The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

1955

Biography / Drama / War

2
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 62%
IMDb Rating 6.9 10 1939

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
August 08, 2021 at 05:00 PM

Director

Cast

Frank Wilcox as Maj. Tom
James Daly as Lt. Col. Herbert White
Gregory Walcott as Howard Millikan
Will Wright as Adm. William S. Sims
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
925.45 MB
1280*496
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 40 min
P/S 1 / 12
1.67 GB
1920*752
English 2.0
NR
24 fps
1 hr 40 min
P/S 3 / 9

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by theowinthrop 7 / 10

The Court Martial of an Aviation Visionary

In 1925 the U.S. Naval Air Force's major new piece of military hardware was a zeppelin that had been built in Germany at the end of the First World War, which was given to the U.S as a reparation, and renamed the U.S.S. Shenandoah. The craft had a crack team running it, and it had an excellent head, Commander Zachary Landowne. It was in fair demand around the country, for most people believed that the future of long distance air travel would be in airships, not airplanes. So the Navy brass frequently sent the Shenandoah on public relations flights, rather than using it for military purposes or long distance flights.

It was sent to Ohio where local politicians wanted to use the zeppelin to impress voters. Unfortunately, there was a storm front with heavy thundershowers in the path of the zeppelin, and the zeppelin had recently had some damage to a fin on it's tale. There had been no time to repair the damage. So when the zeppelin crossed into the storm front, the zeppelin was ripped apart by the winds and crashed killing Landsdowne and fourteen men.

Landsdowne's close friend, Brigadier General Billy Mitchell was exceptionally critical of the disaster. He blamed the politicians and military brass who ordered the flight. As Mitchell had been long a thorn in the side of these two groups, as he tried to push his views on air power and the need for a unified, strong air force, he was charged with insubordination and ordered to be court martial-ed.

Gary Cooper plays Mitchell well, as an honest, honorable man, who realizes that the future will be only safe for those who have a strong air arm. He is fighting old fashion ideas, mouthed by old fashioned army leaders like Fred Clark. He does have allies like his lawyer, a Congressman played by Ralph Bellamy, and like one of the judges (General Douglas MacArthur - who was the only one to vote for acquittal). But the issue goes down to the Mitchell's insubordination. And this leads to the dramatic high point, when Cooper is cross-examined by the malicious and clever Rod Steiger. Steiger is able to get Cooper to not only reveal his lack of respect for the brass but to reveal his mistrust of the Japanese. That he is correct in the long run does not save him - he is found guilty and suspended without pay from the army for five years.

Mitchell died in 1936, not in time to see his vindication five years later. But he is remembered now as the real founder of the modern American Air Force. The film is a pretty good retelling of his story, and reminds us how frequently a prophet is despised and rejected in his or her time.

Reviewed by lawprof 7 / 10

The Auto-Destruction of a Pioneer Air Power Visionary

Few who aren't students of the history of airpower today recognize the name of William "Billy" Mitchell. An early pilot in the U.S. Army's fledgling Air Corps, he served in World War I when no American-produced plane saw action above the trenches of France. Notwithstanding the Wright brother's initial breathtaking powered flight, by 1914 England, France and Germany were far ahead of us in not only aircraft design but also in fashioning tactics for a new kind of warfare.

Mitchell returned from the war not only a convert to the future of airpower but as a zealot advocating his prophecy to all who would listen (and to very many who didn't want to). The post-war Army suffered massive cutbacks. Mitchell reverted from brigadier general to his permanent rank of colonel, a more gentle demotion than many others experienced.

The Army's first postwar chief of staff was the only man ever to hold the rank of General of the Armies, John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. Pershing actually appreciated aviation's potential to a real degree but he faced a budget-cutting congress while leading an army with too many senior officers who dimly recalled fighting Indians from the saddle.

Mitchell was given the opportunity to sink the German war prize battleship "Ostfriesland." A rather foolish cabinet member offered to watch the aerial bombing from the warship's deck, so certain was he that the vessel couldn't be destroyed from the air. Fortunately for him his offer was not taken up.

Gary Cooper turns in a quietly passionate role as the Air Corps leader who did sink the "Ostfriesland." In the film he's shown disobeying war game rules and using one-ton bombs not approved for the exercise. That never happened. He went by the rules (that time). His and his pilots' achievements were dismissed, however, by battleship-loving admirals who claimed that the test was meaningless since the ship wasn't defending itself. Some Japanese observers were less sure that this was a valid analysis.

Gary Cooper's Billy Mitchell, despite deviations from the real story, is a remarkably accurate picture of a dedicated officer with unrestrained hubris whose public and volatile denunciations of Army and Navy superiors for numerous fatal crashes led to his then highly-publicized court-martial.

Ralph Bellamy as Congressman Frank Reid is Mitchell's chief counsel. A blistering but unreal cross-examination by the young Rod Steiger as MAJ Allan Gullion is the the dramatic high point of the film. It's something we expect from the courtroom genre. Mitchell is convicted of, in essence, disobedience, and is placed on a long-term suspended status (in reality the effective and actual termination of his military career without the continuing public interest that incarceration would have brought).

Cooper is strongly expressive while exuding a powerful sense of personal morality and duty as Mitchell defined that quality. That largely matches the real Mitchell.

As defense witnesses we see the young H.H. Arnold (to achieve five-star rank in World War II) and Carl Spaatz, a four-star architect of strategic bombing in the next war. These officers persevered in their dedication to birthing a powerful air force and they did it without losing their careers and thus their effectiveness (in that regard they mirrored young field grade officers such as George Patton and Dwight Eisenhower in their crusade to take the Army from the horse to the tank).

Cooper walks out of the film in civilian clothing, a slightly confused expression on his face. He should have been confused. For the remainder of his life, which ended before the war he predicted, he was essentially marginalized as aviation expanded and America slowly recognized the need to build a world class air force.

Overall, for historical accuracy "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell" is solid on the central story and fictional on the margins.

This DVD transfer, however, borders on dreadful. Colors are washed out and voice levels shift slightly over and over. But it's well worth watching.

7/10.

Reviewed by drdyer 9 / 10

Excellent Production

Too add to the comments already made in this database I would like to point out that viewers seem to forget that the testimony in the film by Major Hap Arnold, Captain Eddie Rickenbaker, Major Karl Spatz and Fiorello LaGuardia substantiated Colonel Mitchell's facts.

As for whether the court-martial did what it intended to do, obviously it did not in Pearl Harbor's case, however, it may have helped development of better aircraft and aircraft carriers during the 30's, especially when one considers this was during a depression.

What could have been brought to light was the complacency of the public at the time, roaring 20's, etc.. Also the public's isolationist outlook.

At any rate, General Mitchell will always be a hero to airmen, along with General Hap Arnold and others.

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