Cast & Crew
A unit of the British Royal Air Force is assigned to bomb a German railway. Although they are ordered to fly at a high altitude, their bomber is spotted by the Germans, who attack them from both air and land. After the squadron leader is shot, Flight Lt. Terrence Forbes takes charge and rashly flies the plane beneath the cloud cover, causing the plane to be shot down. The plane crashes in the woods and the survivors--Forbes, an Australian; Flying Officer Johnny Hammond, an American; Flight Sergeant Kirk Edwards, a Scot; Flying Officer Jed Forrest, a Canadian; and Flight Sergeant Lloyd Hollis, the wounded son of a famous World War I flyer--hide hurriedly. The plane explodes in flames, and the Germans assume that everyone perished in the crash until a German soldier spots blood from one of the wounded flyers. After they are captured, the flyers are sent to a prison camp, where camp commander Major Otto Baumeister interviews them. Johnny pretends to cooperate, but at the first opportunity, knocks the major unconscious. Terry, who speaks German, then tricks the other soldiers inside. Once they have subdued the Germans, the men search the office and find papers relating to a hidden Messerschmidt factory. They then begin their dangerous trip across enemy territory. Believing that his wounds imperil the group, Lloyd decides to give himself up to the Germans, but the other men stop him before he gets very far. They then overpower enough German soldiers to provide them all with Nazi uniforms and board a train. When Baumeister learns of the attack, he flies to meet the train in Berlin, but as the men had earlier been discovered and ejected from the train, Baumeister fails to capture them. While searching for provisions, Terry learns that they are near an important chemical plant and suggests that the men sabotage it. Jed tries to stop them, but the men override his objections and successfully destroy the plant. Lloyd is wounded again and Terry searches for a doctor. With the help of Kaethe Brahms, a member of the underground, he finds one who is anti-Nazi, but Lloyd's agonized moans are overheard by one of the doctor's patients, and she summons the Gestapo. The men overpower the police, but despite the doctor's best efforts, Lloyd dies. Kaethe sends them to her parents' house near the Dutch border. When they arrive, they are warmly welcomed by the Brahmses, but Kaethe later reveals that they are impostors and that her real parents are in a concentration camp. Kirk is killed during their escape over the roof, and the others steal Baumeister's car and drive to the border, where Kaethe leaves the men to carry on in Germany. Across the border, the men run out of gas and follow a passing gasoline carrier, which leads them to a camouflaged airplane. It turns out to be a captured English bomber destined for a surprise attack on the Battersea waterworks in England. As the three remaining flyers board the plane, Jed is shot, leaving Terry and Johnny to fly the plane to England. There they learn that Jed will recover from his wounds.
Philip Van Zandt
Hans Von Morhart
Squadron Leader O. Cathcart-jones
Edwin A. Dupar
Leo F. Forbstein
Arthur T. Horman
C. A. Riggs
Carl Jules Weyl
Best Special Effects
The script concerns the RAF Flying Fortress D-for-Danny, which has drawn the assignment of taking out an objective deep behind German lines. The bomber's surprisingly multinational crew includes the headstrong Australian Terrence Forbes (Errol Flynn); the affable American Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan); the pragmatic Canadian Jed Forrest (Arthur Kennedy); the blustering, middle-aged Scot Kirk Edwards (Alan Hale); and the fresh-faced Lloyd Hollis (Ronald Sinclair), son of a much-decorated WWI ace. During the course of the run, the ship's captain takes a mortal wound, and while Forbes manages to deliver the payload on target, he's forced to crash-land.
The aforementioned airmen are the sole survivors of the landing, and it isn't long before they're rousted by German troops and dragged before the imperious Major Baumeister (Raymond Massey) for questioning. Chosen for a one-on-one, Hammond plays to the major's arrogance and overpowers him, and presently the prisoners are gleefully tossing his office. They discover documentation showing the locale of a secret Messerschmidt plant that could determine the entire outcome of the air war. All that's required is the simple task of getting to the Netherlands on foot through an all-points alert.
