A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941)
Director: Henry King.
Starring: Tyrone Power (Tim Baker), Betty Grable (Carol Brown), John Sutton (Wing Commander Morley), Reginald Gardiner (Roger Pillby), Donald Stuart (Corporal Harry Baker), Ralph Byrd (Al Bennett), Richard Fraser (Thorndyke), Denis Green (Flight Lieutenant Redmond), Bruce Lester (Flight Lieutenant Sterling Richardson), Gilchrist Stuart (Wales), Lester Matthews (Group Captain), Frederick Worlock (Canadian Major), Ethel Griffies (Lady Fitzhugh).
a love triangle set in England where an American pilot is flying for the British Royal Air Force against Nazi Germany
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
"In the early days of the present war a neutrality act prohibited American manufacturers from delivering planes to belligerents on foreign soil. Sympathetic to Great Britain and her allies, but legal to the last, their pilots were ordered to fly the ships as close as possible to the Canadian border. Democratic ingenuity and a stout rope did the rest. "
The American planes (Harvard trainers) are being pulled over the Canadian border one after another. Then a Harvard trainer just flies right over the border. A man on the ground wonders what's going on? He asks: "Now where's he going? That's another Harvard trainer, ain't it?" Yes.
The American pilot Tim Baker heads for the R.C.A.F. Training Station, Trenton, Ontario, Canada. The men on the airfield wonder why is this Harvard trainer coming directly into the airport? Baker is greeted by Flight Lieutenant Redmond. Tim pretends he was flying to Trenton, New Jersey, USA but got mixed up and landed in Trenton, Canada. Redmond takes Baker into see the Commanding Officer. The commander asks: "Mr. Baker. Have you ever heard of the Neutrality Act?" Yes. The commander adds that " Nor will we be a party to any action likely to embarrass a friendly government." Tim Baker will never again fly American planes to Canada. But, they do need men to ferry bombers across to England. The job pays a $1,000 dollars per ferried bomber and all expenses. At this news Baker grabs at the chance to take the job.
Tim is the main pilot ferrying a bomber over to England.
London. The news of the day is that Hitler promises to respect Dutch-Belgian neutrality. Tim and his two man crew arrive at their hotel, the York Hotel. Tim is a real lady's man and he follows a pretty woman and asks her if she has seen his cat? Just then a car drives up to pick up the woman. Tim is out-of-luck this time. But now Tim sees an old flame of his from Dallas, Texas, USA. It's Carol Brown, who is serving as a W.R.E.N. in the Royal Air Force. Carol is participating in a practice run for a possible German bomber attack. She is under the supervision of Lady Fitzhugh.
Tim wraps his head in gauze and pretends he is a wounded man. He goes over to Carol to ask her for her help. At first she doesn't recognize him, but when he removes the gauze they hug and kiss each other. But then she remembers how Tim treated her in the not too distant past. She calls him a worm. Tim says no one can hold a grudge for a whole year. Carol assures him she can and does. She says that Tim was late in seeing her because he made a detour to see Irene. He tells her he didn't see Irene. And how can she tell him to scat, when he flew all the way over the Atlantic Ocean just to see Carol? Carol says she doesn't believe him.
He tells her who would have thought she would join the chorus line in the RAF? She tells him she works regularly by day and at night dances at . . . She doesn't complete her sentence about being in a night club chorus line and being the singer for the group. Tim is nothing, if not persistent. He grabs Carol and kisses her. Lady Fitzhugh asks him what does he think he's doing? Tim says: "I'm trying to kiss her." Carol says she's sorry and leaves. Lady Fitzhugh tells Tim: "You really should be ashamed of yourself, young man." Tim gets fresh and asks her: "What time do you go off duty, m'lady?" Fitzhugh is absolutely shocked at his effrontery.
Tim arrives at the night club and seats himself right up front and won't get up from the "reserved" table. When Carol comes out singing she is shocked to see Tim right up front. RAF pilot Roger Pillby has the table next to Tim and asks him if he would like for him to give Tim an introduction to the fabulous lady? Tim replies: "Awfully decent of you, old chap, but I already know her." Pillby says: "Oh. Then would you mind introducing me?" No way..
Tim waits for Carol in the waiting room. He asks one of the chorus girls if Carol is still inside? The chorus girl thinks she left some time ago. So Tim starts to arrange a date with the chorus girl. Carol comes out and Tim has to excuse himself. Carol says she thought she made it clear she didn't want to have anything more to do with Tim. But Tim never gives up. He gets her to go to a restaurant with him.
After dinner Tim and Carol take a taxi over to her place. Saying he just wants to see her to her door, Tim goes upstairs with her. Carol just doesn't seem to be able to get shed of Tim. When she opens her apartment Tim slips right into her place. He sneaks in a good kiss and Carol gives in to his charms. They hug and kiss and she calls him a worm.
Three pilots start backing their car up and run right into Carol's convertible car. They start to blame her, but when they see how pretty she is, they get out of their car and start to flirt with her. They say they are at fault now. She now drives her car a little way to park in a parking spot. One of the men is Wing Commander Morley. He decides not to go with his two pals. He is going to stay and flirt some more with Carol.
