Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Captains of the Clouds


Made in the summer of ’41, released early the next year, when we were in the Big War alongside Canada, who had been fighting along with the Brits since ’39. I can’t recall another movie about the RCAF, and it looks like this was made with their full cooperation. The chief delight here is for fans of aircraft, as many of the shots include hundreds of yellow-winged trainers and fighters, and most of the shots at the grass-field airstrip begin with a whole wing of planes roaring overhead. I wasn’t familiar with most of them, but you can find them on Wiki. Most of these rickety little kites … well, I’d really hate to go up in one against the Luftwaffe, that’s for sure.

The story is pretty standard. Jimmy Cagney is a brash (you hardly ever write the name “Cagney” without the word “brash” in the same sentence) bush pilot, an outsider from a group of pilots that he is stealing business from. He and noble Dennis Morgan are in love with the same country girl, Brenda Marshall, who turns out to be a shallow party animal. Cagney marries her under circumstances and for reasons too ridiculous to relate here. Then they all join the RCAF. Cagney is soon cashiered—and rightly so—for his stunts which end up getting a cadet killed. Then he gets drunk and causes the death of one of his old friends. Oh, it’s too stupid to detail. The nobility is cloying and unbelievable, and if I was supposed to like Cagney in any way at all, they failed utterly. I hated the little prick.

Naturally they had to find a way for him to redeem himself at the end, which entails having him die heroically. It’s all a load of bush-wah, and the only reason to watch it is all the airplanes and flying.