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  • Many of the group scenes and all exterior shots of B52G aircraft were of our own people and aircraft. It seemed very authentic to us crew members at the time. It did not do well at the box office, and that was attributed to by many critics to the fact that the general public did not find the premise very credible. It now can be viewed as a quite realistic representation of nuclear bombers during the height of the cold war.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this film when it first came out in 1963, a few months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. I lived near a SAC base in south Florida, had a lot of friends whose fathers were USAF, and found the realism of the film rather scary. Seeing it again more recently, I was still impressed with the storyline and the semi-documentary footage of the B-52s and KC-135s.

    The deficiencies of this film are those of most Hollywood films of the 1950s (or the "greater 1950s" in this case): star casting and "love interest." Rock Hudson was never a great dramatic actor (one exception: John Frankenheimer's "Seconds"), although he's obviously working hard here to convince you that he's a decent guy whose job as a SAC wing commander requires him to be a "heel" at times. His lack of credibility has nothing to do with his homosexuality (in hindsight) and everything to do with the image that Hollywood crafted for him in the 1950s. Rod Taylor played a lot of macho roles but he also struck me as a little too precious in this film, cast mainly as a romantic rival for his boss's wife. She's played by Mary Peach, and her thankless role requires her to display considerable initial ignorance of the strains on a military officer's family. Since this is as much a character study as it is an "occupational" movie, the interaction between Col. Caldwell and his wife is an important part of the film. But it would have been more interesting if they were portrayed as a long-married couple than a pair of newlyweds. The "lesser" roles in the film, however, feature some convincing performances by such Hollywood characters as Barry Sullivan, Leora Dana, Kevin McCarthy, Richard Anderson, Henry Silva, and Nelson Leigh.

    I had not realized until a recent viewing that Sy Bartlett both produced and wrote the original story for "A Gathering of Eagles." I have long been a fan of Barlett's novel "Twelve O'Clock High" (co-written with Beirne Lay Jr.) and its classic film version, released in 1949, directed by Henry King and starring Gregory Peck and Dean Jagger. And as I watched "Gathering" I quickly realized that Bartlett was telling essentially the same story as "Twelve O'Clock High," updated from the World War II Eighth Air Force to its Cold War successors in SAC, about the soul-grinding responsibilities of command. The B-17s become B-52s, and Peck's Gen. Frank Savage becomes Hudson's Col. Jim Caldwell, but both characters face the same hard challenges, preparing men and machines for war by imposing high standards and hard discipline. The main difference is in that "love interest" subplot, but again, that would be more appropriate for a film set in Cold War "peacetime."

    Of course, there were a couple of moments in the film when I had the feeling that Col. Caldwell would stress out to the point that he would become General Jack D. Ripper. Interesting double-feature possibility there, coupling "Gathering" with "Dr. Strangelove."

    Interestingly, the best performance in "Gathering" is that of Robert Lansing, who plays a career USAF non-com with a quiet gravitas that characterized much of this under-rated actor's career. About a year or so after "Gathering" was released, Lansing traded his non-com's uniform for officer's pinks and took on the role of Gen. Frank Savage in the TV series based on "Twelve O'Clock High." I haven't seen those programs in many years but I recall the disappointment I felt when Lansing quit after one season. Good actor, good role.

    Conclusion: "A Gathering of Eagles" is in many ways a relic of its times, the early 1960s, when Cold War tensions were at their their tautest and nuclear war seemed a tremendous threat. Actually, compared to earlier films with similar backgrounds (e.g., "Strategic Air Command" and "Bombers B-52"), "Gathering" doesn't say much about the Cold War or about justifying SAC. Given what they had experienced in the preceding months, 1963 audiences didn't need that background info; and the fear or nuclear war may have contributed to this film's poor box office performance. Who needed the reminder?

