The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)

Approved   |    |  Biography, Drama, War

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955) Poster

A dramatization of the American general and his court martial for publically complaining about High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces.


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Cast & Crew

Top Billed Cast


Otto Preminger


Milton Sperling (story and screenplay), Emmet Lavery (story and screenplay)

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9 January 2007 | blanche-2
| Interesting true story
Gary Cooper plays the title role in "The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell," a 1955 film based on the real-life court martial of former Brigadier General William Mitchell, who was demoted in rank after violating orders and later court-martialed for criticizing the Armed Forces in the press.

Besides also starring Ralph Bellamy, Charles Bickford, and Rod Steiger, the film also features some later TV stars - Elizabeth Montgomery, Jack Lord, John Daly, Darren McGavin and Peter Graves.

Apparently the film takes some liberties with the true facts, but Mitchell believed in the power of the airplane in war and wanted an upgrade in air power for the U.S. as well as the creation of an Air Force. Much of what he said about air power came to pass, and eventually the Air Force was formed, of which he is considered the father. However, at the time, the services were faced with budget cuts and narrow thinking. They weren't convinced of Mitchell's arguments. Mitchell (in the film) disobeys orders about the size of the bomb he's carrying, using one-ton bombs to destroy the Ostfriesland, which was an World War I prize from Germany. He is demoted in rank and sent to work in Texas. When a friend of his is killed in a "death trap" flier called The Shenendoah, Billy sets himself up for a court martial so that he can bring his cause to the American public.

This is a good movie which holds one's interest. I have a confession, which is that I am not always impressed with the acting of Gary Cooper, though I do love him, and this was one of those times. One of the posters suggested that James Cagney would have been a better choice given the real-life character of Mitchell. Possibly. Cooper is passionate in a quiet way but a little too one-dimensional in his performance. There are strong performances from everyone, most especially Rod Steiger. He doesn't chew up the scenery; instead, he uses his voice like a knife. He's very effective.

Definitely recommended though it's not Cooper's best work.

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