AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Pilot #5
Alternate Title: Destination Tokyo
Director: George Sidney (Dir)
Release Date:   1943
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 24 Jun 1943
Production Date:   16 Jul--mid-Aug 1942
Duration (in mins):   70
Duration (in feet):   6,347
Duration (in reels):   7
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Cast:   Franchot Tone ([Lt.] George Braynor Collins)  
    Marsha Hunt (Freddie [Andrews])  
    Gene Kelly (Vito S. Alessandro)  
    Van Johnson (Everett Arnold)  
    Alan Baxter (Winston Davis)  
    Dick Simmons (Henry Willoughby Claven)  
    Steve Geray (Major Eichel)  
    Howard Freeman ([Governor] Hank Durban)  
    Frank Puglia (Nikola [Alessandro])  
    William Tannen (American soldier)  
    Edward Fielding (Dean Barrett)  
    Frank Ferguson (Tully)  
    Carl Saxe (Dutch boy)  
    Peter Lawford (English soldier)  
    Jack Gardner (Mechanic)  
    Sara Haden (Landlady)  
    James Davis (Military police)  
    Cliff Danielson (Military police)  
    Jacqueline White (Party girl)  
    Marilyn Maxwell (Party girl)  
    Betty Jaynes (Party girl)  
    Marie Windsor (Party girl)  
    Hobart Cavanaugh (Boat owner)  
    Kay Medford (Secretary)  
    Dick French (Secretary)  
    William Halligan (Bartender)  
    Fred Graham (Bodyguard)  
    J. Lewis Smith (Bodyguard)  
    Eddie Acuff (Cameraman)  
    Billy Wayne (Cameraman)  
    Dorothy Morris (Hanna Pritchard)  
    J. Frank Hamilton (Mr. Pritchard)  
    Ellen Lowe (Mrs. Pritchard)  
    Eugene Martin (Office boy)  
    Eddy Chandler (Head deputy)  
    Ralph Dunn (Deputy)  
    Mark Daniels (Cadet)  
    Leigh Sterling (Cadet)  
    William Bishop (Cadet)  
    James Craven (English lieutenant)  
    Helen Thurston (Carhop)  
    Frances Rafferty (Carhop)  
    James Millican (Lieutenant)  
    Howard Mitchell (Gate guard)  
    Nellie V. Nichols (Mrs. Alessandro)  
    Harry Semels (Barber)  
    John Dilson (Defense instructor)  