    Did SAC help win the Cold War (by deterring a Soviet nuclear attack and making the U.S.S.R. spend billions for its own defense)? There's no way to know for sure, but there's a case to be made for that argument. This film is an inkling of just how difficult the job was.
  • I was only able to see this movie once and have been looking for it ever since to no avail, so far. I was at Travis AFB at the time of it's filming. I worked on the flight line and our planes were those used in the film. I was also TDY (temporary duty) at Beale AFB where I understand most or much of the filming took place. I worked on B-52's and KC-135As in servicing, recovery and crew chief duty and spent a lot of time on alert duty at the hard pad Alert Facility. All this to say that the film was VERY true to what SAC life was like in the flesh. I can see why some think the plot was a little thin as it was a glimpse into what day-to-day life in SAC was like. The Minimum Interval Take-offs (MITOs)were very true to life, sometimes three bombers and/or tankers rolling on the runway at the same time. If full count points aren't given for the plot, or there are those who would discount because of Rock Hudson's personal life, certainly full credit has to be given for accuracy. I know, I was there! I would love to own a DVD of this movie. I have been waiting over 40 years. Help, anyone? I'd even settle for a VHS tape.
  • "Rock Hudson" is almost synonymous with either lighthearted battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy (many with Doris Day) or director Douglas Sirk's 'soap' melodrama (two with Jane Wyman), but a serious role in a story about military life (Air Force SAC squadron) is truly a departure.

    I was fortunate to catch the film "A Gathering of Eagles" 1963 by director Delbert Mann on TCM cable in August when they showed several Rock Hudson movies the same day. This is a rare instance with Rock Hudson in an earnest role and he delivered a mighty convincing Col. Jim Caldwell in the Air Force to shape up the SAC (Strategic Air Command) squadron.

    "A Gathering of Eagles" 1963, is known to be accurate in depicting the lives of SAC men. Director Delbert Mann himself is not unfamiliar with Air Force life, having been a bomber pilot and flew combat missions in the war years. Script by Robert Pirosh gave us a dramatic story covering military duty life in the Air Corps: family and wives, camaraderie spirits, demanding duties/schedules, firm disciplines and technical aspects included. Hudson was solid in his performance as a tough tireless Colonel assigned to lead the SAC members to ensure they're tightly trained with repeated alert exercises, that the fighter bombers be in absolute tip-top conditions for any unannounced "ORI" (operational readiness inspection).

    Cinematography by Russell Harlan with editing by Russell Schoengarth 'showcased' scenes of "MITO" (Minimum Interval Take Off) of B-52's and aircraft aerials quite impressively. Good supporting cast includes Rod Taylor as Col. Hollis Farr, Barry Sullivan as Col. Bill Fowler, Henry Silva as Col. Joe Garcia, Leora Dana as Mrs. Fowler, and Mary Peach as Victoria Caldwell, the British wife to Hudson's colonel. Besides the involving 'storyline' of the day to day challenges of Col. Caldwell's military responsibilities, the family aspect of balancing the role of a loving husband to Victoria is well portrayed. The script poignantly afforded uncertainty situations in the mix for Peach, as 'military' wives may have to go through - adapting herself and trying to understand and to cope with her husband's dedication to the Air Force in his chosen career.

    Music score is by the prolific Jerry Goldsmith. "A Gathering of Eagles" is not yet on DVD. Hope to catch it again on cable/TV, or VHS rental.