When assigned to Desperate Journey, Reagan was fresh off his acclaimed effort in Kings Row (1942), and his professional star was at its brightest. He made the most out of the film's showcase scene, in which he gulled Massey into being slugged unconscious by releasing a stream of doubletalk. By multiple accounts, Flynn sulked when he wasn't given the scene, and, to Reagan's chagrin, lobbied intensely to get it. Producer Hal B. Wallis was adamant that the scene be shot as written; a closed-door shouting match with director Walsh did nothing to change his mind. "I've always been grateful to Hal for that," Reagan would recall. It was during production that military reservist Reagan got his call for service; while the studio lobbied the government for a 30-day extension, Uncle Sam was only willing to offer a week. In the post-war years, Reagan's Hollywood career would never regain the same level of momentum, and he'd never see the same degree of influence - as an actor, at any rate.
The days surrounding the production of Desperate Journey would be trying for Flynn, as well. His February 1942 draft board physical revealed the presence of tuberculosis in his right lung, and, unwilling to face an extended unpaid layoff, opted to conceal his condition from Warners. "Errol's agony of mind can only be imagined," Charles Higham wrote in his Errol Flynn: The Untold Story. "Knowing that untreated tuberculosis can be a death sentence, he still felt he had to go on and make Desperate Journey." Between his illness and the exacting schedule mandated by the efficient Walsh, Flynn dropped to 165 pounds as the shoot progressed, requiring his wardrobe to be first refitted, and then ultimately padded. Reportedly late for every day of shooting, and demanding not to work past 5 P.M., Flynn's on-set conduct did little to endear him to the studio.
Producer: Hal B. Wallis, Jack Saper
Director: Raoul Walsh
Screenplay: Arthur T. Horman
Cinematography: Bert Glennon
Film Editing: Rudi Fehr
Art Direction: Carl Jules Weyl
Music: Max Steiner, Hugo W. Friedhofer
Cast: Errol Flynn (Flight Lt. Terrence Forbes), Ronald Reagan (Flying Officer Johnny Hammond), Raymond Massey (Maj. Otto Baumeister), Arthur Kennedy (Flying Officer Jed Forrest), Sig Ruman (Preuss), Patrick O'Moore (Squadron Leader Lane Ferris).
BW-108m. Closed captioning.
by Jay S. Steinberg
Errol Flynn Adventures - OBJECTIVE, BURMA! & 4 More in the New ERROL FLYNN ADVENTURES DVD box set
Four of the five pictures in the collection were directed by Flynn's good friend Raoul Walsh, a proven master who made almost any script play well. Add solid Warner production values (give and take occasional traces of wartime austerity) and the Errol Flynn Adventures disc set is a showcase collection of our favorite matinee idol in action -- in this case, doing a lot more fighting than kissing.
In the hectic days after Pearl Harbor, it took a few months for Hollywood to figure out how to portray the war on movie screens. With newspapers reporting one bad-news headline after another, the studios were tasked to produce feel-good pictures to raise civilian spirits. Released in September of 1942, Desperate Journey is a preposterous tale of Allied derring-do behind enemy lines, with Flynn and his gung-ho buddies (including his Adventures of Robin Hood sidekick Alan Hale) making fools of the Nazis in their own back yard.
When their flight commander is killed, co-pilot Terry Forbes (Errol Flynn) crash-lands his bomber deep in the heart of Germany. After escaping from Major Otto Baumeister (Raymond Massey), Forbes and his four surviving comrades flee westward to Holland. They blow up a chemical factory, hitch a ride on Herman Goering's private railroad car and make fools out of every German in their path. Beautiful underground activist Kaethe Brahms (Nancy Coleman) helps them escape from the authorities, and they barely survive a trap set by Gestapo agents. After a breakneck car chase in Holland, the survivors see their chance -- the Germans are preparing a captured Allied bomber for a raid on London. Can our intrepid heroes hijack it and flee back home?
Any comparison to real-life commando action inside Germany will make Desperate Journey seem like total idiocy. But the movie takes itself seriously only when characters pause to deliver $10 morale speeches about the need to win or the sacrifice of "good Germans" resisting their evil leaders. The rest of the time it's a Vaudeville act, with the players telling jokes as they hoodwink the enemy. Alan Hale pesters German guards with spit-wads and laughs himself silly when his appetite is compared to Goering's. Smart aleck Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan) confuses the dimwit Major Baumeister with fast-talking word games and smart remarks. Our boys behave like the Dead End Kids, leaving the Germans standing around looking embarrassed. Escaping from these dodos is all too easy. The violence is on a par with gags in a Three Stooges movie, except that some of the straight-man comedy targets get shot dead.
