A Yank In The R.A.F. (1941)
Cocky and brash, looking every inch a movie star, Tyrone Power arrives in Canada delivering a new plane marked for shipment to England to fight the German war machine. Once again under Darryl F. Zanuck’s production factory at Fox, Power finds himself getting the star treatment when he accepts a healthy offer from the Royal Canadian Air Force to fly fighter planes overseas. No sooner does he arrive in England and he’s chasing skirts. When he spots a set of million dollar legs belonging to Betty Grable he’s hooked and has little interest in returning to North America.
Grable is on assignment as a nurse in the military who just happens to be moonlighting as the star attraction at a local nightclub. Turns out she and Ty have a past together. Former lovers, she thought she had gotten over the good looking guy with the roving eye. Far from it and Ty is pressing hard to win her back. Into the story comes John Sutton allowing director Henry King to present us with the classic love triangle plot device as a backdrop to this romantic flavored tale of WW2.
With Ty staying on in England, he joins up with R.A.F. and finds himself as a trainee under Sutton’s command. In no time at all, the duo quickly find they are vying for the affections of the beautiful Miss Grable. Sutton seems to be the stable choice of the two while Ty is the one with the devil may care attitude that Grable just can’t leave behind. Sutton is pushing hard and even Ty isn’t so sure he has Grable at his beck and call anymore.
With a war raging above England’s skies, it’s back to the action part of our plot that sees pilot friends of our leading men going down in flames to remind us all that war isn’t all about skirt chasing flyers partying it up night after night. There’s even a vignette where Ty and John’s plane goes down in enemy territory and they have to fight their way back across the lines. Truthfully, this might have made for a better story had it been fleshed out into a plot of it’s own with a few flashbacks of Grable thrown in.
This seems to be a rather uneven picture and thrown together to ensure there’s another Tyrone Power picture available to the masses who frequented movie houses during the great war. The fact is the film was released before the United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Plenty of studio films were in production lending support to the war effort by allowing the scripts to portray other countries in heroic detail who were currently embroiled in the conflict. In this case it’s Canada and England.
The tone of the film is offset due to the romantic interludes of having the familiar story of two enlisted men in love with the same woman. It tries to hard to mix light frothy scenes with the realities of the fighter planes and their pilots going off to war with the threat of death hanging over them. The fact that Ty plays a rather obnoxious character which he was prone to do makes one have to wonder what Grable is thinking when rejecting the steady comforting shoulder of the not so terrible looking John Sutton in the Ralph Bellamy role. Sorry Ralph.
Tyrone once again is under the direction of Henry King who seemed to helm every second release during Ty’s career. Teamings include Jesse James, The Black Swan, and The Sun Also Rises among so many titles. Unlike some of their technicolor adventures as in The Captain From Castile, this is strictly a black and white affair that if one looks closely during the credit sequence you’ll see the name Ronald Neame listed as a camera operator during flying sequences. Neame would himself go on to a career in directing giving us the best of the seventies disaster flicks, The Poseidon Adventure. It should also be noted that the special effects department do themselves proud during the set ups of some epic land and air battles during the film’s collision of the countries at war.
Out on DVD if you are inclined to collect the films of Betty and Ty.