    Other serious roles by Rock Hudson: "Seconds" 1966, the intriguing thriller/science-fiction directed by John Frankenheimer, enhanced by remarkable b/w cinematography by James Wong Howe. "Hornets' Nest" 1970, a wartime WWII story set in Italy with an 'army' of young boys helping Hudson's Captain Turner to complete his mission (I stumbled onto this movie one late TCM cable night). He's also in Douglas Sirk's "The Tarnish Angels" 1958, appearing once again with Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone (they were in Sirk's melodrama "Written on the Wind" 1956).
  • I remember seeing this movie with my Dad when I was a boy, and later visiting Beale AFB to see the Thunderbirds perform. Much later, I saw it again and realized how true to life it must have been in the early 60's. You really get the feel of what it must have been like on alert during the height of the Cold War. The acting was above par, and the flying scenes are excellent. Any aviation or USAF buff should not miss this film.
  • I was stationed at Beale AFB, California when the Movie "A GATHERING OF EAGLES" was filmed, and watched much of the filming. I was the crew chief on B-52G #6515 (cannot give the rest of the tail number) I spent many hours on the alert pad. And if you have never had that experience of answering to the call in the middle of the night to a klaxon from a sound sleep to running to your fast ride vehicle and being prepared to launch your aircraft and flight-crew, Then you don't what being a proud B-52G Crew Chief is like. All of the people in SAC had special jobs. I'm honored to have served with the greatest command in the world. Therefore I rate the movie very high. After the film about a year later I worked on the Aircraft that they used for the movie. I still have some local news paper articles and pictures from the filming. I went to Beale last year "2006" for an air show and got to go out on the hardstand where my air plane was parked many times. I read and agree with one of the people about the hot brakes. Also a scene where the so called fuel was coming out of the main entry hatch. The real crew chief was standing up inside the aircraft pouring water out of a bucket to simulate the fuel. I'm trying to get a copy of the movie in DVD or VHF. I would be glad to help with copies of the news paper articles. I would like to find someone else that was in the 456th OMS at Beale during the filming that was a crew chief or a ground crew member on the B-52G's

    Thank you

  • Oblomov-227 January 2001
    This is one of those films which nine out of ten would pass by but the tenth would be hooked .... and I am one of the 'tenth'. I liked the Air Force Base setting and although there isn't a great deal of plot, the script is tight and suspenseful. The Aerial sequences are excellent for the period, particularly the mid-air refuelling scenes. This is a film that I am going to own as a DVD someday.

    Update: I got a DVD-R of this film in widescreen and watched it again for the first time in over 40 years. I now think it is a slightly better film than I originally thought with competent performances by all concerned. I agree that Kevin McCarthy's cameo as the snooping Major General 'Happy Jack' Kirby adds to the strange appeal of this film and despite the forced accent, Mary Peach is not as annoying as I previously believed. I increased my own rating from the previous 7 to 8.
  • alhall5624 October 2004
    It was because of this movie I joined the USAF and actually worked in SAC on ICBMs for over 20 years. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to a base that had both B-52s, KC-135s, and ICBMs. Every time I see this movie it makes me proud of my association with the slogan "Peace is our Profession" and winning the "Cold War" without having to fire a shot. When my daughter asked me "What did you do in the War daddy" I showed her the movie and that said it all. This movie is timeless and gives those who were never in SAC a very small glimpse of this unique arm of the US Air Force. Every time I hear the PAS (Primary Alerting System)warble, it brought back memories. The ORIs (Operational Readiness Inspections) were just like I remembered them, including all the inspectors that fan out through the base. When this movie comes out on DVD, I'll be the first in line.
  • Although Rock Hudson did finally excel in comedy genre as well as his one laudable effort in "Giant," during the scene where he is one-on-one performing with Robert Lansing (playing the maintenance sergeant) Hudson comes off a poor second. The quiet power demonstrated by Lansing simply staggers the imagination and causes it to catch its breath. It was not just a case of "underplaying," but rather bringing forth such great depth to the role's character and demeanor. One of the most underrated of our excellent American actors, it is a shame we couldn't have seen Robert Lansing in many more, larger roles on the big screen in Hollywood's truly major films. What did the casting directors miss here? Much, in my opinion.
  • Well-directed and well-played movie about a tough commander becomes too involved with the pilots in his command . Enjoyable as well as tedious film at times , though . Being designed to showcase the US Air Force's brand-new B-52 Stratofortress bomber, including actual footage of jet plane and as such the studio received complete cooperation from the Air Force . Set during the Cold War and with novelty of peacetime takes place this interesting melodrama . Concerning USA Colonel of a Strategic Aerospace Wing (Rock Hudson) has to shape up his underlings (Robert Lansing , Richard Anderson , Barry Sullivan , Henry Silva , among others) to pass a grueling inspection that the former General had failed, and had been fired for . He is also recently married to beautiful Victoria Caldwell (Mary Peach) , she struggles to adjust to being a good military wife , but Victoria then sees a side to him that she hadn't seen . Meanwhile , there occurs a confrontation between less than likable Col. Jim Caldwell and his friend Col. Hollis Farr (Rod Taylor) . As there crop out gossips surrounding his relationship to Victory Caldwell and things go wrong . As the picture contains a silly and boring family drama with a triangular love story . At the end , it takes place a hard inspection carried out by Gen. 'Happy Jack' Kirby (Kevin McCarthy) .

