In 1955, Jimmy Stewart once again teamed up with June Allyson for Strategic Air Command. Like The Glenn Miller Story, this movie is based on real-life events. Also like The Glenn Miller Story, this movie was directed by Anthony Mann who worked regularly with Stewart. Their collaborations included movies like Winchester ’73 and The Naked Spur. Each of their films took on the themes of personal risk versus a higher purpose. This was their eighth and final movie together and was no different.
Robert “Dutch” Holland (Stewart) is a ballplayer with a couple of good season left. He’s also a reservist for the Air Force and a newlywed. His new wife Sally (Allyson) and he are just getting ready for another season of baseball when the Air Force comes calling. This time it’s not war, but the need for constant vigilance that the government is worried about. Now Dutch is back in the military as part of the new Strategic Air Command. Now Holland has traded baseball games for long-distance flights. Their unit needs to be ready to defend the United States.
This movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing along with a modest amount of critical praise. Surprisingly, the majority of the praise was not for the acting. The camera work done earned a special citation from the American National Board of Review. The film was supported and encouraged by the United States government and was filmed on location at Air Force bases in Texas, Florida, and Colorado. According to the Air Force, they saw a 25% increase in enlistments after the films release.
The movie was the second time Stewart played a baseball player. His first role as a major league player came in The Stratton Story. This time he took on the role of a military veteran and current player for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals even allowed filming to be done at their spring training field in Florida.
Stewart was the one actor praised for his work in this movie. The rest of the cast does a good job, but once again Jimmy stood out for his ability to take on any role and make it his own. This time he was playing a character loosely based on the career of Brigadier General Clifford Schoeffler. Although Schoeffler was not a baseball player, the events of his military career were used to create the role.
Allyson is also good in her role as the supportive but often resentful wife. Although this movie is intended to be sympathetic to the military, her role is honest about the impact of military service on the men and their families. The film honestly addresses the stress on those left to wait for the people who serve. All of this works pretty well throughout the movie, although the dialogue does leave her feeling a bit whiny at times.
This movie also features Harry Morgan, another familiar face in movies with Stewart. Stewart and Morgan shared the screen in Thunder Bay and The Far Country, just to name a few of their movies. Morgan was popular throughout his incredibly long and successful career. From early roles in movies like The Ox-bow Incident and High Noon, to his hit television roles in Dragnet, MASH, and The Love Boat he gave seventy years of great performances.
This movie is somewhere between patriotic movie and recruiting video. For Stewart, it was a chance to relive some of his own military experience and also celebrate his love of flying. It was also another opportunity for him to serve his country as he would continue to do throughout his life. Following this movie he would go on to make another classic film, The Man Who Knew Too Much.