Hurricane Clint Eastwood Downgraded to Breezy

DATELINE: Better to Stay Lost

breezy

In his third directorial effort, back in 1973, Clint Eastwood took up the challenge of a romantic comedy.  It probably sounded easier than he expected because he had William Holden, even aging and falling apart, as his charming, cynical leading man.

This atrocity is called Breezy, rhymes with easy, named after the hippie free spirit who haunts William Holden. It might have been more hilarious if Breezy was a teenage boy. But Clint doesn’t eat sweets.

However, the moribund script features one fantasy hippie girl who believed in free love of the era. Perhaps it was realistic back in the early 1970s in L.A., but Kay Lenz presents one of the most annoying, anachronistic versions of a promiscuous teenager we have seen in decades.

We cannot figure out why Holden’s well-to-do businessman didn’t toss this annoying and cloying girl out on her keester when she first appears to panhandle and try to con him. Are all men victims of their sex drive?

That Holden falls in love with her seems to stretch credulity for a character who never has fallen in love with any woman.

On top of all this, we are then faced with the embarrassments of May-December romance being denigrated by every other character Holden knows in the movie script. Really, Clint?

We almost hoped Holden would turn into Dirty Sex Harry and shoot the whole lot of slut hustlers. Of course, it’s not that kind of film, alas.

If the saccharine hippie girl isn’t enough to rot the script, you have an overlay of Michel Legrand music. Apparently, Clint gave himself plenty of challenges to overcome. You may drown in movie sweetness, not typical Eastwood.

Clint fans knew better than the novice director—and ran away from this clinkeroo. This was not even a good character-driven story, though you can see how Eastwood wants to develop it. The film wastes William Holden– and Eastwood too.

Many critics in hindsight think this was Clint’s most “personal” film. We doubt it. He was still learning his craft by directing in an unusual setting and genre.

Destroying the film negative might be a better challenge to undertake. Clint likely chose to ignore the movie as time passed as an experiment in directing. This movie is a freak of his oeuvre.

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Depp is Really a Dope

 DATELINE: Actors & Politics

Tonto Means Dopey Depp Johnny Dope

They don’t call him Johnny Dope for nothing.

The semi-intoxicated movie star named Johnny Depp called for the assassination of President Trump at a British music festival this week. He compared himself to another actor named John Wilkes Booth.

That comparison raises Depp a few steps above his talent range.

Wilkes Booth was a noted actor of stage, known for his good looks and his explosive talent. Depp has always fallen short on both levels.

Booth, of course, assassinated President Abraham Lincoln with a group of misfits he assembled. There’s no doubt the Depp probably can muster up a group of misfits from his devotees. That’s his likely fan club.

As far as actors killing presidents is concerned, we believe Booth was a better actor, but as Depp brags: he’s a better liar than Booth. Heavens, there is no end to his talent: until now.

Threatening to kill a president you disagree with is a new low even for Hollywood liberals.

John Wilkes Booth was a great Shakespearean actor even at a young age. However, Booth was dead at 27, after a manhunt by authorities. Depp is still alive and kicking and pushing 60.  After his recent comment, nobody will be chasing him, especially film producers.

We also believe the Depp has never really tried Shakespeare, which separates the actors from the drunken liars.

The Secret Service is said to be aware of Depp’s Kathy Griffin moment. If we are lucky, the man who has played Tonto will be sent into retirement, not a moment too soon. His performance was an insult to all Native Americans.

In case you’re wondering, Tonto is Spanish for stupid. That may be the highlight of Johnny Dope’s career. Put it on his tombstone.

Dramatic Musical: The Bolero

DATELINE:  Best Short Film 1974 Oscar

Mehta

Winning the Best Short Subject Oscar for 1974, The Bolero may be one of the most breathtaking documentaries about music put on film.

From its opening scenes, setting up chairs for musicians of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, to its climax, you will have a deep appreciation for the challenge and creativity of symphony orchestras.

