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The Forgotten: J. Walter Ruben's "Ace of Aces" (1933)

John Monk Saunders is a good example of the screenwriter-as-auteur in the sense that he had a tone (mordant, tragic) and a set of concerns (Wwi aerial combat and its effects) that were consistent throughout his work, almost to the point of claustrophobia. Saunders was an airman himself, and like his characters, he just couldn't leave it behind. A recurring theme of his work is that war is not only traumatic, but addictive. Ace of Aces is a typical work: Saunders would achieve greater glory with William A. Wellman (Wings, 1927), Howard Hawks (The Dawn Patrol, 1930) and, best of all, with William Dieterle and The Last Flight in 1931. Ace of Aces is a relatively minor-league outing. Though director J. Walter Ruben delivers a few elaborate tracking shots, the film belongs mainly to the writer and the Rko effects team—Vernon L. Walker, who worked on Citizen Kane and King Kong, stitches

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