Flying Leathernecks

Screening on Film
Directed by Nicholas Ray.
With John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Don Taylor.
US, 1951, 35mm, color, 102 min.
Print source: Warner Bros.

Under contract to Howard Hughes at RKO, Ray was assigned to direct a film celebrating the glories of aviation and the U.S. Air Force, a directive he fulfilled by seamlessly blending staged flying sequences with documentary footage of WWII aerial combat from the military archives. In his first Technicolor film, Ray demonstrates a striking mastery of the technology, favoring a subtle, muted color scheme to complement the film’s somber tone. Starring Ray’s friend and frequent collaborator Robert Ryan as a WWII-era Marine flyer who clashes with his superior officer, played by an ornery John Wayne, Flying Leathernecks hints at the critique of machismo bravura offered by his later films, with its close-up look at the difficult decisions faced by superior officers when they must send their men off to battle.

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