Most people know Ravel’s “Bolero” from the Walt Disney animated classic, as the music that portends the end of the dinosaurs. Or, worse, you may recall Bo Derek.

At first you have violinists, bassoonists, and flutists, all making mention of the difficulty of small solos in the overall performance. Behind them you hear the occasional melody from the piece.

Zubin Mehta was young and dynamic as the conductor, expressive and humorous. He notes after this performance of the Los Angeles Philharmonic he never wants to do The Bolero ever again. His tongue is firmly in cheek.

Drama always builds slowly, and if Mehta has any real challenge here, it is in keeping the pace of the music in check.

When the orchestra begins to play the entire score, you see them lit against a satin black background—and you are faced with fierce concentration from individual players as they read their music, look up to the conductor, and listen to their colleagues in the symphony. It mirrors any struggle Jack London ever described in Nature.

Mehta plays a conductor as you always expected one to be. When he is in full charge, his face shows how much he loves music, art, and helps director Alan Miller create something so special that 45 years later, you will be thrilled and delighted by the 25-minute experience.

 

 

Dangerous Warsaw, or Suicide Squad (American Title)

 

warsaw

DATELINE: Dangerous Moonlight!

Exasperating comments like “out-dated,” or “old-fashioned,” start to grate on our nerves more often nowadays. So, we did not take kindly to the Amazon comments about the 1941 movie Dangerous Moonlight.

The film stars the debonair Teutonic star Anton Walbrook, who always looks grand in a tux when he sits down at the piano to play “classical” music.

In this curio, he is a Polish composer—and the story revolves around Walbrook trying to finish his great creation while World War II and the Nazis decimate his homeland of Poland. He must go to the United States and do a concert tour to raise money to help Polish refugees.

Rachmaninoff reportedly declined the offer to write a composition for the movie character to compose. So, the British film classic went to studio composer Richard Addinsell who wrote the “Warsaw Concerto.”  The film may be stunning for the music alone.

Daring in a way that today’s movies would never attempt, the first 14 minutes of the movie are basically the “Warsaw Concerto” being played to help Walbrook regain his memory lost in war—and explain how he met his wife. Movies about amnesia were big in 1941 with Random Harvest about another war hero with memory problems.

That the British film chose to make a film about an American girl who happens to be a millionaire who marries a Polish composer is a surprise too.

The music is so stirring and became so famous that it outrivals Rachmaninoff, though purists think of it as fast food classical music. When Walbrook sits down to play, the movie is a catalogue of audience reactions. Nearly 25 minutes of the 75-minute movie is given over to the music being played by a symphony or by Walbrook’s composer character.

In between moments of the “Warsaw Concerto,” he prefers to fly a fighter plane against Nazis in dogfights on suicide missions. It’s certainly true they don’t make movies like this any more. No one would dare to produce it.

Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

Who Was Heath Ledger?

DATELINE:  No Answers in I am Heath Ledger

 heath

Derik Murray has put together a series of “I am..” documentaries. They are intimate, unflinching, and hypnotic films about subjects with charisma and cult interest. Something went wrong along the way on this one called I am Heath Ledger.

So it is not surprising to find Heath Ledger being given the mythic figure treatment. He is no James Dean because he was filled with joie d’vivre and was a man with a cause and a mission.

Ledger said openly that he was on a mission to push his artistic feelings to the limit. He surrounded himself with his Australian friends from boyhood as an entourage for the most part, but there were no naysayers in the bunch. There was also no one to help him discipline himself. He was brilliant, a chess prodigy and potential major film director.

Going without sleep and pushing his physical limits, Heath Ledger was a whirling dervish of inspired talents. He was into music and film in particular, but showed unlimited artistic abilities. He took endless videos of himself, almost each snippet a movie in miniature. He was observing and teaching himself what reactions worked in a role.

He managed to improve with each role, but seemingly his happy demeanor hinted at a less satisfying deeper sense. His marriage fell apart, and he increasingly covered his beautiful body with tattoos. He used himself as a laboratory for life.

