Shadow in The Sky (1952)
This “B” melodrama from MGM features two actors that I have always tuned into when given the chance. Ralph Meeker and James Whitmore.
Ralph and James are brothers who served together during WW2. Whitmore has moved on to married life with two children while Meeker has had difficulties adjusting to everyday life and finds himself institutionalized in a hospital for veterans. He seems perfectly normal other than having a short temper. Problems begin when it rains and he finds himself repeatedly having flashbacks to the battle zones that his mind replays.
When his doctor suggests he would be better suited to home life, Whitmore and his wife played by Nancy Davis(Reagan) don’t feel comfortable with an unstable mind living in their home with 2 small children. With the help of nurse Jean Hagen and a possible romance, Meeker slowly adjusts to the point where he is welcomed to his brothers home but it’s a process to find himself.
Tension runs high as Davis can’t bring herself to fully trust Meeker around her children. Her role is not a sympathetic one as written and it’s hard to like her in this film. Whitmore must face the guilt of having the same feelings despite owing his life to Meeker from a heroic act during the war that led to his unstable mental state.
Like most “B” films this one has a short running time of 78 minutes. By the one hour mark we’re sure to face a dramatic highpoint which will lead the film to it’s fadeout and what would appear to be a future filled with hope for Meeker and family.
This above average time filler was directed by Fred M. Wilcox who only helmed a small handful of films including two fondly remembered titles, Lassie Come Home and Forbidden Planet.
Nancy Reagan was just embarking on her short film career and would of course take a back seat to her future hubbies political career but not before making one film together in 1957, Hellcats of the Navy.
James Whitmore is an actor that I have a great respect for when I look at the roles he played and for the length of time he appeared in both film and television . He strikes me as one of those actors it’s practically impossible not to like. His career like his costars was relatively new at the time of this film and he would go back and forth between both villains and men to be respected over the following fifty plus years.
During the early part of the fifties, Ralph Meeker strikes me as a poor man’s Brando. I don’t mean that as a disrespectful comment either. He’ll always be the screen’s Mike Hammer to me. He had the new breed of actor style about him and seemed to have that cutting edge appeal during this era of his career. Once the decade ended he never seemed to find the same gritty roles in the sixties and settled into character roles and slowed his output down in the seventies.
This one turns up occasionally on TCM and it’s worth a look. It also offers a chance to see the two men just starting out on their successful film careers.