Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
Directed by Henry King
Starring: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Dean Jagger
When morale hits an all-time low, General Frank Savage (Peck) is assigned to get the 918th Heavy Bombardment Group back into fighting shape. The men are undisciplined and unorganized after being led by a man who cared too much for his men. The group has also seen heavy losses and Savage is taking charge and leading them on a new series of dangerous missions. Their targets are deep within Nazi Germany, and the men will face death head-on as they attempt to bomb important military targets.
Henry King did a wonderful job with this movie. It was nominated for four Academy Awards and took home two statues. The film won for Best Sound and the other for the acting work of Dean Jagger who won Best Supporting Actor. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor for Peck, but All the King’s Men took home both of those awards.
King was lucky to have such a good cast with Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird), Dean Jagger (White Christmas), Gary Merrill (All About Eve), and Hugh Marlowe (The Day the Earth Stood Still). Each of these men did a wonderful job with the difficult assignment of playing men at war. The film is written to focus on the emotional consequences of battle, something many WWII films seemed to ignore in the years immediately following the war. The rest of the cast all seemed to fit into the film perfectly. The unique nature of each of the men felt realistic to the way military units might have been.
Another great element of this film are the action scenes. Many of the aerial battle scenes were actual footage from real bomber missions. I don’t think they could have brought any reality to those moments with any kind of recreation or models. The movie really felt like it took every opportunity to be authentic and true to the way the air war was fought in Europe.
The only criticism I have for this film is the storyline surrounding the soldiers. At times the story seemed to lose focus, and it might have been better to focus entirely on the group of soldiers as opposed to individuals. This doesn’t really hurt the film, but it does feel like a missed opportunity for a better overall story.
I really liked this one. I think that most fans of war movies will really appreciate this one. It has a lot of great things going for it, from the acting to the action footage. If you’re a fan of drama and history this should be on your list to see. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.