    Intimate as well as spectacular WWI airplane movie with an agreeable cast , impressive aerial scenes and thought-provoking themes , being one of the first Hollywood films to deal with the B-52 . This is a family as well as crisp drama about relationship between husband and wife along with the hard-working carried out by Rock Hudson as a tough commanding officer determined to improve efficiency , interwoven with nice aerial footage of B-52 maneuvers . The aviation footage gives the picture a sense of life , as writer Sy Barlett and filmmaker were both previous fliers themselves . This film is an Universal Pictures official studio tribute to the B-52 Stratofortress bomber air craft and the United States Air Force . Interesting script by Robert Pirosh based on a story by Sy Barlett who also wrote in similar style ¨Twelve O'Clock High¨ that was adapted to cinema in a much superior movie by Henry King with Gregory Peck . This was apparently one of the first films in which the US Air Force's new B-52 Stratofortress bomber was featured . It appeared in a number of films afterward, notably Bombers B-52 (1957) , Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), and By Dawn's Early Light (1990). This movie's dedication shown at the start of the film states : The film is dedicated to personnel and pilots of Strategic Aerospace Wing . Rock Hudson plays decently an Air Force Colonel who has just been re-assigned as a cold war B-52 commander determined to improve the alertness and doing whatever he has to do to shape his men up . Fine plethora of secondaries , many of them uncredited , such as Barry Sullivan , Kevin McCarthy , Henry Silva , Nelson Leigh , Robert Lansing ,Richard Anderson , Brandon De Wilde and brief appearance of an unknown Louise Fletcher as patient's spouse .

    Brilliant cinematography in Cinemascope and Technicolor by Russell Harlan . Thrilling as well as rousing musical score by Jerry Goldsmith . Jerry Goldsmith's opening fanfare was licensed by Cinema International Corporation (CIC) for its vanity plate fanfare ; CIC was an international film distribution company, part owned by Universal . The motion picture was well directed by Delbert Mann who was one of the best-known graduates of "The Golden Age of Television," when live original drama was a staple of network TV , but he also directed classic movies such as ¨Separate tables¨, ¨Desire under the Elms¨ and ¨Marty¨ . And directed Rock Hudson in three successive films as ¨That Touch of Mink¨ , ¨Lover Come Back¨ and ¨A Gathering of Eagles¨ .
  • Jim A24 October 2002
    This film has a hackneyed plot about the strains put on a marriage by nuclear weapons, but some of the scenes are little short of spectacular. The sequence where Hudson and Taylor are timing a mass takeoff of bombers and discussing the job performance of the base commander is truly awe-inspiring. The wind from the engine blast whips at their clothes and the noise is ear-shattering. Most of the film seems like it was written by complete hacks but there is a story buried under all the maudlin touches.
  • bkoganbing27 November 2012
    Rock Hudson does a bit of stretching in his acting resume in playing a tough as nails Colonel who takes over a Strategic Air Command base and tries to whip it in shape. There's a guy over him who's tougher, a general played by Kevin McCarthy who just flunked the previous base commander in a surprise inspection and that's why Hudson has the job.

    A few years earlier James Stewart who was in the Air Force and retired as a Brigadier General in their reserve did a film about the Strategic Air Command entitled just that. Stewart was way too close to the subject to make a really good film about it. This film is far better and has a more objective point of view.

