Friday, September 22, 2006

Victory Through Air Power

The Otto Preminger Centennial

The same year that Preminger released his black and white, minimal set, anti-drug piece The Man With The Golden Arm, he directed a Warner-Color Cinemascope historical drama titled The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell. The film is a straight forward rendition of the court-martial trial of Army Colonel William Mitchell in relationship to his statements to the press that the U.S. military was being neglegent in its mishandeling of its air forces. The part of Mitchell is pefect for Gary Cooper, truely one of those quite men of integrety he loved playing. Cooper is helped out in the court room by Hollywood nice-guy Ralph Bellamy as Congressman and defense council Frank R. Reid.

Many of Mitchell claims about the dangers this country could face from air assult doubtless seemed kind of crazy to many in 1925, the year his court-martial trial was held. Yet Mitchell, much like his contempory Alexander P. de Seversky, had a prophetic sense of what was to come in the field of air power. In fact the most erie scene in the movie is when Mitchell points out how suseptable Pearl Harbor would be to air attack, and even goes so far as to predict that the Japanse would eventully cary out such an attack, 16 years befor December 7th 1941, and two years befor Lindbergh even flew the Atlantic. The film also features Charles Bickford and Rod Steiger as figures opposed to Mitchell, and Darren McGavin and Elizabeth Montgomery (in her film debut) as two of his allies.


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