Original film poster
|Directed by||Gordon Douglas|
|Produced by||Richard Whorf|
|Written by||Irving Wallace|
|Story by||Sam Rolfe|
Efrem Zimbalist Jr
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Cinematography||William H. Clothier|
|Edited by||Thomas Reilly|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Bombers B-52 is a 1957 Warner Bros. CinemaScope film starring Natalie Wood, Karl Malden, Marsha Hunt and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and directed by Gordon Douglas, It was adapted from a Sam Rolfe story by screenwriter Irving Wallace. Leonard Rosenman composed the film score. Bombers B-52 concerns the introduction of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber into the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the dilemma of a respected and experienced mechanic having to choose between the importance of life in the U.S. Air Force or making a large amount of money in civilian life.
The Strategic Air Command is about to introduce the B-52 Stratofortress bomber as its primary manned strategic weapon. Stationed at 329th Bomb Squadron, Castle Air Force Base, California, twenty-year United States Air Force (USAF) veteran Master Sergeant Chuck Brennan (Karl Malden) dislikes his commanding officer, the "hotshot" Lieutenant Colonel Jim Herlihy (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.). Brennan has not trusted Herlihy since an incident in the Korean War. This career-long problem interferes with flight operations and aircraft support. When Herlihy starts dating Brennan's daughter Lois (Natalie Wood), tensions grow. Brennan demands his daughter break off the relationship.
Brennan, Herlihy and others try to solve all the technical problems that plague the introduction of the B-52. On one top-secret test flight to Africa, after being refueled mid-air, a control panel short-circuits, causing a fire. Herlihy orders everyone to bail out and ejects Brennan when he refuses. After safely landing the burning bomber at Castle AFB, Herlihy sends out search parties who recover all of the crew successfully except for Brennan. Following a hunch, Herlihy eventually finds the mechanic who is severely injured, and airlifts him from remote back country by helicopter to a hospital. Realizing that he was wrong about Herlihy who risked his life to bring him home, Brennan accepts that his daughter and his commanding officer should reunite. Eventually Brennan also has to choose between a high-paying civilian job and when told that his discharge papers are ready, he decides to continue his career in the USAF that he loves.
- Natalie Wood as Lois Brennan
- Karl Malden as Master Sergeant Chuck V. Brennan, Line Chief
- Marsha Hunt as Edith Brennan
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Lieutenant Colonel Jim Herlihy, Commanding Officer 329th Bomber Squadron
- Don Kelly as Master Sergeant Darren McKine
- Nelson Leigh as Brigadier General Wayne Acton, Commanding Officer Castle Air Force Base
- Robert Nichols as Wilbur "Brooklyn" Stuart
- Ray Montgomery as Barnes
- Robert Hover as Simpson (as Bob Hover)
Bombers B-52 was filmed with full cooperation of the USAF at Castle and March Air Force Bases in California, where examples of Boeing B-47 Stratojet bombers, North American F-86 Sabre fighters and B-52s were stationed. During production, Natalie Wood was named "Sweetheart of Castle Air Force Base."
The first choice for the lead was Tab Hunter who turned it down as he was tired of military roles. The prolific writer, Irving Wallace wrote a "racy" screenplay; one of the working titles was No Sleep till Dawn (which was used for a UK release). The screenplay was later the subject of a 1980s exposé of sexual innuendo by a film historian.
Reviews of Bombers B-52 mainly focused on the aerial scenes, which during the Cold war era, did project a near-propaganda effort, using many period aircraft to depict the era faithfully. The review in The New York Times was mildly laudatory, describing it as a "frank tribute to Air Force nuclear power, laced together with a familiar service feud ... Irving Wallace's dialogue is excellent. Furthermore, his unpretentious scenario is credible and persuasive in training sequences and especially in the hearth scenes." The performances of the leads was also considered "natural." Overall, the The New York Times critic thought "'Bombers B-52' is not [terrific], but it could have been much, much worse." Variety gushed that it was "magnificently mounted, with breathtaking scenes of the new B-52s," while Time magazine more aptly characterized Bombers B-52 as a "$1,400,000 want ad for Air Force technicians." In other reviews, the dichotomy of a 19-year-old Natalie Wood, being courted by 40-year-old Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was noted as well as the attempt to portray a contemporary, if tepid love story.
- Fristoe, Roger. "Article: Bombers B-52." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 29, 2012.
- Hunter and Muller 2005, p. 147.
- Leverence 1974, pp. 233–234.
- Maltin 2009, p. 158.
- "'Bombers B-52'; Film at Paramount Stars Karl Malden." The New York Times, November 23, 1957.
- Hunter, Tab and Eddie Muller. Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. New York: Algonquin Books, 2005. ISBN 978-1565124660.
- Leverence, John. Irving Wallace: A Writer's Profile. Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press 1, 1974. ISBN 978-0879720636.
- Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.