Chain Lightning (1950)

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A somewhat corny look at early jet aircraft test jockeys, mentioning but not showing Chuck Jaeger, and focusing more on the balls of the test pilot – Bogart – than the technical problems of flying faster than sound and higher than unaided human beings can survive.

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It all looks a little preposterous now, but apparently the film was so popular that it was dubbed into 11 languages.

It was written by Hollywood Ten blacklisted Lester Cole, under the name Redmond Prior. Cole was actually a member of the communist party, but his script-writing record doesn’t seem all that subversive: Black Beauty was his most successful.

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The film might the first in which technology was more important than the story or the actors. I was pretty bored with the extended flying sequences but I guess they must have seemed pretty thrilling at the time.

REally, thopugh, I can’t work out why Jack Warner didn’t throw more money at this property. Made in colour with a script focused just a bit more on character development this could have been huge. Humphrey Bogart was hot property. I guess this might have been another victim of the HUAC hearings and the uncertainty they created about Bogart.

Instead I was much more taken in by some of the gorgeous film posters the production generated.

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Warner Brothers, 94 minutes, black and white.

Directed by Stuart Heisler. Written by Liam O’Brien, Vincent Evans, from the story ‘These Many Years’ by Lester Cole. Cinematography by Ernst Haller. Produced by Anthony Veiller. Music by David Buttolph.

Featuring Humphrey Bogart as Lt Colonel Matthew ‘Matt’ Brennan, Eleanor Parker as Joan ‘Jo’ Holloway, Raymond Massey as Leland Willis, Richard Whorf as Carl Troxell, James Brown as Major Hinkle, Roy Roberts as Major General Hewitt, Morris Ankrum as Ed Bostwick.

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