Monday, October 06, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Task Force (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

TASK FORCE (1949) is a very good film about the origins of the U.S. aircraft carrier program, written and directed by Delmer Daves and starring Gary Cooper. It's available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

In an opening which strongly calls to mind the beginning of the later Naval film THE GALLANT HOURS (1960), Jonathan Scott (Cooper) is relinquishing command of his ship and retiring from the U.S. Navy after over a quarter-century of service.

Scott's life is portrayed in flashback, beginning when he was a brash young pilot in the '20s trying to land on a very primitive aircraft carrier. Over the years Scott's strong advocacy for aircraft carriers and Navy pilots at times gets him in trouble with those who prefer the Navy budget be spent elsewhere.

The second half of the film focuses on Pearl Harbor and Scott's experiences during WWII. He has the chance to make the case for a large fleet of aircraft carriers in Washington, and his dream is finally realized.

This is a top-flight Warner Bros. production, with Cooper and Walter Brennan heading a cast of Warner Bros. stalwarts including Bruce Bennett, John Ridgely, and Wayne Morris (who in real life was a decorated WWII flying ace). The stars of the film are excellent, with Cooper a very appealing lead, but I find it even more satisfying watching pros like Bennett and Ridgely in strong support; Ridgely in particular has become a real favorite of mine. It's a terrific cast.

Jane Wyatt plays Cooper's supportive wife, with beautiful young Julie London as her relative, who marries Morris. The supporting cast also includes Jack Holt, Moroni Olsen, Stanley Ridges, Kenneth Tobey and Basil Ruysdael.

The score was composed by Franz Waxman, with cinematography by Robert Burks and Wilfrid Cline.

The only thing that causes me to describe this 116-minute film as "very good" rather than "excellent" is that it goes on a bit too long and loses its narrative drive in the final 20 minutes.

Whereas most of the film was shot in black and white, the final reel was done in Technicolor, and the filmmakers get a bit too carried away trying to squeeze in every bit of Technicolor battle footage they possibly can. Too much documentary footage, while the story peters out as the war draws to a close.

Other than that quibble, this is an engrossing, very worthwhile film which I enjoyed a great deal. Anyone who enjoys aircraft carrier movies, as I do, will want to see TASK FORCE.

There are no extras on this fine-looking Warner Archive DVD.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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