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Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Tino

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Title: Twelve O'Clock High (1949)

Tagline: A story of twelve men as their women never knew them...

Genre: War, Action, Drama

Director: Henry King

Cast: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell, Dean Jagger, Robert Arthur, Paul Stewart, John Kellogg, Robert Patten, Lee MacGregor, Sam Edwards, Roger Anderson, Lawrence Dobkin, Paul Picerni, Harry Lauter, Barry Jones, Don Gordon, Kenneth Tobey

Release: 1949-12-21

Runtime: 132

Plot: In this story of the early days of daylight bombing raids over Germany, General Frank Savage must take command of a "hard luck" bomber group. Much of the story deals with his struggle to whip his group into a disciplined fighting unit in spite of heavy losses, and withering attacks by German fighters over their targets. --KC Hunt




What an absolutely amazing powerful film.

Watched it for the first time after picking it up on iTunes for $4.99.

This classic WW II film about the 914 bomber group led by Gregory Peck (in an Oscar nominated performance) leading a group of young men on bombing missions is perhaps my favorite WW II film.

It is an emotional psychological examination on the effects of war on soldiers and generals. As relevant today as it was 70 years ago.

Directed by Henry King and also featuring an Oscar winning performance by Dean Jagger in a supporting role, it use authentic war footage to tell the amazing story of these men and their mission.

Emotional, powerful and deeply personal 12 O’Clock High is a masterpiece.
 
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Tino

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No fans of this great film? Crawdaddy? Josh?
 

Peter Apruzzese

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It's a terrific movie. I first remember seeing it as a teenager on New York TV back in the 70s and liked it, but as I've grown older movies like it (and Best Years of Our Lives and many others) have increasing emotional resonance for me. The cast is superb and I think the framing device is perfectly done. I have the Fox Blu-ray, which is very nice.
 

Tino

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have the Fox Blu-ray, which is very nice.
I bought the Fox Blu Ray two years ago. After buying the digital copy I tore my house apart looking for it. No luck. So I bought it again yesterday. Want to dig thru those extras and the commentary.
 

Mark-P

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No fans of this great film? Crawdaddy? Josh?
I'm a fan. It's a great movie. I've got it on Blu-ray. They also did a good job remixing the soundtrack to 5.1, but the original mono is there as well.
I bought the Fox Blu Ray two years ago. After buying the digital copy I tore my house apart looking for it. No luck. So I bought it again yesterday. Want to dig thru those extras and the commentary.
Yikes. Your collection may be even more unwieldy than mine if you can actually lose discs in your house!
 

Robert Crawford

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No fans of this great film? Crawdaddy? Josh?
Sorry, I missed your post this morning, but I spent time away from the forum watching movies. One of my favorite WW II films with great acting performances throughout the film. Just a great film!
 
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Robert Crawford

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It's a terrific movie. I first remember seeing it as a teenager on New York TV back in the 70s and liked it, but as I've grown older movies like it (and Best Years of Our Lives and many others) have increasing emotional resonance for me. The cast is superb and I think the framing device is perfectly done. I have the Fox Blu-ray, which is very nice.
I grew up watching the TV series in the 1960s that was based on this film. Of course, the film is much better, but I watched the TV series first before finally seeing the film while in junior high school.
 

Race Bannon

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I'm a huge fan of this film (and of the Mighty 8th in general). This film was used for leadership training when I was becoming an Air Force officer. I found out later they also used it for my Dad (who trained in the 60's to be an Air Force pilot).

The subtle ways it captures all the different kinds of leadership, heroism, sacrifice and brotherhood. It's real, it contains truth.

I participate in an annual board game convention at which there is an all-day game called B-17. It's just a dice game (an Avalon Hill game from the 70's), but it takes me back and I feel like I'm on one of those missions, determined to bring my bird home with crew safe and sound.
 

Flashgear

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It's no wonder that 12 O'clock High has the authenticity it has. Thanks to the film makers genuine determination to be true to the book itself, which was of course written by two 8th Air Force veterans (Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay jr.) who witnessed and based the story on real men who lived and suffered the events depicted in the story. The basis of the story as depicted in the film as the "918th" bomb group was drawn from the experiences and personnel of the actual 306th bomb group, and accurately follows the real life drama from about August 1942 to August 1943. The characters played by nearly the entire cast are based on actual individuals or composites of actual 306th bomb group flight crew and executive staff. "General Frank Savage", as played by Gregory Peck, was based on a composite of at least 3 known individuals, but primarily on Col. Frank Armstrong. Some historians have suggested that film star and actual 8th Air Force combat veteran James Stewart is one of the elements who inspired the character of General Savage. Author Beirne Lay flew with James Stewart later in the war and was indeed shot down on a mission in May 1944 that James Stewart led. Beirne Lay had also flown on the brutal Regensburg mission of August 17, 1943 which is the climatic combat trauma that
triggers General Savage's nervous breakdown in the story.

From information contained in the excellent book, The 12 O'clock High Logbook by Allan T. Duffin and Paul Matheis (BearManor Media 2005), the characters in the film are drawn from these real life characters:

General Savage (Gregory Peck): a composite drawn mostly from Col. Frank Armstrong, but with elements of General Newton Longfellow, Curtis LeMay and perhaps James Stewart himself. Along with important personal insights of Beirne Lay drawn from his own memories. Frank Armstrong would only command the 306th for about six weeks before
he succumbed to battle fatigue and was relieved of flying duties on Feb. 17, 1943.

Colonel Davenport (as played by Gary Merrill) is definitely based on Colonel Charles Overacker, who was relieved of command of the 306th by Frank Armstrong on January 4, 1943.

Major Stovall (Dean Jagger who won the Oscar for this role) is a composite of several 306th headquarters staff, including co-author Sy Bartlett himself who informed this character from his own memories.

