Randolph Scott and Pat O’Brien star in this war film as competing army officers. The picture is set before the U.S. enters WWII. O’Brien is Major Chick Davis, the champion of a new highly secret device: a bomb sight. Scott plays Captain Buck Oliver, an old fashioned “by the seat of his pants” pilot who doesn’t trust the new device. He prefers dive bombing his targets. BOMBARDIER is a fictionalized take on the Dolittle raid(the ending) over Tokyo.
The two men engage in a sort of duel of competing techniques as they attack a large raft. O’Brien wins the day of course and a bombardier school is opened at an air field owned by Burton(Anne Shirley) and Tom(an impossibly young Eddie Arnold) Hughes, the children of an famous pilot during the Great War.
The film is told documentary style with small individual stories within: a training plane fouls up and the crew bails but for two men. The Eddie Arnold character refuses to bail out, preferring to ride the plane down. The Ryan character stays aboard until they manage to free the automatic pilot. A German spy tries to buy the bomb sight and gets arrested. A half Mexican trainee flirts with a pretty young girl in the secretary pool.
O’Brien is somewhat of a misogynistic man, not liking to be around women, stripping the office of Burton Hughes of anything that smacks of femininity, though he’s stuck with her because it is her office. He eventually falls under her spell as well and ends up competing with scott for her affections. A death and separation screws up one relationship and O’Brien is refused marriage because he’s too much like her father.
There was a large number of errors sprinkled throughout the film. The bulk of the action takes place before the war though the bombers carried marking only used from 1942 through ’45. A flare hung on the plane is constantly said to be caught on the tail fin, though the action shows it on the rear wheel. The parachute is shown flapping wildly but the flare itself is fixed and unmoving.
One of four films produced by Hollywood during the war with a similar theme and pretty much of a propaganda tool.
A personal comment> It was hard to picture, for me anyway, Randolph Scott as a modern American soldier. He’s famously known for his many fine westerns and I couldn’t divorce myself from those images as I watched the movie. That’s entirely my problem though.