"12 O'Clock High" tells the story of an American Bomber Group low on morale and performance after heavy losses over the skies of Germany. General Frank Savage, a desk bound staff chief, is sent to the group after the Bomber Commander is relieved of duty. At first encountering resistance, Savage enventually shows the pilots how to take pride in their unit and serve above and beyond the standards of the Army Air Corps.
Gregory Peck ... Brig. Gen. Frank Savage
Hugh Marlowe ... Lt. Col. Ben R. Gately
Gary Merrill ... Col. Keith Davenport
Millard Mitchell ... Maj. Gen. Ben Pritchard
Dean Jagger ... Maj. Harvey Stovall
Robert Arthur ... Sgt. McIlhenny, Gen. Savage's clerk / driver
Paul Stewart ... Maj. 'Doc' Kaiser
John Kellogg ... Maj. Joe Cobb
Robert Patten ... 2nd Lt. Jesse Bishop (as Bob Patten)
Lee MacGregor ... Lt. 'Zimmy' Zimmerman, group navigator
Director: Henry King
Nominated for 4 Oscars, won 2 Oscar: Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Sound Recording.
Codecs: XVid / AC3
Of all the movies to come out of Hollywood covering world war two, I place this one in the top-draw category.
From the very start when the credits start rolling, the opening music seemed to fit perfectly; instead of the era-splitting noise they have hit us with in recent years. The old wartime, "Bless 'em All" and, "Don't sit under the apple tree", heard in the background, as Dean Jagger, now a civilian, slowly takes a nostalgic walk out onto the weed-covered, oil-stained runway to remember gallant times of the 918th Bomb Group, now past.
Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Frank Savage did great credit to this role, and deserved an Oscar. From the moment he enters the base and tears into the guard at the gate for casually waving him through, you know he's going to be a S.O.B. Dean Jagger as Major Stovall, the lawyer in uniform now Ground Executive Officer knows how to handle the paperwork after the first sobering face to face encounter with with Savage. That Jagger won the Oscar as best supporting actor, was well deserved indeed. Gary Merrill as Colonel Keith Davenport, the too popular Group CO, very good. Hugh Marlowe as Lt Colonel Ben Gately, who flew too many missions from behind a desk, placed on the rack by Savage with the other bomb group deadbeats and foul ups, handles his role well. Then their's Millard Mitchell as Major General Pritchard, displaying a commanding presence, and Paul Stewart as Doc Kaiser, also well portrayed.
There are no false heroics in this movie. No blood and guts all over the silver screen. And no routine world war two, hard boiled, go-get-'em dialogue to spoil it. The authors, Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay. wrote an excellent screenplay. They did the film a favour, they deleted General Savage's love interest that appeared in their fine novel. I don't think it would have added anything to the movie at all. Maybe what surprised a lot of moviegoers who had not read the book before seeing the movie, was Savage's mental breakdown; freezing suddenly at the hatch as he attempted to heave himself aboard the B-17. It was so unexpected of him after showing such ice-cold nerves
What rounded out this impressive movie was the insertion of the air combat footage shot over Europe during the actual daylight operations. This documentary footage crowned a very fine achievement. One of Henry King's best; a professional effort indeed. The thread of sincerity in this war movie runs deep.
The reason I found the movie so engrossing was, as a teenager, on the sidelines of the war, I saw more than one B-17 stagger home and belly in on a wing and a prayer. This movie was loaded with integrity from the beginning to the end credits. I'm sure the gallant gentlemen who flew with the Eighth Air Force over enemy-occupied Europe would be of the same opinion. It is a kind of monument to those warriors.
* This film is used by the U.S. Navy as an example of leadership styles in its Leadership and Management Training School. The Air Force's College for Enlisted Professional Military Education also uses this film as a education aid in its Noncommissioned Officer Academies.
* John Wayne turned down the leading role that later went to Gregory Peck.
* The B-17 bomber crash landing at the airstrip near the beginning of the movie was no special effect. Stunt pilot Paul Mantz was paid $4,500 to crash-land the bomber. Mantz of course walked away from the wreck. Until the 1970s, that was the largest amount ever paid to a stuntman for a single stunt.
* This film is frequently cited by surviving bomber crewmembers as the only accurate depiction from Hollywood of their life during the war.
* A replica of the 918th Bomb Group's Robin Hood toby mug is in use by the Officer's club at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, home of the 509th Bomber Wing. The real movie prop mug, which was the prized possession of the Frank Armstrong family, fell victim to theft in the early 90s and has not been seen since. The replica mugs are still in production and available from 918thpx.com.
* One of the first Hollywood films to deal with the psychological effect of war on its soldiers.
* The air battles were cut together from authentic World War II footage.
* A romantic subplot, which features in the book, was dropped at the studio's insistence. They wanted the script to concentrate fully on the psychological effects of war and the theme of leadership.
* William Wellman was attached to direct at one point.
* The film was delayed in its release because MGM's "Command Decision" (1948) beat them to the punch. The similarity in content between the two films forced 20th Century Fox to hold back on "Twelve O'Clock High" for a few months.
* After the film was made, Gregory Peck became great friends with the character he had played, General Frank Armstrong, who clearly approved of Peck's portrayal of him.
* The Robin Hood Toby mug prop can be spotted in the background in a scene from the 20th Century Fox movie Valley of the Dolls (1967). It's sitting on a wire-frame shelving unit in one of the "Dolls" apartments.