DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
ABOVE AND BEYOND (director/writer: Melvin Frank/Norman Panama; screenwriter: based on a story by Beirne Lay Jr.; cinematographer: Ray June; editor: Cotton Warburton; music: Andre Previn; cast: Robert Taylor (Colonel Paul Tibbets), Eleanor Parker (Lucey Tibbets), James Whitmore (Major Uanna), Larry Keating (Major General Vernon C. Brent), Robert Burton (General Roberts), Larry Gates (Captain Parsons), Marilyn Erskine (Marge Bratton), Stephen Dunne (Maj. Harry Bratton, Co-pilot B-29 tests), Jim Backus (Gen. Curtis E. LeMay); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Melvin Frank/Norman Panama; MGM; 1952)

 
"Spirited flag-waver about doing a controversial mission beyond one's duty."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Spirited flag-waver about doing a controversial mission beyond one's duty. It's written and directed by the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama ("Knock on Wood"/"Callaway Went Thataway"/"Strictly Dishonorable"), who adapted it from Beirne Lay Jr.'s story. The film obediently follows the trials and tribulations of test pilot Col. Paul Tibbets (Robert Taylor), chosen to drop the first A-bomb over Hiroshima, Japan, during WW II, flying the newly developed B-29 bomber in a mission perceived by the American government as a necessity to end the war even if it inflicts heavy damage on civilians. 

In real-life, Tibbets piloted the Enola Gay over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Though the film is cut and dry and the added subplot dramatics are mostly ineffective, it nevertheless raised a timely moral question at the time that still remains relevant.

Once selected for this important mission by General Brent (Larry Keating), Tibbetts leaves North Africa and trains in Wichita and then is assigned to a secluded top-secret site in Wendover, Utah. He's allowed to pick his own crew. For security reasons, he's forced to keep his mission a closely guarded secret, even from his loving, long-suffering wife Lucey (Eleanor Parker), who remains at home in Washington, D.C. to give birth to their second child. 

The docudrama more or less accurately covers in detail the strains the mission put on Tibbets and his family, and offers a sympathetic account of his struggles during training and with his personal life. Taylor has his heart in this film and gives one of his better career performances. 

REVIEWED ON 9/5/2009       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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