Task Force (1949): Delmer Daves’ War Film, Starring Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan and Jane Wyatt

In Delmer Daves’ “Task Force,” Gary Cooper, then at the height of his fame, is well cast as Admiral Jonathan L. Scott, about to retire from the Navy.

Through flashbacks, he recalls the 1921 struggle he and his Navy men experienced, when they wanted to prove the importance of carrier-launched aircraft.

At that time, Scott and his friend Pete Richard (Walter Brennan) were eager young officers who could land, with risks and dangers, on the short deck of the primitive 65-foot carrier Langley.

In Washington on a mission to gain support for naval aviation, Scott is re-united with Mary Morgan (Jane Wyatt), the widow of a flying buddy.

But when argument develops over the value of carriers, Scott insults a Japanese diplomat, and as a result, he is punished with a desk job in Panama.

However, the following year, he is assigned for duty aboard a new carrier, the U.S.S. Saratoga.  During a Naval exercise, he is wounded. Released from the hospital, he weds Mary.

At sea, when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, he commands his own carrier.  At the climactic Okinawa battle, Scott’s ship is damaged by kamikaze planes, but, instead of abandoning ship, he guides it back to the U.S., where the crew is received with cheers as a symbol of America’s strength.

Though not one of Cooper’s best war films, Task Force is directed efficiently, offering a rather engaging chronicle of the history of the American aircraft carriers.

There is no strong chemistry between Cooper and Jane Wyatt, though, and the domestic scenes just offer diversion from the main line of story.

In contrast, there’s great rapport between Cooper and three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan, who have made many good film together.

Shot in Technicolor, “Task Force” makes good use of actual battle footage, arranged by the Signal Corps.


End Note: Intertextuality

A clip from “Task Force” appears in the drive-in movie scene in the 1949 masterpiece, “White Heat,” starring Jimmy Cagney.



Gary Cooper (Jonathan L. Scott)

Jane Wyatt (Mary Morgan)

Wayne Morris (McKinney)

Walter Brennan (Pete Richard)

Julie London (Barbara McKinney)

Bruce Bennett (McCluskey)

Jack Holt (Reeves)

Stanley Ridges (Bentley)

John Ridgely (Dixie Rankin)

Richard Rober (Jack Southern)

Art Baker (Senator Vincent)

Moroni Olsen (Ames)

Ray Montgomery (Pilot)

Harlan Warde (Timmy)

James Holden (Tom Cooper)

Rory Mallinson (Jerry Morgan)

John Gallaudet (Jennings)

Warren Douglas (Winston)

Charles Waldron, Jr. (Aide)

Robert Rockwell (Lt. Kelley)

William Gould (Mr. Secretary)

Sally Corner (Mrs. Secretary)

Kenneth Tobey (Capt. Williamson)

Tetsu Komai (Japanese Representative)

Beal Wong (Japanese Naval Attaché)

Camera: Robert Burks, Wilfrid M. Cline.

Editor: Alan Crosland, Jr.

Musical Score: Franz Waxman.

Orchestrator: Leonid Raab.

Costumer: Leah Rhodes.

Art Director: Leo K. Kuter.

Set Decorator: George James Hopkins.

Sound Recorder: Charles Lang.

Special Effects: Roy Davidson, Edwin du Par.

Technicolor Consultants: Natalie Kalmus, William Fritzsche.

Makeup artist: Perc Westmore.

Technical Advisers: Capt. S.G. Mitchell, U.S.N., Capt. James Dyer, U.S.N. (Ret.).

Assistant Director: Bill Kissell.


Running time: 116 Minutes.

Released August 30, 1949.

On DVD: November 10, 1993