    Anyway Hudson moves bag, baggage, and pretty British wife Mary Peach from London to San Francisco. And Hudson thinks it's fortunate that an old pal from the Korean War Rod Taylor is his executive officer. That soon changes however.

    A lot of the plot of A Gathering Of Eagles is taken from the John Wayne/ Robert Ryan World War II film Flying Leathernecks. In that one Wayne takes over command of a group of Marine aviators with Ryan as his Executive Officer. If you've seen that one, you know what happens in this film.

    Hudson and Taylor as the clashing military officers fill their roles out quite well and look very official in their Air Force uniforms. Also pay attention to Barry Sullivan as an alcoholic officer whose problems bring the problems of Hudson and Taylor to a head.

    A Gathering Of Eagles is a good service film and a nice recruiting film for the Air Force.
  • I was stationed at Beale AFB near Marysville/Yuba City, Ca in the 1980's and there is an excellent local book about the history of the area, including Beale. When the movie was made and before the SR-71 came along there was a SAC Bomb Wing there, as there was at Travis AFB. At least some of Gathering of Eagles, including the scene of an Officers' Wives Club meeting and scenes inside the wing commander's quarters were shot on Beale. The base received some payment from the makers in the form of a swimming pool built near the Alert Facility (it was later filled in when the bomb wing left Beale and security was tightened due to the SR-71).
  • I'm more than a little amused by the current-day huffiness about smoking and other 21st century mores superimposed on a flick made more than 40 years ago. The movie is well-made, well-acted, and authentic--although the script is a little hackneyed. But that's mostly because it's a remake, not just of "Twelve O'Clock High" as pointed out elsewhere in comments, but also of "Above and Beyond" (the scenes between Hudson and Peach virtually mirror those between Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker), screen-written by Sy Bartlett's collaborator on TOH, Beirne Lay Jr.

    Where it fell flat was that it attempted to counter two books that soon after (as a result of Hollywood reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis) became doomsday movies--"Fail-Safe" (the premise of which was then and eventually was proved by time to be totally false), and one of my personal favorites, "Dr. Strangelove etc". AGOE got caught in the anti-militaristic paradigm shift started by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination, and ended by the Vietnam War.

    I was a dependent on an Air Force base when I first saw this movie at the base theater (and at a SAC base when I saw Strangelove), and my friends and I thought the flick was a riot--the depiction of base housing in this and "X-15" were unlike anything we ever lived in!!!! (Jimmy Stewart's first set of quarters in "Strategic Air Command" was closer to the mark.)

    It's a good flick--not great, but interesting and representative of its time.
  • mikmel12 August 2006
    When I was very young, from 5 until 8 years old, Mom worked civil service at Turner AFB in Albany, Georgia. I vividly remember the B-52's taking off and landing. Watching the scene with Hudson and Taylor on the tarmac timing the take-offs brought that memory back as though it was yesterday..We actually lived on the base for awhile before moving into Albany. The housing that the officers lived in reminds me of going over for dinners and getting to wear the flight helmets...imagine a little kid running around the mid-century home with that on his head. My brother would fight over who got to wear one. I cannot comment on the script and the actual life of the members of the AF since I was just a little kid. I do remember Mom coming home from the base the day President Kennedy was murdered and saying the the whole base was gearing up as though WW III was about to start. Hudson's character would not be out of place in the service, since as a former military man, I can say I have served under men who makes him look like a pussy cat. The fact that the film was able to use authentic locales makes it much more enjoyable. I work in the prop industry in Hollywood and I was practically salivating at the production design until I remembered that it was current for the time.
  • Saw this movie at the drive-in when it first came out. The flying scenes looked terrific on the big screen and even now on DVD they don't disappoint. I think "The Strategic Air Command" made in 1955 with Jimmy Stewart did a much better job of showcasing the B-36 and B-47 aircraft of the time than this movie did with the B-52. But all-in-all, I enjoyed seeing the B-52s taking to the air with the thick clouds of black smoke trailing behind them. We didn't pay that much attention to the smoke at the time.