He spoke that he had limited time, like so many music and movie legends who went beyond before age 30. Was he prescient, or just a workaholic?

Heath left several stunning performances in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight, but his colleagues do not line up to appear in this film tribute—only family and close friends are anguished and full of love.  Naomi Watts and Ang Lee speak about him, but the film turns on the achievements of his friends, rather than on Heath finally.

The spin of final repeated clips at the end of the documentary without words may be more telling as the film seems to spin away too.

 

 

Everywhere a Movie Set in La-La Land

DATELINE: Movie Myths in Song & Dance

lalla land

 

You may remember La La Land as the film that won the Oscar for five minutes. It was a mistake, for sure. We aren’t sure if the film is supposed to be a take off, or a throwback, or just to feel good old-fashioned musical. It may be much more.

La la Land is some mystic, mythic American place where gridlock results in a mile-long sing-along.  If this is your cup of tea, stay out of Starbucks. If you love movies, this has more movie references than a Mel Brooks comedy. Yet, this one is a romantic gem.

Director Damien Chazelle manages to squeeze everything from Fellini’s 8 & a Half to Rebel without a Cause into his film, while resonating Gene Kelly’s American in Paris.

Ryan Gosling’s character wants to single-handedly save jazz for a new generation—and Chazelle does too. We thought there must be a trick to Gosling’s piano performance, which is bravura at the least. He sings and dances too.

Emma Stone’s eyes may be reminiscent of Bette Davis, but she is show busy to the nth degree. Attention, movie fans, we have a movie here, right down to the fluorescent green drapes out of Vertigo.

Dreams in La-La Land may be achievable—but at great cost, though the journey is richly detailed in this hypnotic movie.

The last musical we enjoyed was A Chorus Line, which we saw a dozen times because our friend Jimmy Kirkwood wrote it. He loved show biz stories too, and this would have grabbed him.

Though this movie missed out on its big Oscar, it’s the sort that will live in legend and re-telling and re-viewing in the generations to come. You cannot miss this film and call yourself a fan of Hollywood, jazz, or creative impulse.

Early Mohican Epic: The Last Shall Be First

DATELINE:  Bad Indians

Bruce Cabot   Bruce Cabot

Fenimore Cooper’s Romantic epic of the West takes place in upstate New York, of course, in 1757. It’s where and when the wild west begins in The Last of the Mohicans.

The 1936 version of the classic is extremely well-done, but has what you might expect from a studio version in the black & white age. The American Indians (before becoming Native Americans) are played by actors with fair skin and blue eyes. This is particularly noticeable for the most noble of all American Savages, Chingachgook.

The last of the bad Indians, Magua, is played terrifically by underrated Bruce Cabot, fresh off fighting as a stalwart hero against King Kong. This time he is barely recognizable with his Mohawk haircut and bare midriff. He is sullen, dangerous, and quite impressive.

The King Kong hangover continues for him. The musical score for the film is a rip-off of the overwrought music for the giant ape. In several sequences, Cabot seems to be re-enacting his other role on Skull Island in native garb.

His foil is Randolph Scott as the first true rifleman, Hawkeye. And, no one could be better in the role, as the actor shows early on his subtle humor in the part.

One of the truly odd changes is the reversal of Alice and Cora, the two daughters of the regiment. In the original story, Cora is dark-haired and tempestuous. She is called Alice here, and her blonde sister becomes Magua’s obsession. In Cooper’s book he appreciates her dark looks, not her blonde locks.

The story is further muddled by putting the key scenes with the last Mohican somewhere earlier in the plot—and ending with some kind of court-martial of Hawkeye. It doesn’t matter too much, as this turns out to be a pleasing version overall, hitting on the key moments of the story and casting truly fine actors.

Illuminating Lumet

DATELINE:  Basic Workhorse

Lumet

His documentary is standard, if not dull, with Sidney Lumet alone talking to the camera. No other interviews interrupt his self-analysis, though it is interspersed with dozens of clips from his many notable films.

