Cagney Slumming Before "Yankee Doodle"
John McElwee | North Carolina USA | 03/03/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This was a project held in more or less utter contempt by it's star---one more justification for Cagney's decision to bail out of Warners for greener independent pastures."I didn't like this story the last four times I did it,and I don't like it now",said he when exec producer Hal Wallis proposed "Captains"---patriotic considerations may have persuaded him,and the fact it would be his first in Technicolor.This one is a must-see,or rather a must-have.It's Cagney improv---he couldn't care less about the story and doesn't care if we know it.When he's bored with dialogue(often),he breaks into Yiddish--in one scene,hapless Alan Hale's walking across the room and Cagney trips him(you can tell Hale didn't see it coming).Jim was pushing 43 when he made this,so there is at least tacit script recognition of his character's age---still,he's surrounded by an elderly lot of sidekicks---Reginald Gardiner,George Tobias,the aforementioned Alan Hale---these four are like a roving band of vaudevillians in the Canadian wild---one can imagine the group of them whiling away location hours singing "the old songs" Cagney loved so dearly.And,oh yes,they sing in the picture too.Other endearing moments---an extended night club sequence with chorous girls and a rousing rendition of the title song---wonderful! ---were there really clubs like this during the war?---if so,I was born too late.Let's not forget Brenda Marshall---so cold and passionless in "The Sea Hawk"---not here! She's a revelation---hot,sexy,ruthless---I love it when Cagney gives her the pay-off in their "honeymoon" suite---she rips open that cash envelope like a tigress---wowzers!---too bad she dumped the career when she married Bill Holden.There's not much combat in "Captains"---mostly aerial training stuff,but it's fascinating---and the gorgeous color really sugars it up.Cagney made a big mistake when he ditched Warners---his great years were essentially over when he pulled out of Burbank---only "White Heat" lay ahead to remind us of the glory days."Captains Of The Clouds" is a curtain call for the old "fun" Cagney of the thirties---and as such,it's a keeper."
One of my Favorite James Cagney Films
gobirds2 | New England | 11/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of my favorite James Cagney films because it somehow manages to intertwine an intricate plot into a very simple and patriotic story. More important however, it relies on one of my favorite film themes, that of the protagonist (Cagney) not making the transition from one era of personal glory into the next era where he becomes a stranger in his own world which has changed all around him. This film got two Academy Awards nominations for Interior Decoration (Ted Smith - Art Direction, Casey Roberts - Interior Decoration) and Color Cinematography (Sol Polito). Director Michael Curtiz visually does an excellent job with this script. It starts off in the beautifully filmed Canadian wilderness with Cagney in his usual reckless tough guy form. These early images stand for the strong individual nature of James Cagney's character Brian MacLean that is in itself based on the Cagney mystique. Gradually, MacLean and the other two main characters Johnny Dutton (Dennis Morgan) and Emily Foster (Brenda Marshall) make gradual transitions to reveal personality growth, stagnation and hidden revelations. This is a wartime film made in 1942 and the film intertwines the plot with patriotic sentiment quite nicely but stresses the practicality of creating and maintaining a proficient and professional military force if the job is to get done. The entire cast is wonderful and includes Alan Hale, George Tobias and Gig Young. Composer Max Steiner also once again turns in an insightful and intelligent score. There are some great flying scenes full of bravado, daring do and just plain out foolhardiness with Cagney leading his cronies in and out of the doghouse. This is a very entertaining film."
Ralph Demasi | NY | 06/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are a pilot or aviation buff,then you have to own this one.I really enjoyed watching this movie,the scenery,the planes and James Cagney was himself,just like his other movies,fast talking and fun to watch,so if you are looking for an interesting and colorful movie with great looking airplanes,then this is for you."
Old-Fashioned But Interesting History Lesson
Edward R. Strelow | san jacinto, ca United States | 06/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is definitely a period piece, but well-done and in color as well. It would be of most interest to film buffs but it deals with some interesting history as well.
I write this partly from the perspective of a family interest in the Commonwealth Air Training program which is the focus of the last half of the film and which has many shots of the real personnel. I hoped that I might see my father in this (but didn't). This program was the major source of aircrew for the British Allies, and since the US didn't enter the war until late 1941, and Western Europe was defeated or collaborating, that's all there were fighting the Nazis for quite some time.
It was interesting to see the real Billy Bishop, the WWI Canadian fighter ace and then Marshall of the Air Force addressing actual graduating cadets who hailed from all over the world, not just the old Commonwealth, and included many Americans who volunteered before the US entered the war. It was sobering to realize that these young men were probably in combat by the time the film was released and that some were already dead.
As a plane buff it was great to see the old planes, in large quantity on actual air bases.
This is an early technicolor film and the dvd transfer is of good visual quality. The photography over the Northern Ontario lakes is very scenic. The sound is ok but they didn't have Dolby or even stereo then, did they.
Cagne is an acquired taste which I never acquired. Still he jumps off the screen as a character actor and dominates every scene he is in. With regard to his dislike of the role, the biography of Hal Wallis, the producer, makes no mention of this and Wallis was usually frank about his problems with stars. I couldn't find the Yiddish part but he put on an over-the-top Irish accent as he flew near Ireland.
There are some good extras on the dvd as well."