God is My Co-Pilot
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From his earliest days, Robert Scott wanted to fly, going so far as to jump off the end of the garage with an umbrella in that time-tested kid stunt. Undaunted, Scott went on to fly for the U.S. Mail, enrolled in West Point, and eventually attained the rank of colonel in the Army Air Corps (there was no separate branch for the Air Force at the time). After service as a flight instructor, the Macon, Georgia, native accepted a hazardous mission in China. From there, he wound up serving with General Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers. Though outnumbered and constantly in need of supplies, the Flying Tigers nonetheless managed to hold off the Japanese enemy while flying the near-obsolete P-40s, until the tide of war turned.
Based on the memoirs of Colonel Scott, God Is My Co-Pilot (1945) chronicles the story of the Flying Tigers, with a special emphasis on the spiritual conflicts that go along with the life of a fighter pilot in wartime. Scott (Dennis Morgan) is stricken with guilt after strafing a Japanese column and seeing men fall dead beneath his plane's bullets. For solace, he turns to the priest, Mike Harrigan (Hale), who benevolently gives Scott a special prayer for pilots. Eventually, Scott's faith is put to the test when his plane is shot down and he's stranded behind enemy lines.
Though critics of the time gave God Is My Co-Pilot lukewarm reviews, calling it mawkish and pedestrian, the film proved to be a hit with audiences. Indeed, it was the number-one film among GIs between the years l942 and l945, possibly because they understood the psychological and spiritual anguish of the film's characters. Raymond Massey, as General Chennault, had served (and been injured) in both World Wars with the Canadian army. Also, the U.S. military cooperated with the film's production, supplying P-40Fs and crews for the aerial segments and volunteering Luke AFB in Arizona for a filming location.
Director Robert Florey was a very talented "old school" Hollywood director, having moved up the ranks as art director and assistant director since the l920s. His use of an elaborately choreographed dance segment (shot from overhead) in l929's The Cocoanuts predated Busby Berkeley's musical numbers by several years. He was originally slated to direct the 193l version of Frankenstein before being replaced by James Whale. Florey's stylish work on the Lugosi vehicle Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) led many to wonder what the future of horror movies may have been like had he been allowed to direct Frankenstein> as well. Though he was assigned many B-movies and TV shows during his career, Florey also wrote several books on film theory and criticism and was eventually awarded a knighthood in France's Legion d'Honneur for his contributions to film.
Producer: Robert Buckner
Director: Robert Florey
Screenplay: Abem Finkel, Peter Milne
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer, John Hughes
Cinematography: Sidney Hickox
Costume Design: Leah Rhodes
Film Editing: Folmar Blangsted
Original Music: Franz Waxman
Principal Cast: Dennis Morgan (Col. Robert L. Scott), Dane Clark (Johnny Petach), Raymond Massey (Maj. Gen. Chennault), Alan Hale ("Big Mike" Harrigan), Andrea King (Catherine Scott), John Ridgeley (Tex Hill), Craig Stevens (Ed Rector), Mark Stevens (Sgt. Baldridge).
BW-88m. Closed captioning.
By Jerry Renshaw