43), but Tone (who must have been free-lancing) had much better luck fighting it out psychologically in Billy Wilder’s just released FIVE GRAVES TO CAIRO/’43.

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