Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Double Feature: Twelve O'Clock High (1949) & Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Twelve O'Clock High - ****

In this classic World War II drama, Gregory Peck plays General Frank Savage, who is assigned to the 918th Heavy Bombardment Group, after the previous commander becomes unable to lead his troops. This flying outfit specializes in daytime bombing, which was unheard of at the time. When he takes charge of the unit, Savage is a tough leader, and the flyers under his command don't take to his less than genial demeanor. Savage's goal is to get the men working efficiently, pushing them to achieve results in the field and become a more productive outfit. To do this, he will have to win the men over with the help of a crafty officer (Dean Jagger), the ex-commander (Gary Merrill), and the mens' elected representative (Robert Patten). The group slowly improves, but an important final mission could prove disastrous for Savage, as he and his men are tested beyond in the heat of battle.

The film received nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Dean Jagger), and Best Sound. It won Oscars for Jagger and the 20th Century-Fox sound department.

Trivia: This film is still shown in leadership training sessions for the Navy and Air Force, as well as civilian courses.

Witness for the Prosecution - ****

Billy Wilder's 1957 film features Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, and Marlene Dietrich in solid performances. Based on Agatha Christie's short story and play, the film is one of the best courtroom dramas ever made. Laughton is Sir Wilfred Roberts, a barrister with a heart condition and no room for exciting cases. When Leonard Vole (Power) presents his case of being wrongfully accused for murder, Roberts takes the case, to the chagrin of his strict nurse (Elsa Lancaster). The trial begins, and everything is going as planned. Complications arise when Vole's wife (Dietrich) takes the stand. What follows is the stuff spoilers are made of. In lieu of giving it away, there are twists and turns that lead to a surprising (to me, at least), upbeat ending. It's rarely mentioned with Wilder's best films, but it's another great film from the celebrated director.

Though the film did not win any Oscars, it received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Charles Laughton), Best Supporting Actress (Elsa Lancaster), Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.

Trivia: This is one of three films Wilder directed in 1957 - the others being Love in the Afternoon and The Spirit of St. Louis.


  1. I LOVE Twelve O'Clock High, that's one of my favorite Gregory Peck films. He's just superb in that role, not to mention hunky ;) The film was an interesting take on the psychological aspect of war. I did learn that it's still being used in leadership and military classes, how awesome is that!

    I still have a TON of Billy Wilder films I haven't seen so I'll add 'Witness' to the list. Great reviews, Josh!

    1. Thanks, Ruth! Can't wait for Oscar season to be over, so I can watch more Best Picture nominees. I've still got 145 left! :)

      Haha. Yeah, Peck was terrific. His performance as Savage is right up there with Atticus Finch.

      Hope you like 'Witness'. It's a great courtroom drama, but it also has its funny moments.

  2. I'm adding both these titles to my watchlist. Thanks! :)

    1. You're welcome! Hope you enjoy them. :)

  3. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) is on my list, Billy Wilder here are come! ( :