Ex-child star Ronald Sinclair later became an editor for Roger Corman; this is his last movie as an actor. He plays the green recruit among the fugitives, while Arthur Kennedy's Jed Forrest constantly reminds the jolly commandos that they have a serious mission to perform. Star Errol Flynn barely gets to hold hands with Nancy Coleman, and delivers the painful verbal jokes in Arthur T. Horman's original screenplay with a breezy attitude. More than a few punch lines riff on Flynn's personal reputation. Stranded on a roadside, Terry Forbes quips, "This is the first time I ever ran out of gas while I was with two men!
Director Walsh's brisk work keeps the story from dragging, aided by Bert Glennon's glossy camerawork. The budget crunch is seen in various WB studio facilities enlisted to serve as a German chemical factory. Max Steiner's rousing score is almost too refined for this escapist frivolity. Desperate Journey achieved its mission by giving wartime audiences a chance to laugh at the enemy.
The one film in the collection not directed by Raoul Walsh, 1943's Edge of Darkness adopts an entirely different approach to laud the fierce resistance of proud Norwegian patriots. Robert Rossen's unsubtle, humorless screenplay takes every Nazi-imposed hardship in deadly earnest. A peaceful fishing town is oppressed by German occupiers aided by the owner of the local cannery (Charles Dingle), a Quisling who expects to make a profit no matter who rules Norway. Fisherman Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan are brought together by the resistance movement. Sheridan and her doctor father (Walther Huston, in an imposing beard) are distressed when her brother (John Beal), a known collaborator, returns from Oslo. The Quisling easily forces the brother to become an informer. A shipload of guns for the patriots arrives at the same time that the local commandant (Helmut Dantine) plans to execute a hundred hostages. As our heroes are forced to dig their own graves, open rebellion breaks out. The local Pastor (Richard Fraser) fires the first shot from his church tower -- with a machine gun.
The intent of Edge of Darkness is to shock the audience with oppressive Nazi measures. Every family fears for the life of a loved one taken hostage. The class-act cast (Judith Anderson, Ruth Gordon, Roman Bohnen) trembles with fear and simmers with hatred for their occupiers. In a scene that probably tips the film a bit too far, Ann Sheridan's character is raped by a loutish German soldier, in the vestibule of the church, no less. Stoic solidarity is the only response; as the screenplay emphasizes the need for a communal vengeance. The movie would probably have been better without any recognizable stars. None of these great actors is given much to do, and Errol Flynn's character is given little chance for individual expression.
The revolt of the townspeople is very much a fantasy. The Norwegians attack with guns they've never shot, overwhelming outposts until they converge on Dantine's forest headquarters. German soldiers fall like tenpins. Guilty informer John Beal atones by sacrificing himself in the heat of battle. Among the younger female cast members is the beautiful Virginia Christine, who would later become the star of Folger's coffee commercials. Up in the Nazi lair, Nancy Coleman's Polish girl is apparently kept as Helmut Dantine's "guest". She's shocked to find out that the commandant will not let her go home, and that if he tires of her she will be "turned over to the enlisted men". Some wartime propaganda films clearly received a no-questions pass from the Production Code.
Director Lewis Milestone keeps his camera moving, over-using the signature fast-trucking shot he introduced to startling effect in his classic All Quiet on the Western Front. Shot after shot rakes across lines of charging patriots, turning the camera into a machine gun. Cameraman Sid Hickox frequently employs a zoom lens, a gadget that didn't see much use until the 1960s. The technically slick movie employs plenty of unconvincing but dramatic miniatures. Told as a flashback, the story begins as Germans discover that the entire town square is covered with at least 200 dead bodies -- no survivors, no wounded, no blood. Whoever arranged the shot draped these extras around the large outdoor set so decoratively, that the scene now seems laughable.