Tim sees Carol on the flattop of the airfield and goes over to see her. This time she's happy to see Tim. She explains that she is here on an errand for Lady Fitzhugh. Carol wants to know which of the fighters will be be flying? He tells her: "Oh, stop kidding. These are Lockheed Hudsons. Bombers." She asks where are those cute little spitfires? He says he wish he knew. They got him going to school again. "Teaching me to fly under wartime conditions." She says she probably won't be seeing much of him. Tim says he will pick her up after her night club act.
Carol gets her in car, but it won't start. That's because Wing Commander Morley took off her distributor cap. He comes around and tells her that her car will work better if she had the rotor for the distributor. She asks him to put the rotor back. He does so and then introduces himself to her. She doesn't pay much attention and leaves.
Morley goes to the night club and is seated besides Flight Officer Pillby. After Carol sings, Pillby asks Morley if he would like to be introduced to the singer? Morley says he already knows the woman. Then would Morley like to introduce Pillby to her? absolutely not.
Morley waits to take Carol to dinner. When she comes out, she says her husband wouldn't like it. She adds that her husband is picking her up. She sits down on the couch and Morley says he will just wait for her husband to come. He and she smoke cigarettes. She tries to get rid of Morley but he doesn't believe that she is married. He insists on driving her home. An air raid siren goes off and Morley and Carol have to go into a church until the coast is clear. She confesses that she's not married, but her fellow is a little late. She says she's insanely in love with her man. He invites her to lunch on Thursday. And although she just told him she is madly in love with another man, she accepts his lunch invitation.
Carol finds her apartment door open. She goes in and finds Tim asleep on her couch. He gets up and apologizes for standing her up. She says it's okay, but it's obviously not okay. She tells Tim that she was out with another guy and found him very charming. And she's having lunch with him on Thursday. He grabs her and kisses her hard. He tells her: "I know, honey. I'm a worm." Carol now hugs and kisses him.
Tim finds out that he has been assigned to No. 61 Squadron, Tadchester, Kent. And you probably could have guessed that his squadron leader is none other than John Morley. Morley doesn't know who Baker is. Baker tells him he is disappointed with his position. He wants to fly Spitfires.
Pillby greets Baker and tells the men that the two of them are rivals for the love of Carol Brown. Neither one of them would introduce him to Carol.
For the bombers, the objective tonight is Berlin, Germany. They are only going to drop pamphlets, not bombs, on Berlin. Tim is co-pilot to Morley. The gunner aboard is Corporal Baker, but he is not related to Tim Baker. Pillby flies one of the two other planes.
Carol has to run out of the shower to get the phone. Tim tells her that he will be 45 minutes late. She says that's okay. She then answers the knocking on the door and it's Morley. She rushes to go get dressed while Morley comes in. He invites her on a ride to Kent to see his father's farm. She yells to him that she already has a date. He starts to leave, but she calls him back by saying he doesn't have to leave so early. He leaves anyway.
Pillby comes into Tim's room. Tim asks him how long does it take to get to London? By train, it's a three hour trip. Pillby still wants Tim to introduce him to Carol, but Tim still says no. Since Tim says no on Carol, Pillby refuses to let him drive with him down to London. Now Tim says he would be delighted to introduce him to Miss Brown. So Pillby gives him a ride.
Traveling down to London Tim sees an old friend of his from the States: Al Bennett. He shouts out to the man. Pillby stops the car and backs it up. Bennett wants the two guys to have a drink with him in the pub. Pillby cautions Tim that they still have a long way to go to London. Tim tells him it will only take a minute, so Pillby agrees to go with them. At the pub the guys talk about Carol. Al asks for another round of beers. Pillby says no, but Tim says yes. So they stay even longer than expected. And later Al asks for a ride home and wants Tim to come up and see their friend Slip. Tim agrees.
The guys finally reach Carol's apartment. But now it's 4 o'clock in the morning. When they get into the apartment with the key under the welcome mat, they find Carol gone. Tim seems to really have a low emotional I.Q. He has no idea why Carol wouldn't have waited up for him until 4 in the morning. Pillby is also pretty disappointed. The guys go to bed.
Carol is enjoying her day with Morley in the country. The house in the country is a mansion. Morley asks her to marry him. She says: "I can't." She feels his father won't accept her, a dancer from Oklahoma. He says maybe it's because of Baker. But then she says: "I don't love him. . . . But when I'm with him, I can't seem to remember that." She tells Morley: "You're the one I ought to love. You're everything that Tim isn't. Carol comes home to find Tim sleeping on the sofa. She is really mad at him. She says it's alright, it's alright, but it's obvious that she is angry at Tim. She tells him she was out in the country with a male friend of hers. Tim says he's a heel and starts apologizing profusely, but she says there's nothing to forgive for she had a lovely time in the country. Carol just stays mad at him. Tim starts getting very perturbed with her. Now she says she's glad he didn't come. They are through for keeps. And she tells him that Morley asked her to marry her. Tim says if she wants to get married, he will marry her tonight. She just makes fun of him and says she would rather marry a . . .. She doesn't finished the sentence. She tells him to get out. And get that tramp friend of his out of her bed! Once more Pillby's hopes are crushed.
