🎥 Wing and a Prayer – 1944

The Story …

In the days just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American people are asking “Where is our navy? Why doesn’t it fight?”

Gravely weakened by the disaster, the US Navy comes up with a plan to trap the Japanese by using one carrier to imitate a fleet in order to deceive the Japanese Navy into heading for Midway, where they will be attacked.

Meanwhile, on the carrier charged with the mission (“Carrier X”), flight commander Bingo Harper is in charge of the bomber crews that shouldered the burden in the desperate early days of the war.

He is tough and sticks to the rules, while his young pilots behave more like youngsters and do not always understand his thinking …

A new squadron led by Lieutenant Commander Edward Moulton is assigned to the carrier. From the first landing, Harper notices a careless and inexperienced attitude by ex-Hollywood Academy Award–winning star, Ensign Hallam “Oscar” Scott. Harper warns Moulton that the squadron’s safety cannot be jeopardized and any repeat of the sloppiness will not be tolerated.

Moulton does his best with his men, but is far from having absolute control. During a bombing run, Ensign Breinard drops a bomb close to the carrier and Harper grounds him. After winning the Navy Cross for actions at Coral Sea, Ensign Cunningham fails to follow the correct takeoff procedure and ditches his aircraft into the sea: Harper forbids him to fly again. Later, Cunningham saves the ship in a suicide attack on a torpedo from a Japanese aircraft.

In the meantime, a message is received from Navy headquarters. The carrier is ordered to travel deep into enemy waters, near the Solomon Islands, and make its presence known in order to deceive the Japanese about American fleet dispositions and intentions. However, they are under strict orders not to fight.

When Moulton’s bombers encounter some Japanese aircraft, they follow orders and retreat, but two aircraft are lost. Not knowing the plan, the pilots are furious. This is repeated several times in other widely-separated locations, driving the aviators to the brink of rebellion. The carrier, however, accomplishes its mission as the Japanese believe that the sightings are of different American carriers, not just one.

Finally, the long-prepared trap is sprung. Deceived into believing that the American carriers are scattered across the Pacific, the Japanese are taken by surprise when the concentrated American fleet attacks their carriers. Many pilots are lost, but the Americans win a great victory.

However, the last bomber, flown by Scott and very low on fuel, has trouble finding their carrier, which is concealed below low clouds. Moulton begs Harper to break radio silence or turn on the searchlights to guide him in, but Harper refuses to risk betraying the carrier’s location to any Japanese submarines that may be lurking nearby.

Eventually, Scott’s aircraft is heard crashing into the water when it runs out of fuel. Moulton and Harper quarrel, but in a few minutes, it is reported that Scott has been picked up by a destroyer.

Harper gives his men an explanation of his reasoning when giving orders which may mean sacrificing a few for the success of the mission.

Credits :

  • Directed by Henry Hathaway
  • Written by Jerome Cady
  • Produced by Walter Morosco and William Bacher
  • Cinematography : Glen MacWilliams
  • Edited by J. Watson Webb Jr.
  • Music by Hugo Friedhofer
  • Production Company : Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
  • Distributed by 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date : July 24, 1944

Cast :

  • Don Ameche as Commander Bingo Harper
  • Dana Andrews as Lieutenant Commander Edward Moulton
  • William Eythe as Ensign Hallam “Oscar” Scott
  • Charles Bickford as Captain Waddell
  • Cedric Hardwicke as the Admiral
  • Kevin O’Shea as Ensign Charles “Cookie” Cunningham
  • Richard Jaeckel as Beezy Bessemer
  • Harry Morgan (credited as Henry Morgan) as Ensign Malcolm Brainard
  • Richard Crane as Ensign Gus Chisholm
  • Glenn Langan as the Executive Officer
  • Renny McEvoy as Ensign Cliff Hale
  • Robert Bailey as Ensign Paducah Holloway
  • Reed Hadley as Commander O’Donnell
  • John Kellogg as a Duty Officer
  • George Mathews as Dooley
  • B.S. Pully as Flat Top
  • John C. Young as Jeep driver
  • Ray Walker as Sailor assisting projectionist

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