Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944): WWII Drama Starring Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson

Mervyn LeRoy’s WWII drama represents the second teaming of Spencer Tracy and Van Johnson, after “A Guy Named Joe” (1943).

Both actors were under contract at MGM and neither was mobilized into the War effort, which explains their increased popularity during those years.

The lead roles, Lieutenant Ted W. Lawson and David Thatcher, are played by Van Johnson and Eoberty Walker, respectively.

Spencer Tracy essays with authority the supporting role Lt. Col. Doolittle, the man who targeted Japan three months after Pearl Harbour. The film follows the planning of the mission and the creation of a small unit.

As penned by Dalton Trumbo, based on the book by Ted W. Lawson and Robert Considine, “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo” possesses power due to the intelligent depiction of the preparation for the bombing, and then the attack itself. Some of the planes return to the ship, while others are damaged and lost at sea. The story concludes by showing the adventures of the flyers who crash-landed at sea and were washed up on the China coast before making their way home.

The flying sequences are outstanding: Rosson and Surtees received an Oscar nomination and the film won Special Effects Award.
Oscar Alert
Oscar Nominations: 2
Cinematography (b/w): Robert Surtees and Harold Rosson
Special Effects: A. Arnold Gillespie, Donald Jahraus, and Warren Newcombe, photographic; Douglas Shearer, sound
Oscar Awards: 1
Special Effects
Oscar Context:
The winner of the B/W Cinematography Oscar was Joseph LaShelle for “Laura.”