General Pritchard (Millard Mitchell) is definitely 8th Air Force commander Ira Eaker.

Col. Ben Gately (Hugh Marlowe) is a composite, but mostly based on Col. Claude Putnam who succeeded Frank Armstrong as commander of the 306th.

Sgt. McIllhenny (Robert Arthur) based on Sgt. Donald Bevan who received widespread publicity as a heroic "stowaway" when he volunteered at the last moment to substitute for an ill gunner on a mission on Dec. 12, 1942 and was credited with shooting down four attacking German fighters.

Major "Doc" Kaiser (Paul Stewart) is definitely based on 306th bomb group flight surgeon Dr. Thurman Shuller.

Major Cobb (John Kellog) is definitely based on Col. Paul Tibbets, yes, the very same guy who later dropped the Atomic bomb on Hiroshima to end WW2.

Lt. Bishop (Robert Patten) is definitely based on John "Red" Morgan who was awarded the medal of honor for his epic heroism on the Hannover mission of July 26, 1943... that is the basis, though out of chronology, of the famous B-17 belly landing staged by stunt pilot Paul Mantz in the movie.

General Savage's fictional B-17 mount for the Regensburg mission, Piccadilly Lilly, Beirne Lay's actual aircraft on Aug. 17, 1943, would in reality be lost with all hands in a mid air collision with a German FW190 over Bremen on Oct. 8, 1943, while with the 100th group. Wouldn't you know it? The pilot was flying his 24th mission, hoping to soon go home after the then magic "25th" (later increased to a nearly impossible 35 missions in 1944).

Beirne Lay survived being shot down on his mission of May 11, 1944. He was hidden by French civilians and successfully evaded capture by the Germans. James Stewart wrongly blamed himself for the loss of Lay's B-24...an unavoidable loss on a low altitude bombing mission against V-1 rocket launch sites and against murderous flak. But that is another insight as to Jimmy Stewart's own sterling integrity and compassion for his men...a star in real life as well as movies!

Oscar winning film star and combat veteran James Stewart was hospitalized in early March 1944 for his combat fatigue...he had recently led 3 epic maximum effort deep penetration raids during the famous "Big Week" of late February 1944...each one with high losses against furious German opposition...he had his breaking point too...but would return to action soon enough...again, such heroes as these...

Beirne Lay wrote a celebrated account of his experiences on the tragic and epic Regensburg mission in the Saturday Evening Post of Nov. 6, 1943. Sy Bartlett returned to his pre-war job as a Hollywood screenwriter and together they produced the immortal 1948 best selling novel that Darryl Zanuck scooped up for the classic Oscar lauded feature film.

Flight surgeon Dr. Thurman Shuller in a top secret report to Col. Frank Armstrong on April 21, 1943: "aircrews are on the verge of a complete psychological breakdown"...such heroes, nevertheless, pushed on...never to be turned back from any target in the whole history of the Mighty 8th Air Force...
 
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Tino

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Great informative post. It does contain a few spoilers if you haven’t seen the film tho.

Like this one.

which is the climatic combat trauma that triggers General Savage's nervous breakdown in the story.[\spoiler]
 
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Tino

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From information contained in the excellent book, The 12 O'clock High Logbook by Allan T. Duffin and Paul Matheis (BearManor Media 2005), the characters in the film are drawn from these real life characters:
I bought the kindle version of this book immediately after watching the film. Excellent book.
 

Tino

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This disc appears to be out of print. Sad.
Still available thru third party sellers. Maybe a new version is coming out.
29E0FD21-3FEC-45A8-8049-B2AE50D53466.png
 

Robert Crawford

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Let's remember that Disney now controls this Fox title so I seriously doubt it regarding another BD release.
 

Nelson Au

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Tino, thanks for the link from the Memphis Belle thread to this thread!

I watched Twelve O’Clock High last night, I had not seen it in probably 2 decades on either the laserdisc or DVD release. I do remember seeing it even before that as a kid. So it was like seeing it for the first time as it’s been so long! I’d forgotten the details of the film and characters, but I did remember the ending situation with Savage. As it started, I did suddenly have a recollection of the Toby Jug when they show it at the officer’s club. This is a really good movie! Well made and acted.

I was impressed how engrossing the movie was for the first hour given there was no aerial action. How Savage is trying to fix the squadron was way more engaging then I expected. Then how second half develops was very satisfying.

Afterwards, I did watch the William Wyler film, The Memphis Belle, the story of a Flying Fortress documentary that was filmed in 1943. I watched the restored version from The Cold Blue blu ray. That was very impressive footage and impressive image quality and in color too. Though odd at first to hear the new soundtrack with surround. But it worked for me.

Speaking of the Tony Jug, I’m a bit of a movie prop fan. So when there’s something if interest from a film or TV show, I like to learn more about it or try to get a replica or the actual item if it’s an item that is a real item. I did a quick search this morning and it appears the Toby Jug was of interest to other fans too! One guy went so far as to develop and make replicas since he couldn’t find one. In the 1990’s he got a license from Fox to make and sell them. From what I can see, he did a very nice job recreating it.

I see this blu ray is now going for $65 on Amazon. I’m glad I bought it before this happened.

And also, I remember the Quinn Martin TV series 12 O’Clock High from 1964-1967, if I recall the dates correctly. I don’t see that available.

83471C3B-BC35-4F96-ABCC-E944A545D961.jpeg 9CE0ADE0-7DBF-484C-BD25-FAB92D72F717.jpeg
 
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skylark68

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I've always viewed this along with Command Decision with Gable. It's an interesting double punch about daylight bombardment in WW2. I wish WB would release that one on blu-ray, the DVD is from the infamous lot of DVD's that are notorious for failure (I've gone through two copies that both failed).
 
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