1943's Northern Pursuit finds a better balance between action escapism and sober war rhetoric. Taking a cue from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel, a Nazi submarine disgorges a group of German spies in Hudson Bay. Thanks to their inflexible, fanatic leader Keller (Helmut Dantine), the intruders die in the frozen wastes. Keller is rescued by Canadian Mountie Steve Wagner (Flynn), but Wagner's behavior soon becomes questionable. Of German descent, Wagner listens to Keller's talk about German repatriation and defies his superiors' demands that he take a less friendly attitude to his prisoner. Wagner soon resigns under a cloud of suspicion. When Keller escapes from an internment camp, Wagner abandons his sweetheart Laura (Julie Bishop) at the altar to join the Nazi on a snowy trek into uncharted territory.
Northern Pursuit is an unpretentious thriller that allows audiences to concentrate on a game of wits in an interesting setting. Flynn's renegade hero can't stop the nefarious German infiltrators from murdering his comrades. His options disappear when his fianceé is brought along as a hostage. The intelligent screenplay shows the nasty villain defeated by his own evil nature. Keller begins with a number of willing allies, all of which soon realize that they're expendable pawns in his fanatic Nazi scheme. Keller murders his loyal aide Gene Lockhart when the man becomes too sick to travel, and likewise alienates his foolish Indian guides. Much like James Bond, Wagner survives to foil a diabolical sabotage scheme organized years before war was even declared.
The movie has suspense and intrigue and some good humor, and establishes a warm relationship between Wagner, Julie Bishop's cute girlfriend and their best buddy Jim Austin (John Ridgely). It's also an impressive production, with lavish, convincing sets representing Northern Manitoba. The avalanche sequence benefits from excellent special effects. Don Siegel is credited with special montages.
1944's Uncertain Glory delves rather awkwardly into a story of the French Occupation, offering a Nazi hostage situation as an opportunity for personal redemption. Thief and murderer Jean Picard (Flynn) escapes from the guillotine when his execution is interrupted by a timely allied bombing raid. He flees to rural France with the girlfriend (Faye Emerson) of another criminal (Sheldon Leonard) but is quickly recaptured by the brilliant, famous Inspector Bonet (Paul Lukas). Picard's return trip to the executioner is delayed by a blown-out bridge. The local Nazis will execute a hundred hostages from a small community unless the saboteur comes forward. Picard convinces Bonet that he'd rather die by a German firing squad than have his head cut off. Thinking of the hostages, Bonet breaks his vows of service and reports that Picard is dead. Amused by the opportunity to become a post-mortem hero, Picard insists that he'll go through with the bargain. But that's before he falls in love with a local girl, the lovely Marianne (Jean Sullivan).
Uncertain Glory is just unusual enough to work. Errol Flynn plays a womanizer who reforms, a choice perhaps influenced by the bad publicity from Flynn's real-life tangles with statutory rape accusations that had put his viability as a movie star in doubt. Jean Picard makes fun of his change of heart from knave to selfless patriot, continually teasing Bonet with the possibility that his conversion is just another dodge. One rather inspired church scene has Picard confessing his past crimes to Bonet. The crook can't resist exaggerating his personal record of villainy.
Laszlo Vadnay and Max Brand's suspenseful story keeps us guessing right up to the end, when it looks certain that Bonet's trust in Picard has been poorly placed. Considering the story device of the interrupted execution, we keep wondering if Uncertain Glory will have an Ambrose Bierce-style ending. Paul Lukas is sympathetic as the skilled detective who arrests Picard only a few hours after his untimely escape. Ex-ballet dancer Jean Sullivan is touching as the innocent Marianne, who seems to intuit that her mystery boyfriend's secret is related to the hostage crisis.
The filmmakers can be commended for not painting all of the French as noble lovers of democracy. When Mme. Maret (Lucile Watson) frames the outsider Picard as the saboteur in an effort to save her son taken as a hostage, the little town forms an impromptu lynch mob. What makes Uncertain Glory interesting is that its hero isn't innocent, but a confessed thief and murderer. He's somewhat comparable to James Cagney's Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces, a bad man not entirely certain why he feels compelled to do the right thing.