    However, the non-flying drama of this movie certainly has become more relevant in the recent past. Even though SAC ceased 24/7 operations when the Cold War 'ended', we still require the dedication and efficiency extolled in this movie today. Without it, we have bundles of nuclear weapons shipped from one base to another unknowingly by the crew, stacks of nuclear bombs left unguarded on AFB tarmacs, 'special' weapons misdirected, misstored and forgotten. These incidents resulted in the dismissal of various AF commanders, but should never have happened. The country deserved the kind of professionalism strived for by the characters depicted in this movie and we didn't (always) get it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A fair amount of military detail went into this examination of the Strategic Air Corps and its internal machinations along with the effect of Air Force life on a marriage. Hudson plays an Air Force Colonel placed in charge of base at which there is fear that the men may not pass the next surprise test in which McCarthy shows up and expects near perfection in the expulsion of B-52 bombers into the air. Taylor, as Hudson's second-in-command, was present when McCarthy failed to pass a previous commander and that man was discharged. Taking no chances, Hudson runs roughshod over practically everyone. He even cans a fellow colonel (Sullivan) when he suspects that his drinking may limit the base's chances for success. This particular move threatens Hudson's marriage as his new wife Peach has grown close to Sullivan's wife Dana and Peach can't understand the stoic, cheerless, never-ending demands of running an Air Force base. She tends to identify more with the laid-back Taylor, but unfortunately, this creates rumors on the base, and even more tension when Hudson begins to doubt Taylor's strength as an officer. Hudson, typically a very likable persona on screen, enjoys himself in this authoritative role and does a decent job. His marriage to Peach seems rather unbelievable, mostly because they just don't seem compatible even from the beginning, but they do manage to muster up a certain amount of chemistry. Taylor, an even more amiable performer than Hudson, does well here and is able to offer more dimension in his portrayal than Hudson is allowed to. Peach has an attractive figure, but just seems out of place in the film, perhaps because of her English accent and manner. The love story might have carried more weight if the couple had just been regular Americans facing a marital crisis. Her British formality puts her on the outside practically from the beginning. Sullivan handles his role nicely as does Dana as his concerned wife. McCarthy, though his role is brief, looks about as good as he ever did in films. A number of other familiar actors pop up in the cast including Silva, Lansing and Anderson as officers serving under Hudson. Lansing, in particular, has a nice, understated scene with Hudson in a steam room. Future Oscar-winner Fletcher appears briefly as the wife of an appendicitis patient. While not a stellar military film (perhaps due to its peace time setting), this does provide insight into some of the inner working of the Air Force and offers some degree of tension as in the scene in which the inside of a plane is doused in gasoline. It's also admirable in its attempts to show the marital strain that can occur within the armed services, though those scenes tend to lean towards the unrealistic. A bombastic Goldsmith score doesn't always work. Some of the set-ups and techniques foreshadow what would later be seen in "Airport" and "Airport 1975", albeit using domestic planes instead of military ones.
  • This movie nailed the way it was in the peacetime Air Force, especially in the old Strategic Air Command. It shows the "duty first" attitude that helped our country win the Cold War, and drives home the tremendous stress all of us were under during those hard years. Since retiring, I learned to stop trying to explain to civilians what my service was like. Now I just tell them to see this movie, it's that realistic. On the downside, some of the acting is stiff and two dimensional. In the same way John Wayne's Green Berets was criticized for being propaganda, this movie also showed all the characters as too good to be true. There were a few human problems for the Rock's new wing commander character to fix, such as the soft colonel played by Rod Taylor, the maintenance colonel who was "too dedicated" to delegate, and his own civilian wife who lacked his commitment to the mission. Get past all that, view this movie more as a documentary to learn what it was like to live on a SAC base during the Cold War.
  • Written by Robert Pirosh, the same man who brought audiences Battleground and Go for Broke! during WWII, A Gathering of Eagles was supposed to be an homage to Twelve O'Clock High. While I hated that 1949 drama and found it incredibly boring, this 1963 film wasn't really any better. Rock Hudson stars as a hard-nosed commander at a new Air Force base that failed to pass its previous inspection by head honcho Kevin McCarthy. While everyone knows Rock can play a convincing jerk, in my opinion he doesn't play a convincing soldier despite his WWII service in the Navy. He doesn't come across as having enormous self-discipline, a quality needed for this role and others like Ice Station Zebra.

