Air Force (1943): Howard Hawks Propaganda WWII Drama, Starring John Garfield

Howard Hawks’ WWII drama about the crew of “Mary Ann,” a B-17 bomber, during Wake Island Coral Sea Battles is marred by narrative clichés and the usual racial mix of a combat unit, though the acting by John Garfield, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, and others is quite good.

The Original Screenplay is credited to Dudley Nichols, who was nominated for an Oscar, but novelist William Faulkner did considerable work, particularly in polishing the dialogue.

Reflecting the zeitgeist, “Air Force” is a propaganda film but an enjoyable one, in which Howard Hawks shows his versatility in directing every type of Hollywood genre.  This combined with his experience as as a vet of the Air Corps of WWI, resulted in a knowing, entertaining picture, which was at least two notches above the norm.

While not one of Hawks’ best films–it’s too propagandistic–auteurist critics and viewers will notice the thematic consistency in Hawks work, most of which dwells on a male professional group and the psycho-social dynamics that define it.

Oscar Nominations: 4

Screenplay (Original): Dudley Nichols
Editing: George Amy
Cinematography (b/w): James Wong Howe, Elmer Dyer, Charles Marshall
Special Effects: Hans Koenekamp, Rex Wimpy, photographic; Nathan Levinson, sound

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context:

The winners were: Norman Krasna for writing “Princess O’Rourke,” Arthur Miller for lensing “The Song of Bernadette,” and Special Effects for “Crash Dive,” starring Tyrone Power.