The most popular and acclaimed film in the collection is 1945's Objective, Burma!, a combat saga that pretty much wrote the last word on the American attitude toward the enemy in the Pacific Theater. Jungle fighting in Burma is a hellish ordeal in waist-high swamp waters, and contact with the Japanese is a nasty business of ambushes and massacres. Ranald MacDougall and Lester Cole's screenplay, from Alvah Bessie's story, avoids the most obvious of service clichés, giving the exhausted soldiers plenty of dialogue about their miserable condition. Characters aren't wounded in billing order, either. Captain Nelson (Flynn) leads commandos to destroy an enemy communications center, a mission that goes off without a hitch. When their escape route is overrun, the hardy troops must force-march across 200 miles of forbidding, enemy-infested jungle.
The movie stresses the reaction of a cross-section of Americans to the horrors of combat, including an over-aged war correspondent (Henry Hull). The strongest scenes involve the group's discovery of a Japanese atrocity. Although we don't see the corpses, it's evident that the American victims were dismembered and mutilated while alive, in an effort to gain information. The soldiers are sickened at the sight and even Nelson is moved to tears, but the final reaction to the massacre is the formation of an indignant, cold-blooded resolve to "wipe all those Japs off the face of the Earth!" The same fury is communicated to the theater audience, making the film one of the more powerful statements about the nature of warfare.
Directed by Raoul Walsh with his usual expressive economy, Objective, Burma! seems a lot shorter than its 142 minutes. It was nominated for George Amy's editing, Franz Waxman's music score and Alvah Bessie's original story. But it was met with indignation in England, where veterans' groups objected to the portrayal of the Burma campaign as an all-American fight. The controversy was big enough to cause the movie to be pulled from British release for seven years.
Warner Home Entertainment's DVD set Errol Flynn Adventures is a fat package containing excellent new transfers. After years of seeing gray 16mm TV prints, these new restorations revive the films' excellent contrast and sharp focus. Edge of Darkness once existed in damaged prints, often with its flashback bookends removed. Objective, Burma! is the only title in the collection already out on disc, but this pressing is new and not repackaged. A commentary is offered featuring Rudy Behlmer, Jon Burlingame and Frank Thompson.
Each film is on its own disc and has been given the full Warner Night at the Movies treatment, with newsreels, trailers and short subjects from the year of its release. Military Band short subjects share space with novelty music items, and morale building shorts celebrating America's men in uniform. Burgess Meredith plays a dead-shot tail gunner for one patriotic short, and Dane Clark and Ronald Reagan show up several times each. The set also contains seven cartoons, including Robert Clampett's hilarious musical insult to Hitler, Russian Rhapsody, the non-PC classic about "Gremlins from the Kremlin". Frank Tashlin's Abbott & Costello take-off A Tale of Two Mice is here as well.
For more information about Errol Flynn Adventures, visit Warner Video. To order Errol Flynn Adventures, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
Errol Flynn Adventures - OBJECTIVE, BURMA! & 4 More in the New ERROL FLYNN ADVENTURES DVD box set
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004 - TCM Remembers Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan, the actor turned elected official whose fascinating career saw him develop as a contract player for Warner Brothers studios, to a politician who fulfilled his ambitions by becoming the 40th President of the United States, died at his home in Los Angeles on June 5 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 93.
He was born Ronald Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911 in Tampico, Illinois to John and Nelle Reagan. When Reagan was nine, his family settled down in the small community of Dixon, about 100 miles west of Chicago. After high school, Reagan enrolled in Eureka College, a small Christian school near Peoria. He graduated in 1932 with a degree in Economics, and pursued a career in broadcasting. His first gig was as a part-time announcer at WOC in Davenport, Iowa. Within a year, WOC had merged with its big-sister station, WHO in Des Moines, and Reagan was hired as a sports announcer.
In the spring of 1937, Reagan drove to Southern California to catch the Chicago Cubs in spring training on Santa Catalina Island. While he was in California, he wrangled a screen test and signed a contract for $200 a week with Warner Brothers. His film debut was rather inauspicious; he portrayed a radio announcer in an innocuous comedy Love is on the Air (1937). He made a few more "B" programmers like Hollywood Hotel (also 1937), and Girls on Probation (1938), before getting his first prominent role opposite Bette Davis in the popular tearjerker, Dark Victory (1939).
