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Along with showcasing the latest in Air Force weaponry, Bombers B-52 (1957) focuses on the story of a sergeant who is tempted by a better-paying job as a civilian mechanic, and a love affair between the mechanic's daughter (Natalie Wood) and a hotshot pilot (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. at the beginning of his film career).
Former child star Wood was two years into her career as an adult actress at Warner Bros. after her breakthrough performance in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Wood was named "Sweetheart of Castle Air Force Base" during filming of Bombers B-52 at the Merced, Calif., base. Before production was completed, Wood also was named "Miss Stratosphere of 1957" by the Strategic Air Command.
In ads at the time of its release, Bombers B-52 portrayed Wood as a sex symbol, provocatively posed in a skin-tight dress with deep cleavage as phallic planes were launched into space behind her - even though her character in the film was actually a modest, sheltered young woman. As film historian Hal Erickson has noted, the movie gained belated notoriety in the 1980s when it was pointed out that the screenplay by Irving Wallace contains an inordinate amount of sexual innuendo with such in-flight lines as "She's unable to receive fuel!" and "Request jet penetration!"
Gordon Douglas, an old pro at action movies, directed Bombers B-52 with such panache that Variety praised it as "magnificently mounted, with breathtaking scenes of the new B-52's," and Time magazine described the movie as a "$1,400,000 want-ad for Air Force technicians."
Producer: Richard Whorf
Director: Gordon Douglas
Screenplay: Irving Wallace, based on the novel by Sam Rolfe
Cinematography: William H. Clothier
Original Music: Leonard Rosenman
Editing: Thomas Reilly
Costume Design: Howard Shoup
Principal Cast: Natalie Wood (Lois Brennan), Karl Malden (Sgt. Chuck Brennan), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Col. Jim Herlihy), Marsha Hunt (Edith Brennan), Don Kelly (Sgt. Darren McKind), Nelson Leigh (Gen. Wayne Acton).
C-106m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Roger Fristoe