Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Movie review: Flat Top (1952)

The movie Flat Top came out in the early 50's as one of the many World War Two films of that day. The story revolves around Navy Air Group Commander Dan Collier, played by Sterling Hayden, a fairly big star of the 50s. You may remember him best as General Jack D. Ripper from Dr Strangelove.

Collier is the non-nonsense seasoned commander who gets a new squadron of pilots about their fast carrier (it was actually filmed in large part aboard USS Princeton (CV 37), which was launched in November, 1945, too late to actually take part in the war.) The new guys are a cross-section of America, of course, green, but shepherded along by Lt. (j.g.) Joe Rodgers, a squadron leader with a bit of prior military service who stands up for them and occasionally bucks Collier, whom he feels is too strict with the pilots. Initially everyone hates Collier, including no doubt many in the audience, but eventually everyone comes around to see that he is really a good guy who was hard for a reason and right all along. This. of course, is the plot behind half of the war movies ever made, but what makes this one great is all of the flying and flight-deck footage of the aircraft. Most of the deck footage involves F-4U Corsairs because the Navy was still using them in Korea and had them aboard Princeton, but much actual combat footage and landing footage was used with other aircraft interchangeably as was the Hollywood habit of that day so if you watch, you'll see plenty of Grumman Hellcats, Dauntlesses, and even a Skyraider or two along with some F-9F Panthers during the opening and closing scenes as the movie story is told as a flashback. Heck, I liked the movie just for the plane footage alone--and there was no shortage of it--so the dogs and I are giving it three paws out of four, and it would have gotten four if they'd just done away with the actors and showed more Corsair and Hellcat carrier operations.

The movie is free for watching (with Amazon Prime)or you can buy it on Amazon and I recommend it to anyone who likes airplanes.

USS Princeton (CV 37)

Real Corsair coming aboard the Princeton.

Look at them all.

As for the real Princeton, she was awarded eight Battle Stars for operations off of Korea and she served off Vietnam as well before being decommissioned permanently in 1970 and sold for scrap in 1971. One of her last missions was recovering the astronauts and space capsule of Apollo 10. She was the fifth USS Princeton in Navy service and the sixth, still currently serving, is a Ticonderoga-class Guided Missile Cruiser, CG-59.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drink beer and lament the fact that I missed out on being able to buy Navy-surplus Corsairs by about four decades.


  1. I'm with you on the lament!

  2. Yep, great flying... sigh...

  3. I remember that movie!