Strategic Air Command (1955)

Strategic Air Command (1955)

“By staying combat ready, we can prevent a war.”

When a former Air Force Colonel (James Stewart) is drafted away from his baseball career to serve in active duty during the Cold War, his new wife (June Allyson) must adjust to life as a military spouse.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Airplanes and Pilots
  • Anthony Mann Films
  • Cold War
  • Frank Lovejoy Films
  • Jimmy Stewart Films
  • June Allyson Films
  • Military

Jimmy Stewart and director Anthony Mann collaborated on eight films together: five westerns (Winchester ’73, 1950; Bend of the River, 1952; The Naked Spur, 1953; The Far Country, 1954; and The Man From Laramie, 1955); an oil-drilling drama (Thunder Bay, 1953); a biopic (The Glenn Miller Story, 1954); and this love letter to the skies — an Air Force flick so successful that it helped increase recruitment by 25%. Indeed, it’s a stunningly filmed movie, using VistaVision technology to maximum effect.

As described by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, it was “far and away the most elaborate and impressive pictoral show of the beauty and organized power of the United States air arm that has yet been put upon the screen.”

Storywise, however, there’s a lot less going on. Allyson once again plays a put-upon ’50s housewife who nonetheless stands by her man despite not being allowed to know where he is half the time:

Other dramatic incidents include Stewart managing an engine fire requiring bail-out and a forced landing:

… and facing windstorms on a non-stop flight from MacDill AFB to Yokota Air Base while nursing an increasingly debilitating shoulder injury:

During this flight, we’re also treated to spectacular footage of mid-air refueling:

Stewart was perfectly cast in the lead role; according to Wikipedia, he:

“… had been a B-17 instructor pilot, a B-24 squadron commander, and a bomb group operations officer, completing 20 combat missions. At the time of filming, Stewart, much like the character he portrays, was also a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, serving with the Strategic Air Command when on duty and at the time was qualified as a pilot on the B-47.”

Talk about serendipity! Clearly, this film will appeal to those who enjoy plenty of air action, but it’s not must-see viewing for all-purpose film fanatics.

Note: It’s been pointed out that Stanley Kubrick may have been influenced by some of the footage here when conceiving of Dr. Strangelove (1964):

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine VistaVision cinematography

Must See?
No, unless you’re a fan of such films.


One thought on “Strategic Air Command (1955)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Yes, there’s not much here in terms of drama (except the little that’s pointed out above). This film will appeal mainly to those with a fascination with the history of aviation (combined to a degree with military maneuvers).

Leave a Reply