Movie Mania: “A Yank In the R.A.F.”

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This movie was released shortly before the United States got involved in World War Two, in September 1941. It stars Tyrone Power (gorgeous man, and also someone my grandmother loved – good taste runs in the family heh) and Betty Grable. This was one of the movies that launched Grable into her stardom and forever being known as a pinup during the war and for those famous legs. She actually had a serious dramatic role in “I Woke Up Screaming”, and the studio was trying to get her into more serious roles, but she refused them, only taking roles where she would either sing or dance, and show off her legs. Go figure, as usually this is the opposite for Hollywood starlets at that time!

An American pilot Tim Baker (Power) signs up for duty for deliveries from the U.S. to Britain, at $1,000 per flight, which is the main impetus for his decision. This was shortly before the U.S. involvement in the war when we were still neutral, but had the Lend-Lease program going to aid the Allies (meaning, we weren’t that neutral, now were we? 😉 ). While he is there, he notices his old flame, Carol Brown (Grable), during a training exercise for a voluntary nursing unit when there was a constant threat of bombings in London. She refuses his advances at first, but does admit that she is also a dancer at a local nightclub. He decides upon joining the R.A.F. to impress her.

Later on, Baker is to discover he is competing for Brown’s affections with an R.A.F. Wing Commander John Morley (John Sutton). Baker even attempts to win back her affections by slipping an engagement ring on her finger, while Morley takes her on a romantic hike an asks for her hand there. She is never truly sure as to whether she should look back to her past romance and feelings she had and may still have, or to move forward and continue her life with a new man.

Baker soon finds that his duty is more dangerous than he expected, as he narrowly escapes his first mission by a motorboat back to England, only surviving thanks to his friend and mate Philby giving his life for them. After his return, they get sent on another mission, this time which seems to be more dangerous than before. Let me note that a lot of these Spitfire fighter scenes are actual R.A.F. scenes during actual flights and missions, so it adds a dose of reality to this movie, despite it being mostly light hearted. But despite shooting down two Luftwaffe fighters, Baker himself is shot down as well.

Soon both Baker and Morley are on their way via boat back from Dunkirk, and word gets to Carol and she waits at the docks, holding her breath to see who appears to have survived, if they did at all. When she sees Baker, she runs to him and embraces him, which makes Morley realize that her heart still is with Baker.

All in all, I personally love this movie. I found it on Netflix, and had to watch it both because of Betty Grable and Tyrone Power. My grandmother loved him, and I must say I agree with her! Yesterday it was exactly one year since my grandmother passed away at 95 years old, and she was really the only grandparent I ever had. I have a lot of great vintage things thanks to her, including her wedding ring on a necklace around my neck that I absolutely refuse to take off. This movie made me think of her, so I had to watch. And I am so glad I did. It is such a sweet, light hearted movie, and will make you smile. I know a lot of critics nowadays say it makes too much light of the seriousness of the war, but I don’t think they realize the times back then. This country was worried, because we knew we would end up in it, one way or another (although certainly unexpected on how it did ultimately come to be), and we were also dealing with the Depression yet. People were looking towards movies as something to cheer them up and to make them smile – and that is just what this movie does.

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