As you might have guessed by the end of the film, Lumet never won a best director Oscar—not that it’s an omission of the prodigious output of his career.

Starting out as a child actor on Broadway (an arch-rival to Frankie Thomas), he tried Hollywood as a child star, but MGM dropped him soon enough. However, Lumet loved acting and being around creative people. He loved to work, and his father Baruch Lumet was a soap opera radio actor as well. It was a short jump to stay with theater as a director as Sidney grew up.

He started at the top in movies, directing the extraordinary all-star, movie called Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda about a claustrophobic jury. From there he worked steadily with great stars in less than commercial properties, from Katharine Hepburn to Brando, in their least successful box-office films of the era.

Each film he made was literate, thought-provoking, and from all genres. Few recall he directed Michael Jackson in The Wiz—and Richard Burton in Equus. Fonda again in Fail-Safe. He brought out bravura performances by Rod Steiger in Pawnbroker, and Paul Newman in the Verdict. He made diverse movies like The Hill (Sean Connery) and Murder on the Orient Express (Albert Finney). He made Dog Day Afternoon like a newsreel with Al Pacino and made a hilarious black comedy with gay themes called Deathtrap with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. All brilliant.

As each amazing movie is catalogued, Lumet dismisses his interest in morality, his love of New York, and his nearly Calvinistic religious fervor for work above all else.

Yet, we realized half-way into the documentary that we never truly loved any of his films. They won our respect, and caught our attention always. However, there was no overpowering sense of directoral style, which may not be bad. He knew how to handle a story and its stars.

If there is an ultimate response to him, we feel regret that he did not receive enough acclaim from us.

 

Mifune: Brando & Duke Combined

DATELINE:  Japan’s Superstar Not Named Godzilla

toshiro

 

It was said that Japan exported two mammoth stars in the 1950s.  One was Godzilla, and the other was Toshiro Mifune.

As John Wayne was the quintessential Western star with director John Ford, Mifune was the quintessential Samurai star for director Akira Kurosawa.

In the documentary called Mifune: The Last Samurai, with narration by Keanu Reeves, Mifune was the Japanese Wayne with a touch of Brando. What intensity and dedication to art!

From 1950 onward, Mifune gave performances that made art house audiences in the United States jump up and take notice. He was far more influential on American film directors who took plots from Roshomon, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, and other classics—and remade them, using the stylized direction and the singular performance of Toshiro.

 

However much someone might imitate Mifune, no actor actually had his natural angst and tough spirit. Try as they might, Clint and Yul had to avoid copying Mifune. No one could quite catch the look of a man with an arrow through his neck as Toshiro.

He was a hard drinker and hard worker and made over a dozen films with Kurosawa before they parted ways.

His lifestory gives an angle to Japanese life and films that Americans might not know about—and Steven Spielberg offers his insights (working together for the film 1941), as well as two sons of Mifune in recollections.

Toward the end of his life, Mifune went up against Charles Bronson (Red Sun) and Lee Marvin (Hell in the Pacific) as a film antagonist, but his classic films are singular achievements. Though he played mostly samurai warriors and ronin, he showed considerable range as an actor. This documentary gives you a sampler of his talent.

Laurel & Hardy Tribute

Babe & Stan Return

A relatively unknown BBC radio drama is turned into a slight one-hour movie about comedy team Laurel and Hardy. It is set in 1957 when Stan makes a death-bed visit to his old teammate after being estranged for a year. It’s called Stan, but should be Stan & Ollie.

Since Laurel always wanted to be a stand-alone act, the title is Stan.

For fans who remember them from two-reelers, this short film is a joy forever. It explains in flashbacks how their rocky start together transformed each—and made them immortal Hollywood icons.

What makes this little film so special and why it works is all in the casting. Not only are the elderly men reminiscent of the duo, but so are their younger versions. As the old men, with Hardy suffering from a stroke are Jim Norton as Stan and Trevor Cooper as Oliver. The younger versions are extraordinary too, lending to the verisimilitude: Nik Howden (Laurel) and Mike Goodenough (Hardy).