Although he seldom got credit for being a good actor, there was no denying that Reagan held his own given the right material: Knute Rockne, All American as the doomed Notre Dame football hero George "The Gipper" Gipp, where he delivered the film's immortal line "Win one for the Gipper!"; Santa Fe Trail in which he ably supports Errol Flynn in one of the boxoffice hits of its era (both 1940); Kings Row (1941), featuring one of his finest performances as a small-town playboy whose legs are amputated by a careless surgeon; and Desperate Journey (1942) where he again supported Flynn in an exciting action picture.
Due to his poor eyesight, Reagan didn't see any action in World War II, so the studio heads assigned him to star in a series of patriotic films produced by the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Forces in Culver City. Between 1942-45, Reagan starred in over 400 of these films. After the war, Reagan still found some good roles: The Voice of the Turtle (1947) proved he had a deft hand at light comedy opposite Eleanor Parker; The Hasty Heart (1949) offered another underrated performance as he ably portrayed the Yank in John Patrick's much heralded wartime play; and Storm Warning (1950) was a slick melodrama that cast Reagan as a crusading District Attorney determined to bring the KKK in a small southern town, with the help of Doris Day and Ginger Rogers!
It was around this time that Reagan became involved in politics. In 1947, he began a five-year term as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and testified in October of that year before the newly formed House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He identified suspected Communists Larry Parks, Howard Da Silva and Alexander Knox, all of whom were subsequently called to testify, and subsequently blacklisted. Later records showed Reagan was so concerned about the Communist influence in Hollywood, that he became an FBI informer.
As Reagan became steeped in his political career, his parts throughout the '50s became inferior: the notorious Bedtime for Bonzo (1951); the coy "sex" comedy She's Working Her Way Through College (1952) that cast him as a college professor who romances a stripper! (Virginia Mayo); Cattle Queen of Montana (1955), a sluggish Western that even the redoubtable Barbara Stanwyck couldn't save; and finally Hellcats of the Navy (1957), a stodgy war picture that would be his only film that co-starred his wife Nancy (Davis).
Television offered some salvation. For eight years, (1954-62), Reagan served as the host of General Electric Theater, a televised series of dramas. He also found a niche as GE's goodwill ambassador to employees and to civic and business groups around the country, furthering his taste and honing his craft as a public official. By the mid '60s, Reagan would move into politics entirely, save for one last film, the thrilling The Killers (1964), Reagan's only known villainous role, as a murderous gangster. That same year, he actively campaigned for Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, although Goldwater lost to Lyndon B. Johnson.
Reagan whose profile was riding high, had cemented his future as a successful politician. In 1966, he ran against incumbent Governor Pat Brown for the state of California and won, serving successfully for two terms until 1974.
Reagan began an all-out, two-year drive to wrest the 1976 nomination from incumbent Gerald R. Ford, an appointed vice president who became president on the resignation of Nixon. Reagan fell short by a handful of delegates to the Republican national convention. But Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, and Reagan became the front-runner to challenge Carter in 1980. After defeating Carter, Reagan held two terms as President of the United States (1981-89). After his second term was over, he retired quietly in California. In 1994, it was revealed to the media that Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer's disease; he had been kept out of the public eye since then.
He was married briefly to actress Jane Wyman (1940-48), and had two children; a daughter Maureen and an adopted son, Michael. In 1952, he married a budding film starlet, Nancy Davis, who bore him two more children; a daughter, Patty; and a son, Ronald Jr. Ronald Reagan is survived by Nancy, Michael, Patty and Ron Jr. His daughter Maureen died of Melanoma in 2001 at the age of 60.
by Michael T. Toole
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004 - TCM Remembers Ronald Reagan
"Now for Australia and a crack at those Japs!"- Flight Lieutenant Terrence Forbes
News items in Hollywood Reporter add the following information about the production: Some scenes were shot on location at Sherwood Lake, CA, the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA and Metropolitan Airport in Los Angeles. Nancy Coleman replaced Kaaren Verne in the role of "Kaethe Brahms." Byron Haskin and Nathan Levinson received an Oscar nomination for Best Special Effects.
Released in United States 1942
Released in United States 1942