Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Yank in the RAF

If you haven't seen enough World War II pictures, FXM Retro has been running another one in its rotation the past several weeks: A Yank in the RAF, tomorrow morning at 7:35 AM. I had some problems with the film, but this is definitely one of those movies you should watch for yourself.

Tyrone Power is the Yank, a man named Tim Baker. He's doing cargo runs over the Atlantic, since this is only 1940 and America isn't actually in the war yet, even though a lot of Americans have sympathy for the plight of the UK. Indeed, he's not the only American in the UK: he meets his old girlfriend Carol Brown (Betty Grable), who i more or less doing her bit by entertaining the British servicemen and otherwise being around all the time, it seems. Indded, quite a few of the men meet Carol or want to meet her. Seeing his old girlfriend again gives Tim an idea. He's going to volunteer for the RAF, where he thinks he could do a great job as a fighter pilot. And serving in the RAF would certainly give him a way back into the good graces of Carol.

Or maybe not. Carol's got one of the British flyboys, Wing Commander Morley (John Sutton) pining for her. Worse for Tim is that the RAF commanders don't hae the same view of his abilities that he does. Instead of getting to be a fighter pilot, they stick him in a bomber. Talk about a come-down. Making matters even worse is that they stick him in the bomber piloted by Morley. So now we've got the dramatic tension for the rest of the movie.

Tim and Morley both continue to pursue Carol, and in this pursuit we see that Tim is quite often a selfish jerk, which brings some sense into why he though the RAF would be falling all over themselves to put him in a fighter. But his arrogance also leads to wonder what Carol saw in Tim in the first place, unles she's just one of those dummies who falls for the good-looking bad guy. There are women like that, after all. Tim jilts Carol; she goes to visit Morley's family and accepts a marriage proposal from him. Tim and Morley get shot down over Holland, and Tim uses that as one more opportunity to get back in Carol's good graces by faking injury. Stupid idea. Finally, Tim gets the chance to be a fighter pilot when the Battle of Dunkerque greatly depletes the British flying corps. Surely now he has the chance to redeem himself.

I think there are two big problems I have with A Yank in the RAF. One is that the movie seems fairly predictable. One sees the romantic tension coming, but with Tyrone Power and Betty Grable being Fox's two big stars of the period, the expectation is always going to be that they'll wind up together in the final reel. But Tyrone Power's character is also such a jerk that it makes watching Tim's pursuit of Carol grating at times, and the final ending leaves you wondering why she picked him. Not only that, but it comes across almost as a deus ex machina ending.

Still, everybody acting in the movie does a professional job. They're just given a script that lets them down in places. So some of you will probably find those script problems to be lesser flaws than I do, and will like the film a good deal more than I do. It doesn't hurt, either, that Power and Grable are both lovely to look at. The movie is also listed as being available on DVD at Amazon.

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