When the two friends get back to their quarters they are told that the pilots and crews are on standby. It seems the Germans are going to invade the Netherlands. Baker goes over to Morley's room to tell him that the problem child is back home again. Morley tells him to get into uniform. Tim starts a confrontation with the boss over Carol, but Pillby arrives to tell Morley that the commanding officer wants to speak with him on the phone right away.
The top staff and pilots are told that their bombing objective tonight is the marshaling yard at Dortmund. There will be heavy anti-aircraft fire. The situation has gotten much worse in the Netherlands. The Peel Line has already been turned. [The Peel -Raam Line was a Dutch defense line built in 1939 and attacked and conquered on May 10, 1940 by the German forces.]
The bombers take off. On this trip Tim is going to be the bombardier. When they get to Dortmund there are lots of search lights and lots of anti-aircraft fire. Tim drops the bombs right on target. Their plane, however, is hit by anti-aircraft fire. They now are only flying on one engine and they can't get away from the search lights. Pillby says he's heading down to knock out the search lights to save Tim and his crew. Morley tells him not to do that, but Pillby pretends he is already on the way down.
Pillby's plane is hit. He tells his men to bail out. Pillby and the crew don't have enough time and crash into the town. Now Tim's plane is acting up. Morley tells his crew to bail out. The two Bakers get ready. Another man jumps out of the plane. But Tim takes the controls and is able to land his plane on the Dutch coastline. The three men get out of the plane that now explodes and burns. And coming toward them is a large group of German soldiers. The men retreat to the farmhouse. But the house is already under German control. A German soldier holds them at pistol point. Corporal Baker rushes the German and gets shot. Tim and Morley knock out the German. The surviving two men make a run for the wharf down by the water.
Tim has a real hard time getting the motor on the boat started. The Germans are getting closer and closer. The motor finally starts and the men get away.
Tim wakes up in a British hospital. He doesn't know where he is. He finally sits up and sees that he's in a hospital. He asks the nurse what's the matter with him? She says it's just a case of exposure. He slept for 40 hours.
Tim gets a cane and a sling for his arm and goes to see Carol. He is playing the sympathy card. He also lies to her. The problem is, however, that he can't keep the pretense going. Carol soon sees that he is not really hurt. She starts balling Tim out. He gets rough with her and says she is his and she is going to stay his. And now he has to leave to go back to the fighting. The French and British armies are trapped at Dunkirk. They are sending ships and boats across the English Channel to pick up the soldiers and bring them to England.
Three spitfires land at the base. One of the pilots is Tim. He and the other pilots have to hurry and get dressed in their pilot outfits and go up with the other Spitfires pilots to help knock out the German planes strafing and bombing the soldiers at Dunkirk.
The Spitfires arrive over Dunkirk and start taking out the German planes. Tim shoots down one plane and says: That's for Roger Pillby. He shoots another plane down and says that's for Corporal Baker. He then says his next take down will be just for him. He blasts another German plane out of the sky.
The men saved at Dunkirk start coming off the ships and boats. The headlines in the newspapers is that the RAF wrested control of the air from the enemy at Dunkirk.
When Carol's last performance is over she rushes to the dressing room where Morley tells her that Tim is still missing. O'Brien said that Tim's plane got hit and Tim might have bailed out. Carol starts crying as she tells Morley that nothing ever happens to Tim. He always lands on his feet. The telephone rings with a message that the last of the ships are bringing in a ship full of men from Dunkirk. Carol gets dressed and with Morley goes down to see if she can spot Tim. And after some more searching she gets a glimpse of Tim. She yells to him repeatedly.
Carol runs up to him and gives him a hug and a big kiss. She shows Tim that she still has his ring on. She couldn't get the ring off her finger. A nurse comes over to Tim and says our car is ready. It's obvious that Tim was working his magic over women again. He tells her he is thankful for her help but friends have arrived unexpectedly to pick him up. The nurse looks very disappointed. Carol looks at Tim skeptically and says with a stern voice: "Tim!" He cuts her off saying: "I know, honey. I'm a worm."
Good film. It's a romantic comedy set against the Battle of Britain and Dunkirk. The romantic couple are both very flawed. Tim Baker is way too much of a playboy and Carol Brown is much too vengeful. She should have set Tim down and told him to knock off his always being late for dates and always trying to take out another girl if she is temporarily unavailable. For awhile she tells a British pilot that she just might marry him. As somewhat of a playboy, Tim is debonair and carefree. She should have insisted that he behave himself or she might have to go on to another guy.
Believe it or not, this was the first and only time I saw Betty Grable in a film. She did a good job. Tyrone was also very good in his role as happy playboy who never wants to be serious. Reginald Gardiner (as Roger Pillby) provides a lot of comic relief. Also good was John Sutton (as Wing Commander Morley) who was always plotting how to take Grable from Power.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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