Twelve O’Clock High
1949 | War | 132 minutes | In English
The 918th Bomb Group, flying missions over Germany during World War II, is experiencing heavy losses. Known as the “hard luck group,” they are commanded by Colonel Keith Davenport. Davenport is at this time exhausted and demoralized with these losses. The last straw for Davenport comes when he’s ordered to fly much lower to hit the targets accurately. Major General Pritchard decides to replace Davenport with Brigadier General Frank Savage. Savage is harsh with his men, and they begin to miss the easy-going ways of Davenport. All of the Squadron’s pilots apply for a transfer. Savage asks the Group Adjutant, Major Stovall, to delay processing their applications. On one mission, the group is ordered to return to the base, due to bad weather. Savage ignores the warning and successfully completes the mission. Savage receives bad news: an Inspector General staff member is arriving to investigate Savage’s conduct and the reasons for the mass transfer requests. The pilots, in an emotional turnaround, support Savage. But these dangerous missions and the stress of commanding his men, have taken a toll on even a strong-willed man like Savage.
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 96%
Academy Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Dean Jagger); Best Sound Recording (Thomas T. Moulton); Nominated Best Picture and Best Actor (Gregory Peck)
New York Film Critics Circle Award: Best Actor (Gregory Peck)
National Board of Review: Nominated, Best Picture
The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
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As a drama, TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH deals soundly and interestingly with its situations. It gets close to the emotions in unveiling its plot and approaches it from a flashback angle so expertly that the emotional pull is sharpened.
TWELVE O’CLOCK HIGH is a terrific war movie, one more concerned with the toll combat takes on men than any fleeting glory it might bring. It’s a war movie with more soul and depth than I’d have ever guessed capable of Hollywood of that era.
This tremendously vivid fictional story of a young general, who, toward the end of 1942 takes command of a bomber group operating from a base in England and elevates it from bleak depression to a peak of aggressiveness and pride, has conspicuous dramatic integrity, genuine emotional appeal and a sense of the moods of an air base that absorbs and amuses the mind. The terrible tension of the bomber crew while on a mission, the breathless action of attack and repulse and even the anxiety of the ground crews are finely realized.
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