Captains of the Clouds (1942): Cagney in Oscar Nominated WWII Aviation Film

James Cagney, better known for his tough gangster roles, made his first Technicolor appearance in this WWII aviation film, Warner’s morale-booster.

Real-life Canadian WW1 flying ace Billy Bishop plays a role in the movie, and Brenda Marshall (William Holden’s wife) plays the female lead.

The good supporting cast includes Dennis Morgan, Alan Hale, and George Tobias.

Cagney plays Brian MacLean, a hotshot Canadian bush pilot who tends to “steal” jobs (and women) away from his competitors. Refusing to take orders gets him kicked out.

However, Brian is forced to shape up in a hurry when he is assigned to train other pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

At the end of the training session, he is given his first RCAF assignment, shepherding American bomber planes across the Atlantic to England. This task makes Brian realize its importance, when he is forced into a deadly confrontation with a fleet of Nazi raider planes.

Cinematographer Sol Polito earned an Oscar nomination for his vivid color photography, though aerial photographers Elmer Dyer, Charles Marshall and Winston Hoch were certainly just as deserving.

Oscar Nominations: 2

Cinematography (Color): Sol Polito

Interior Decoration (Color): Ted Smith, art direction; Casey Roberts, set decoration

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Color Cinematography was Leon Shmroy for “The Black Swan.”

“My Gal Sal” won the Interior Decoration Award.




Running time: 103 Minutes.

Directed by Michael Curtiz