Of course, the younger generation, used to SNL weened comedians, may have a tough time identifying with the Great Depression duo. Laurel and Hardy do analyze their importance, to make their lives feel worthy, at the end. They were ordinary, and made audiences see humor in the worst of times.

Stan recalls their initial teaming and how he opposed it. Though Laurel was actually the brains of the twosome, he basically came up with gags and directed their scenes. Yet, Oliver Hardy made contributions that Laurel recognized as highly valuable.

Stan re-lives his past by watching their old films and thinking of new bits—but time has passed them by. With bittersweet moments, this is a fitting tribute to Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy.

Available on Amazon Video.

Impostors, Great & Small

DATELINE: Smarmy Smarty-pants

smarty smarmy Tony Curtis at Play

Tony Curtis was sliding into a different phase of his career by the mid-1960s. One of the earliest of these odd, new films, was titled The Great Impostor. Here he played Ferdinand Demara, a man who pretended to be a doctor, a priest, a teacher, and did other jobs—superbly, according to witnesses.

He was, first and foremost, a fake and a fraud. Yet, the movie of 1961 plays him as a fun-loving prankster, not a man guilty of identity theft.

Never having seen this motion picture, we were compelled by a neighbor who revealed she was a student of the Great Impostor in high school in Winchendon, Mass. He went by the name of Mr. Thorne and was an excellent instructor before authorities took him away.

This all-star picture features Karl Malden, Gary Merrill, Edmund O’Brien, Arthur O’Connell, Frank Gorshin, Raymond Massey, Robert Middleton, and a plethora of familiar faces from TV of the 1950s and 1960s. It was also directed by notable Robert Mulligan. There was nothing shabby here—except the attitude.

Curtis always had a regrettable habit to turn smarmy with an overbite of sugar when he was let loose. Here, his character goes beyond having no idea that he is far worse than a childish mischief maker. Alas, the movie also has the same problem.

A man with a brilliant memory and intelligence, Demara demeans people in authority by his pretense, as if the vanity of small-time bureaucrats deserves come-uppance. Curtis savors the chance too readily.

Isn’t there too much contempt for patients he operates upon? For religious rites of devout people? For patriotism of American soldiers? Demara amuses himself with his own shenanigans—and we are along for the ride.

Tony Curtis is in his own world of acting here; the audience is immaterial when it comes to his brash and frivolous performance.

As a depiction of an era and its values, this movie hits home, but as my neighbor said of her meeting with the real Demara, he was no Tony Curtis.

 

 

Round Seven: Feud, Crawford Down for Count

DATELINE:  Series on Bette & Joan Continues…

Real Feud

A re-teaming of Crawford and Davis in a second movie was never going to work, despite filming on location in Louisiana and hypocritical attempts at camaraderie by the stars.

Joan Crawford soon went on strike by feigning illness.

Feud, the series with Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, spends the penultimate episode on the crisis during Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. The two stars seemed to realize their careers were never enough to compensate for their shortcomings in personal life. Yet, they continued to self-destruct personally.

Interestingly, the miniseries puts more focus on the failed mother-daughter relationship between Bette and BD. We never see Christina Crawford interact with her mother, despite the famous Mommie Dearest legend.

The episodes rely heavily on the bad karma and worse characters that emerged from the slice and dice books done by the two daughters of the stars in subsequent years. Bette and Joan were done irreparable harm by the tell-all, revenge books by their progeny.

We told Miss Davis in 1986 that the BD Hyman book would never have a lasting impact to assuage the aging and distraught star. We don’t think she believed us, but responded politely to the reassurance. How wrong we were 31 years ago.

As for the episode in the sweep of Hollywood vindictiveness, we never hear why Bette nixed Vivien Leigh for the replacement for Joan—likely because Leigh won the coveted Scarlett O’Hara role that Bette wanted. It is also stated that Loretta Young and Barbara Stanwyk turned down the key part in Charlotte because they were friends of Joan.