    As Rock gets meaner and meaner, his wife Mary Peach and his friend Rod Taylor pull away from him. They complain he's too cold and doesn't see the humanity within the soldiers. Since Rock is trying to get the base to prepare for the worst-case scenario (pressing the red button and signaling a dozen planes to fly all over the world and drop bombs), I think it's fair that he's cold and doesn't allow mistakes among his men. When the time comes, if a man reports for duty hungover and drops his bomb on the wrong town, his commanding officer shouldn't say, "Gee whiz, everybody's human." Since I didn't agree with the main message of the movie, and the rest of the movie was incredibly boring, I can't really recommend this one unless you liked Gregory Peck's earlier movie.
  • Delbert Mann being a bomber pilot who flew combat missions during World War 2, was not unfamiliar with Air Force culture. Excellent director that he was, I don't suppose Mann was ever intending to fowl his own nest so to speak, with A Gathering of Eagles, being filmed with the complete cooperation of the USAF and to which the film is dedicated.

    So what we end up with is nearly a "A Mutiny on the Bounty" scenario set on a fictitious Air Force base hosting a Strategic Air Command squadron of bomber jets. Rock Hudson is the ambitious Captain Bligh like Wing Commander Caldwell, trying to whip his base into being one of the most efficient in the Force. In doing so they'll be prepared to pass (with flying colours ... sorry) any unannounced "ORI"( operational readiness inspection) hung on them, that we, the audience, know will inevitably arrive. Contrasting with the stern Caldwell, is Rod Taylor's likeable Fletcher Christian parallel, Col. Hollis Farr the base's vice wing commander.

    I say "nearly" because a movie receiving a high degree of support and cooperation from the armed forces, is always unlikely to be then critical of the hand that feeds. And so it proves here in A Gathering of Eagles.

    The closest we ever get to a mutiny situation is "general unrest on the base". The "Fletcher Christian figure" is fired well before any uprising occurs, though he does end up temporarily "steering the ship" so to speak during the film's climax. Caldwell's regime of firm discipline and rigorous application is demonstrated to succeed to all and sundry. I include his wife here. It may be realistic, but in all honesty it doesn't make for good drama. Thus when a senior career officer is fired and facing an early forced retirement, his suicide attempt miserably fails, as we expect. It wouldn't look good if the military was linked to an onscreen suicide. To further enhance this extreme aspect of tough love, Caldwell is seen shaking the ex-officer out of his depression, by giving him another bawling out, this one conveniently designed to "inspire" him to greater things outside military life.

    The positives of a close association with the military are on show for all to see. The plentiful hardware both in the air and on the grounds reeks of authenticity. The airborne cinematography is never less than impressive.

    But in a close to two hour film, the storyline needs a lot more than an almost fawning predictability and supplication to sustain our interest and this is where AGOE, comes closest to crashing and burning. Little wonder then, unlike some of Mann's earlier films, this was a critical and commercial flop.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Directed by Delbert Mann, with a story by producer Sy Bartlett that was adapted by Robert Pirosh, the film received an Academy Award nomination for its Sound Effects - lots of hardware on display including the requisite takeoffs and a dangerous landing.

    "It's lonely at the top" is the movie cliché that's recycled in this drama; in fact, its story is so much like Strategic Air Command (1955) with James Stewart and June Allyson, and even other earlier wartime dramas like The Dawn Patrol (1938), Command Decision (1948) and Bartlett's own Twelve O'Clock High (1949), that one might be tempted to write this one off (which would be a mistake).