Summary: In March 1942, on the island of Java, Major Eichel, the Dutch commander of a group of Allied troops, must choose a pilot to fly a suicide mission against the Japanese, using the squad's only working plane. Although four other Americans eagerly vie for the chance, Eichel selects Lt. George Braynor Collins, who plans to bomb not only the enemy's planes, but an aircraft carrier as well. After the seemingly fearless George takes off with a 500-pound bomb strapped to his plane, Eichel questions the remaining pilots about their cohort. Henry Willoughby Claven, George's longtime friend, recalls that when he first saw the hard-working George after he had graduated from law school, he seemed peculiarly serious but did not inquire as to why. Winston Davis then describes how he first met George while working as an Air Corps recruiter: Because of a bad recommendation from Barrett, George's college dean, Winston is forced to reject George's application to join the Air Corps. Winston is nonetheless struck by George's intense manner, and, on a hunch, tracks him to a bar in his home town. There, the bartender reveals that years before, when George's former boss, Governor Hank Durban, was exposed as a crook, George was ostracized by the town. George picks a fight with Winston and so impresses him with his combative spirit that Winston changes his mind about recruiting him. Back on Java, while Vito listens anxiously to George's radio reports, Henry continues his recollections, remembering a time when George was still a law student: After Dean Barrett informs the top-ranked George that Governor Durban has expressed interest in hiring him, an elated George proposes to his childhood sweetheart, Freddie Andrews. Freddie happily accepts, and together they begin building their dream house. Months later, Henry visits the couple at the half-finished house and senses that, despite their youthful appearance, they have suddenly aged. After Henry concludes his story, Vito S. Alessandro talks about his relationship with George, whom he first met just out of law school: In order to please his uncle, who works for Governor Durban, Vito, a brash but incompetent lawyer, offers George a partnership in his firm. Although Freddie, who is Vito's secretary, discourages George from becoming involved with Vito and Durban, the ambitious George accepts. Later, after Durban has revealed to the lawyers his latest land-grabbing scheme, Freddie realizes that George has fallen under the governor's seductive spell. Despite Freddie's warnings, George agrees to help the governor evict poor farmers by claiming that a valuable water project is to be constructed on their land. Soon after, Vito's beloved brother Nikola arrives from Italy, having barely escaped alive from the Facists. When the infirmed Nikola, who had been Vito's boyhood hero, sees a portrait of Benito Mussolini hanging on Vito's office wall, he explodes and accuses his brother of treachery. Later, Nikola, now half-mad, kills himself. Guilt-ridden, Vito seeks comfort from Freddie, whom he has longed loved, and is confronted by a jealous George. Freddie is disgusted by George's petty emotions and informs him that while she still loves him, she no longer likes him. After George slaps her for saying that he is no better than the Facists, Freddie ends their relationship and moves to California. Still on Durban's payroll, George and Vito then help to evict the Pritchard family, proud farmers who have refused to abandon their land. When Durban's thugs toss tear gas canisters into the Pritchards' house, the lawyers watch in horror as the Pritchards' mentally ill daughter Hanna crawls up the chimney in fear and is suffocated. Enraged by the tragedy, George accuses Durban of murder, but Durban smugly denies any responsibility. After George slugs him, Durban orders his bodyguards to beat George and leave him for dead. George survives, however, and supplies the U.S. Attorney with evidence to indict and convict the governor. For his efforts, George is spurned by the community and is forced to work at menial jobs until he decides to join the Air Corps. Back in Java, as George nears his target, Vito describes how he encountered George at pilots' training school and arranged for him to be reunited with Freddie during a three-day furlough: At the Los Angeles bus station, George spies Freddie and rushes to her side. Forgetting the past, the couple boards a bus for Las Vegas, marries and moves into a rental cottage. When George's furlough is up, Freddie says a brave goodbye and bids him to do his duty. Back in camp, after Eichel states that he now understands George's courage, he and the other pilots listen to the radio while George shoots down several Japanese planes, then dive-bombs into their ship. With George's sacrifice, Eichel proclaims that every Facist enemy, "our enemy," shall be destroyed. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: George Sidney (Dir)
  Sanford Roth (Asst dir)
Producer: B. P. Fineman (Prod)
Writer: David Hertz (Orig story and scr)
  Robert D. Andrews (Contr to scr constr)
Photography: Paul Vogel (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Howard Campbell (Assoc)
Film Editor: George White (Film ed)
  Albert Akst (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
  Glen Barner (Assoc)
Music: Lennie Hayton (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Special Effects: Arnold Gillespie (Spec eff)
  Don Jahraus (Spec eff)
Country: United States
Language: English

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 1/4/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP11995 Yes

PCA NO: 8858
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: World War II
Subjects (Major): Air pilots, Military
  Political corruption
  World War II
Subjects (Minor): Accidental death
  Bombing, Aerial
  College deans
  The Depression, 1929
  Italian Americans
  Japan. Navy
  Java (Indonesia)
  Land developers
  Las Vegas (NV)
  Law students
  Los Angeles (CA)
  Mental illness
  Military service, Voluntary
  Moral reformation
  Proposals (Marital)
  Tear gas
  Unrequited love

Note: The working titles of this film were Skyway to Glory , The Story of Number Five and Destination Tokyo . According to a Feb 1943 HR news item, M-G-M went back and forth on the various titles before settling on Pilot #5 , the title of the original screen story. Most reviews list the title as Pilot No. 5 . Opening credits include the following written foreword: "Millions of men have taken up arms to defend their freedom against the forces who would destroy it. One of these millions was George Collins. This is his story, before and after Pearl Harbor."
       Although George White receives onscreen credit as editor, Albert Akst is listed as editor in HR news items and production charts. In Jun 1942, HR announced that Philip Dorn was to star in the picture with Franchot Tone, Marsha Hunt and Gene Kelly. Wally Cassell is listed as a cast member in HR , but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Some scenes were shot at the Cal-Aero aviation training school near Riverside, CA, according to HR . Pilot #5 , which was the first Hollywood film to deal with the Japanese invasion of Dutch East Indies, was one of six M-G-M pictures that was criticized by Sgt. Bill Davidson of Yank magazine for being "insufficient to the war effort." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   May 43   p. 184.
Box Office   10 Apr 1943.   
Daily Variety   7 Apr 43   pp. 3-4.
Film Daily   8 Apr 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jun 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jul 42   p. 4, 10
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jul 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jul 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Aug 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Aug 42   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   11 Sep 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Jan 43   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Feb 43   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Apr 43   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald   10 Apr 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   24 Oct 42   p. 971.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   10 Apr 43   p. 1250.
New York Times   25 Jun 43   p. 13.
Variety   7 Apr 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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