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Outstanding aerial photography in Technicolor is one of the attractions of Warner Bros.' Fighter Squadron (1948), director Raoul Walsh's rowdy tribute to the Air Force "hot rocks" who flew fighter planes to battle the Luftwaffe in 1943-44 over England and France. Part of a wave of post-World War II movies that looked back admiringly at the conflict's dashing American heroes, this one has the cross section of characters for which this type of film became famous. There's the tough-talking squadron leader, the untested recruit, the Southern-bred comic relief and, most classic of all, the maverick hero who finally learns discipline and settles in to help win the war. Upon its original release, Variety praised Walsh's treatment of the time-tested formula as "an exciting, red-blooded action feature."
Edmond O'Brien plays the hero, with Robert Stack as his protege and intended successor. In his autobiography Stack later recalled a fact about Fighter Squadron that has given the film prominence in the field of Hollywood trivia. "At one time Raoul had under personal contract a black-haired, handsome ex-truck driver who also doubled as his chauffeur. With Raoul's encouragement, his protege turned actor. In a manner that typified the old-time directors, Walsh rode the young actor unmercifully. ‘You big dumb bastard,’ he yelled. ‘Don’t just get in the center of the camera and stay there like a tree, move!’ With this auspicious beginning, a young ex-truck driver who had recently changed his name from Roy Fitzgerald to Rock Hudson made his screen debut." Hudson’s role was so insignificant that he received no billing.
According to Hudson biographers Jerry Oppenheimer and Jack Vitek, Hudson’s one line in Fighter Squadron, "You’ve got to get a bigger blackboard," was one he would never forget. It took 38 takes for the inexperienced young actor to get the bit of dialogue out properly. In his nervousness, it kept coming out, "You’ve got to get a bligger backboard." Hudson would later recall that, when he took his mother, Kay, to see the movie and she caught his one scene, her only comment was, "Save your money."
Producer: Seton I. Miller
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Seton I. Miller, Martin Rackin
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline, Sid Hickox
Original Music: Max Steiner
Art Direction: Ted Smith
Editing: Christian Nyby
Principal Cast: Edmond O’Brien (Maj. Ed Hardin), Robert Stack (Capt. Stu Hamilton), John Rodney (Col. Bill Brickley), Tom D’Andrea (Sgt. Dolan), Henry Hull (Brig. Gen. Mike McCready), James Holden (Tennessee), Walter Reed (Capt. Duke Chappell), Shepperd Strudwick (Brig. Gen. M. Gilbert), Jack Larson (Lt. "Shorty" Kirk).
C-95m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe