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Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond(1953)

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teaser Above and Beyond (1953)

Released just eight years after the bombing of Hiroshima, Above and Beyond (1952) addressed a timely and disturbing topic for its era. There had been other films, such as MGM's The Beginning Or The End (1947), that dealt with the development of the bomb. But Above and Beyond was to be the first that gave the story a human face, focusing on Colonel Paul Tibbets, the man who piloted the Enola Gay over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

A. Arnold Gillespie and Warren Newcombe joined forces on the special effects and created a documentary-like re-creation of the bombing. The technical aspects of the mission are carefully detailed and interspersed with newsreel footage of Hiroshima and the mushroom cloud to give the film a haunting realism. There's an especially chilling moment after the bomb's impact as the inside of the plane goes entirely white.

Actor Robert Taylor didn't require any help from special effects or stuntmen in Above and Beyond. He had learned to fly for an earlier film, Flight Command (1940) but Taylor's performance in Above and Beyond is even more impressive than his flying skills. Some critics even agreed it was the finest performance of his career to date. And Taylor was also proud of his accomplishments in the film; so much so, that he urged MGM to allow him to promote the film on TV. Up to this point, MGM had withheld TV promotion for all its films and had not allowed any stars to appear personally for such promotion. But Taylor was allowed to publicize Above and Beyond and appeared on television with clips from it. MGM could not dispute the numbers. The promotion greatly aided Above and Beyond at the box office.

Above and Beyond also teamed Taylor for the first time with Eleanor Parker. The pair would make two more films together - Valley of the Kings (1954) and Many Rivers to Cross (1955). Off screen, Taylor and Parker began an affair during Above and Beyond that ended only when Taylor married his second wife, Ursula Thiess. Taylor's first marriage to Barbara Stanwyck lasted from 1939 to 1951. He reportedly believed that Parker was too much like Stanwyck for a marriage between them to work out. So instead, Taylor married Ursula Thiess, a German actress and the ex-wife of German director George Thiess, in May 1954. The union lasted until Taylor's death in 1969.

Producer/Director: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Screenplay: Beirne Lay, Jr. (also story), Melvin Frank, Norman Panama
Cinematography: Ray June
Costume Design: Helen Rose
Film Editing: Cotton Warburton
Original Music: Hugo Friedhofer
Cast: Robert Taylor (Colonel Paul Tibbets), Eleanor Parker (Lucy Tibbets), James Whitmore (Major Uanna), Larry Keating (Major General Vernon C. Brent), Larry Gates (Captain Parsons).
BW-123m. Closed captioning.

by Stephanie Thames

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