    Like those other military leadership stories, it works, due (in no small part) to its lead actor's performance. In this one, Rock Hudson plays Colonel Jim Caldwell, who's just been assigned the Wing Commander of a SAC base that's just failed a surprise operational review. Dubbed an ORI, it's an extensive simulated test of base readiness. A failure to respond to such an alert with maximum efficiency could mean disaster for the United States, hence (according to the film) there were 51 bases complete with B-52 bombers, Titan missiles, and appropriate staff established and trained to meet any threat.

    The plot's first ninety minutes establishes the difficulty Caldwell has in setting new, even higher standards of performance for those under his command. These lead to clashes and conflicts with (or firings of) virtually everyone else including the likable vice commander - his former Korean War veteran friend Colonel Hollis Farr (Rod Taylor), an aging base commander that drinks to better handle the stress - Colonel Bill Fowler (Barry Sullivan), the hands-on maintenance officer who doesn't delegate responsibility very well - Colonel Joe Garcia (Henry Silva), and his British wife Victoria (Mary Peach), who receives comfort from Fowler's spouse Evelyn (Leora Dana). Caldwell does manage to befriend a handball-playing maintenance Sergeant Banning (Robert Lansing, who looks remarkably like Steve McQueen); otherwise it's tough sledding for the hard- nosed first time commander. Others in the cast include Richard Anderson and Leif Erickson; future Best Actress Oscar winner Louise Fletcher appears (uncredited, in a hospital no less) as a crewman's wife near the end of the movie.

    The story's final 30 minutes, which begins with Caldwell inspiring an attempted suicide wounded now former Colonel Fowler, is intended to demonstrate the results of the commander's efforts. Once surprise inspector General 'Happy Jack' Kirby (Kevin McCarthy) arrives to conduct a follow-up ORI, everyone pulls together to pass the test with flying colors.
  • hatlad2 July 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    I've been waiting since the late 1980s to finally get to see this movie all the way through. Seriously! So, I finally broke down and bought a DVD of it on Amazon.

    This review MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS so beware!

    Overall, an OK flick. Pretty good B-52 and KC-135 shots. And, from what I've ever been told, the non-flying scenes were pretty representative of the "walking on eggshells" all the time environment of SAC during the LeMay days (early 1960s Cold War days).

    It certainly wasn't hard to despise the harda** Caldwell was rapidly becoming turning the Wing around. It wasn't hard to sympathize with the underlings who were pouring themselves into their jobs only to get chastized by Caldwell for doing it.

    I thought it was hilarious that the guy with 6 stripes in the command post was supposedly going thru his first ORI. From what I'm given to understand ORIs were a part of life at every level in SAC, so there's no way an Operations Master Sergeant would've never gone thru one before that level of rank. But, that's Hollywood for ya.
  • Almost a recruiting poster for the US Air Force Strategic Air Command, this movie highlights the dedication shown by the men and women who kept America's nuclear deterrent on 24/7 alert for several decades during the Cold War. A sub-plot highlighting the personal toll such vigilance exacts is less effective, but the parade of character actors supporting Rock Hudson is impressive, including Rod Taylor, Henry Silva, Kevin McCarthy, Barry Sullivan and Robert Lansing -- unfamiliar names, but very familiar faces to movie fans.
  • cruiseone6 January 2019
    I Was stationed in Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota in 1967. I lived through several ORIs. This movie accurately represents what it was like in SAC. I will say that we were never caught off guard by an OR I. Somehow, the word would get out days in advance that one was coming.

    One of my favorite movies and I give it 10 Stars!
  • General "happy jack" Kirby is cool, and unassuming, and drinks coffee twenty four hours a day, and catnaps like Edison. His job is to surprise the B52 wings and make sure that they are combat ready in case of enemy attack. The only objection to the story line is the never ending conflict with husband and wife because his job is so demanding. I think he was an officer in the Air Force when they got married, and didn't she realize this situation going in?And of course Rod Taylor playing the XO was a joke with his familiarity with the troops;he should have been a sargeant at best. But, in spite of the negatives, I seem to have watched this film several times, and enjoyed it and am giving it a 6.....
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