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Winged Victory

Winged Victory(1944)

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The film's title card reads: "Twentieth Century-Fox in Association with The U.S. Army Air Forces Presents Moss Hart's Winged Victory." The opening credits conclude with the following statement: "In this picture all the boys in uniform are members of the U.S. Army Air Forces." The training and testing sequence in the film features two fast-talking, off-screen narrators. Most of the musical numbers are performed by a male chorus, without instrumental accompaniment. Red Buttons and Jack and Henry Slate impersonate the Andrews Sisters in the film, and Sascha Brastoff impersonates Carmen Miranda. For their numbers, "Pennsylvania Polka" and "Chica, Chica, Boom, Chic," respectively, the actors mouth the words to the songs as phonograph recordings of the actual singers are played.
       Contemporary news items and studio publicity material, contained at the AMPAS Library, provide the following information about Hart's play and its screen adaptation: In early 1943, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold, the commanding general of the Army Air Forces (AAF), asked Hart to write an "intimate story" about AAF fliers. After agreeing, Hart visited various air bases to collect background information for the project. While Hart was writing the play, the AAF conducted auditions at bases around the country, casting approximately 300 AAF personnel in the show. As stipulated in the AAF contract, all cast and crew of the play were active members of the AAF. Hart, who also directed the show, relinquished his salary, and proceeds from the play were donated to the Army Emergency Relief Fund. In late November 1943, soon after the play opened to rave reviews, International Pictures offered to produce a screen version, proposing to put up a $1,000,000 down payment against a percentage of the gross. William Wyler, who was an AAF officer and had recently flown combat missions overseas, was announced as the film's director at that time.
       In mid-December 1943, after International's offer apparently was turned down, Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the screen rights to the play, guaranteeing the Army Emergency Relief Fund a minimum of $1,000,000 from the proceeds. As noted in NARS War Department records, the AAF paid for or supplied Twentieth Century-Fox the negative cost of production, 25% of the distribution charge, out-of-pocket expenses for prints, advertising, exploitation and other direct charges and six million feet of raw 35mm stock. The studio agreed to use the entire cast, orchestra and other personnel from the play, as well as Wyler as director. In mid-March 1944, however, Wyler received permission to return to the front and George Cukor was hired as the film's new director. Hart was to "supervise" the production, which, according to a late March 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, was to be shot in Technicolor.
       According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Jerry Cady wrote a screen treatment of Hart's play. The extent of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. After the Screen Actors Guild and IATSE approved the use of non-union military personnel in the film, the 300-man cast of the stage play and its commanding officer, Lt. Col. Walter M. Dunham, left New York for Hollywood. On May 29, 1944, the AAF troops marched into the U.S. Army Recreational Camp in Santa Monica, CA, where they were stationed during the film's production. Although the studio's contract with Hart and the AAF stipulated that the top six actors of the stage play, Richard Hogan, Edmond O'Brien, Mark Daniels, Don Taylor, Barry Nelson and Rune Hultman, be cast in the film, Lon McAllister eventually replaced Hogan in the part of "Frankie Davis." Hogan did appear in the picture in a smaller role. It is possible that some of the stage show actors appeared in the film in roles not credited onscreen or in the CBCS. Martin Ritt, who acted in the play and later became well-known as a director, made his screen-acting debut in the picture, as did Karl Malden, Gary Merrill (1915-1990, whose name was spelled "Garry" in the onscreen credits), Red Buttons (1919-2006) and Kevin McCarthy. None of the stage show actresses were cast in the film.
       In early May 1944, Hollywood Reporter announced that Ginger Rogers was a "top contender" for a starring role, and in early June 1944, that actor Robert Cummings, a civilian Army flight instructor at the time, was being sought by Twentieth Century-Fox for a "top role." Although studio publicity noted that Pamela Lawrence, the daughter of renowned stage actress Gertrude Lawrence, was to make her screen debut in the picture, her appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen objected to the proposed "Andrews Sisters" drag costume, in which coconuts were to be placed over the men's breasts, and the "Carmen Miranda" costume, in which "the man's navel was to appear uncovered." Despite Breen's objections, the costumes were used in the film.
       In addition to using actors from the stage production, Twentieth Century-Fox hired the show's scenery designer, Cpl. Harry Horner, its composer, Sgt. David Rose, and its choral director, Lt. Leonard de Paur. A January 1944 studio memo listed lighting director Abe Feder among the personnel to be imported from the stage production, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. Winged Victory marked the first film credit of noted actor and Group Theatre founder Lee Strasberg, who worked as the picture's dialogue director, and producer Capt. Irving Lazar (the future literary agent who was more commonly known as "Swifty" Lazar), who had been the stage manager of the play and functioned as the film's production manager for at least part of the production. California location shooting took place at the Stockton Air Field in Stockton, Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, and was scheduled to take place in Santa Ana, San Onofre, Cal-Aero Ontario, March Field in Riverside, and at the military base in Pendleton. Many military dignitaries attended the film's New York premiere at the Roxy Theatre and the Los Angeles premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron declared the week of the picture's opening "Winged Victory" week. More than 600 combat veterans from the AAF Redistribution Center, Santa Ana Army Base and the Birmingham General Hospital in Van Nuys, CA, attended a special pre-release screening of the picture in Hollywood.