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Captains of the Clouds
IMDB Rating: 6.5/10 from 942 votes
Release: 21 February 1942 (USA) /

Captains of the Clouds

Genre: Action, Drama, War
Director: Michael Curtiz,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Brian McLean is a ruthless bush-pilot in Canada. He offers some other pilots an opportunity of earning a lot of money, but he marries the girl-friend of one of them. After listening to Churchill's famous "Blood, Sweat and tears" radio address he and some other pilots decide to join the RCAF - and his superior is always the pilot who's girlfriend he has married. Due to this and the fact, that McLean doesn't like to obey he gets troubles. Written by Stephan Eichenberg <[email protected]>

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Critic Reviews


Even tho it's pretty much of a "formula" movie, CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS is GREAT fun, and one of my favorite Cagney films. It truth, it's a lot more than that in film history, in addition to having some very intriguing legal ramifications. It contains things that appeal to a wide audience on many levels.

For the airplane nuts out there this one is NOT TO BE MISSED! Many of the aircraft are types that have no other screen exposure, and which today are museum pieces... if examples of them still exist at all. The roster of military and civilian planes makes you DROOL... Tiger Moths (used as RCAF primary flight trainers), AT-6 Texans / Harvards, Lockheed Hudsons, Lysanders (as bush planes), and the most interesting of all... a now EXTREMELY RARE Hawker Hurricane, wearing Nazi markings and playing the part of a Messerschmidt! I suppose the Hayes Office censors kept the script writers from calling it a Fokker, just because THIS cast of reprobates was a wild and crazy enough crew to use that name to try to slip through a few double ententes!

Besides Cagney, the cast is PURE Warner Brothers stock players. Alan Hale always turned in a good performance, and he does it here too as bush pilot Francis Patrick "Tiny" Murphy. Comedic actor Reginald Gardener turns in an excellent, low key performance as "Scrounger", but his subtle comedy is totally upstaged by George Tobias as "Blimp" Lebec, using an absurd mustasche, outrageous costume, and the most outrageous and overblown French Canadian accent ever seen on film!

The story is a combination of wartime flag waver and fairly standard period drama, along with a dash of Saturday afternoon at the movies pot boiler serial thrown in; the final sequence with Cagney versus the Nazi fighter is PURE Hollywood schmaltz, but it's a load of fun.

CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS, and the similarly themed A YANK IN THE RAF (Tyrone Power) were the prototypes that set the stage for a hundred other wartime flag wavers yet to come. CAPTAINS was walking into new and unique territory; in theory anyway, Cagney, Hale, Tobias, and every other American involved in the production could have been tried for sedition and imprisoned... oddly enough, for purely patriotic reasons.

At the time CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS was filmed, World War 2 was already in progress with the United States remaining on the sidelines as a neutral. Canada, being part of the British Commonwealth, provided assistance to embattled England. Under the terms of the US Neutrality Act, as a combatant Canada was NOT our ally. The provisions of the Act forbade Americans from lending material assistance to Canada, and CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS fell into the category of providing propaganda for use by a belligerent nation! According to some sources, the cast and crew were a bit nervous when they crossed the border to return to the United States at the end of filming; the possibility existed that they'd be arrested by Federal agents.

This odd state of political affairs was shown significantly in A YANK IN THE RAF. An early sequence shows American airplanes being provided to Canada by the simple expedient of landing them at the Canadian border, and everyone involved just ignores it as the planes, sans pilots, are pulled away by a stout rope extending across the border into Canada! Such tactics really were employed in the days before Pearl Harbor.

In any case... CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS provides it's share of Hollywood ballyhoo too with one of the most campy musical numbers ever made for a movie. In a Canadian nightclub, a male chorus of singing waiters belt out the title song, while cigarette girls in quasi military costume (complete with wings across their blouses) provide a dancing floor show! It's a HOOT!!!

In any event... CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS is a snapshot of a simpler time when war wasn't such a contentious matter and the lines between right and wrong were much simpler. It's a good way to spend a couple of hours.

Even if I wasn't such a rabid Cagney fan, I'd still give this one a Thumbs Up!

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