Task Force was the first of two films Gary Cooper made regarding the development of aviation. Here he plays the fictional Jonathan Scott who looks back on his life after retiring from the Navy. The second is the Court Martial of Billy Mitchell where he plays the real life Army Aviation pioneer.
For today's fans if one wants to see where Tom Cruise and the gang from Top Gun all got their start, take a look at Task Force. The idea of a floating flattop ship from where airplanes could take off and land was one that was scoffed at post World War I. Pilots didn't have the skills yet for that. What Task Force shows is Gary Cooper and a whole bunch of other people who believed in an idea living and dying to prove that idea.
Task Force was memorable in the career of Gary Cooper for two other reasons. It was the first film he did after leaving his original studio, Paramount, at Warner Brothers where he worked for about five years. It was also the last film he did with good friend Walter Brennan. They made eight joint film appearances, including some memorable ones in The Westerner and Sergeant York where they got Oscars, Brennan for The Westerner and Cooper for Sergeant York.
Jane Wyatt is Cooper's leading lady, playing the part of the faithful wife where if this had been made at MGM, June Allyson would have had the part. She's the widow of one of Cooper's early Navy flier friends who is killed trying to land on a new aircraft carrier.
Director Delmar Daves made good use of actual combat footage both black and white and in the last 15 minutes color. Lent a real air of authenticity to what we were viewing. Look for some good supporting performances from Brennan, Wayne Morris, Bruce Bennett and the best being an obtuse United States Senator played by Stanley Ridges.
The final shot of the film shows Cooper now in civilian attire with jets passing overhead. That was a whole new skill that had to be learned by the next generation of Top Guns. Very graphically demonstrated in The Bridges at Toko-Ri.
I'd like to think that Tom Cruise and the rest of the cast of Top Gun saw those two films and realized the great heritage they were now going to portray.
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