Keep Your Eyes on the Skies

December 17, 1941

New York Times

It is altogether fitting—and highly commendable, too —that the studio which gave us “The Story of Louis Pasteur” and “Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet” should turn attention at this time to an experimental branch of medicine which is making remarkable strides and which is of tremendous importance to our preparations for defense. And this the Warners are doing in “Dive Bomber,” yesterday’s arrival at the Strand, which is less about dive bombing than it is about aviation medicine, less about the fellows who fight in airplanes than it is about the surgeons who fight the strange and unpredictable ailments that attack a flying man high in the blue. For its oddly dramatic subject and its most extraordinarily colorful contents, “Dive Bomber” takes the palm as the best of the new “service films” to date.

Colorful, indeed, is the word which should be most clearly emphasized, for not only do the modern experiments in aviation medicine, elaborately detailed herein, have unique and fascinating pictorial interest, but the Warners have photographed this picture in some of the most magnificent technicolor yet seen. And, naturally, they have not forgotten to turn the cameras often upon masses of brilliantly colored planes, ranked in impressive rows about an air base or upon the huge flight decks of carriers, and roaring in silver majesty, wing to wing, through the limitless West Coast skies.

Never before has an aviation film been so vivid in its images, conveyed such a sense of tangible solidity when it is showing us solid things or been so full of sunlight and clean air when the cameras are aloft. Except for a few badly matched shots, the job is well nigh perfect. And the story? Well, again we face a necessary evil. Frank Wead and Robert Buckner, who contrived the fanciful tale, were laboring under the old Hollywood notion that no man can be a hero (or a genius) without first being misunderstood. And they have made this a universal rule. Thus their young naval surgeon, around whom the story is built, is originally misunderstood by a couple of pilots whose injured pal irretrievably dies under his knife. Then the young surgeon, inspired to take up aviation medicine because of this, misunderstands the older doctor under whom he is placed for instruction. A new recruit for naval training is misunderstood by almost every one. And it takes the devil of a lot of brawling and passing of dirty looks before these fellows all get together to experiment in harmony on means to prevent the unconsciousness which comes at the end of a power dive and the deadly sickness which attacks pilots at high altitudes. When they do get down to business, however, it is fascinating to watch them work, and their experiments in pressure chambers and in the air are more exciting than any fights.

Naturally—or, perhaps, inevitably—there has to be a touch of self-sacrifice, and this comes at the end of the picture, rather patly but without too much offense. And, to the credit of the writers, it must be said that they have trimmed romantic dalliance to the core. A female is dragged into the picture only long enough to assure Errol Flynn of holding his franchise as a wolf. For it is Mr. Flynn who plays the young surgeon, and he does so with his usual elegance, looking very dashing and romantic in a variety of uniforms and behaving with solemn dignity in moments of stress. Fred MacMurray and Regis Toomey play a couple of hard-bitten, old-line pilots credibly, and Ralph Bellamy gives a serious, impressive performance as an older doctor. In the few glimpses we have of her, Alexis Smith looks good; can’t tell you yet how she acts. But chief credit for the glory that’s in this picture goes to the United States Navy, which cooperated in its production, and to the fellows who aimed the cameras. They collectively gave it powerful and steady wings.

DIVE BOMBER; screen play by Frank Wead and Robert Buckner; from a story by Frank Wead; directed by Michael Curtiz for Warner Brothers. At the Strand. Doug Lee . . . . . Errol Flynn Joe Blake . . . . . Fred MacMurray Dr. Lance Rogers . . . . . Ralph Bellamy Linda Fisher . . . . . Alexis Smith Art Lyons . . . . . Robert Armstrong Tim Griffin . . . . . Regis Toomey Lucky James . . . . . Allen Jenkins John Thomas Anthony . . . . . Craig Stevens Chubby . . . . . Herbert Anderson Sr. Surgeon at San Diego . . . . . Moroni Olsen Mrs. James . . . . . Dennie Moore Swede Larson . . . . . Louis Jean Heydt Corps Man . . . . . Cliff Nazarro

— Tim

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