The emergence of Olivia De Havilland as the new co-star likely was the result of her ties to Bette, though even Livy suggested they call her sister Joan Fontaine to take over from the other Joan.

Juicy gossip has become the printed legend of whatever happened to the two star subjects of Feud. The knock-out punch should arrive in the final episode.

 

 

Five Great Directors Go to War

DATELINE:  History Backstory

five

Netflix has put together a three-part documentary, based on a Mark Harris book, Five Came Back about the impact World War II had on the careers and personalities of Hollywood’s legendary directors.

They called the work “propaganda,” and it was dismissed by many over the years as secondary to the art of film.

Starting with Frank Capra, the great directors wanted to serve their country—in the best way they could, as filmmakers. The military was suspect of them as creators of fiction. Indeed, even Capra asserted he never watched documentaries when he was thrust into making them.

Others followed suit: John Huston, William Wyler, John Ford, and George Stevens. Each had been highly successful during the 1930s, but after serving in dangerous war zones, seeing death close up, their seminal work would come in the post-war years.

After the war, each had a signature film that displayed the horrors etched into their art form: for Wyler, it was The Best Years of Our Lives, about returning veterans; for Ford, it was They Were Expendable, about the toll on sailors; for Huston, it was The Treasure of Sierra Madre, seeing the deadly sins up close; for Stevens, it was a series of dramas like Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, filmed as A Place in the Sun; for Capra, it was about confronting the darkness from It’s A Wonderful Life.

Along the way, we have the insights on how these men navigated the politics of Washington as deftly as they traversed the world of big studios.

Today’s masters of cinema, like Spielberg and Kasdan, Coppola, Del Toro and Greengrass, speak to the affinity they have for the old masters and their integrity—and their pain.

As a history of Hollywood, the documentary is brilliant and poignant. As a depiction of the war against Hitler, there becomes another layer how our legends may shape our reality. A few of the documentaries produced during World War II were, in fact, re-enactments, much like we see on TV docudramas all the time nowadays.

Though the directors ran the gamut of political attitudes and personal foibles, from arch-conservatives to immigrants, they were drawn together in an epic and spiritual journey.

Rare clips and lost interviews bring insight and deserving recognition. This serves as an important backdrop and backstory to the great films and great men who made them.

Predictions of Billy Mitchell at His Court Martial

DATELINE: Court of Public Opinioncoop-as-mitch

If you have a fondness for court room drama, you may have overlooked an Otto Preminger film, starring Gary Cooper. It’s out there if you look: The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell.

It was not well-received back in 1955, though it was fascinating even then to look back on Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer in the U.S. Army who was court-martialed for decrying the incompetence and negligence of the 1920s military authorities.

Cooper always brought a built-in sympathy to his biographical roles—and Col. Mitchell was, above all else, a patriot—even when his peers, a who’s who of military heroes, came together to demote and to suspend him. History vindicated him and the short-sightedness of the Army.

An all-star cast, by later standards, filled out the ranks: before they were really big, Darren McGavin, Peter Graves, and Jack Lord, played Col. Mitchell’s friends. And, the cast even featured a Douglas MacArthur lookalike as one of the judges. Well, MacArthur was among the real life judges.

Charles Bickford is his usual tough-guy general—and usually comic Fred Clark is the prosecutor who is relieved of duty to bring in the big gun: Rod Steiger, to shred Col. Mitchell in the climactic testimony scene. James Daly and Ralph Bellamy are his defenders.

It’s all rather pedestrian in its film style, but Billy did predict an Air Force Academy, jets that could fly 1000 miles an hour, and the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1923.  We don’t hear the name Billy Mitchell on Donald Trump’s list of military heroes—but he should be. The film is color, but feels like it’s black and white.

Mitchell went after government and tried to change it abruptly with a turn toward the future. He failed, but hindsight recognition is better than none at all.

We thoroughly enjoyed this historical episode, brought to life by a generation of top-drawer professionals.