Aerial Gunner

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Aerial Gunner
Aerial Gunner poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by William H. Pine
Produced by William H. Pine
William C. Thomas
Written by Jack F. Dailey
Maxwell Shane
Starring Chester Morris
Richard Arlen
Jimmy Lydon
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof
Cinematography Fred Jackman Jr.
Edited by William H. Ziegler
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 20, 1943 (1943-03-20)
Running time
78 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Aerial Gunner is a 1943 American World War II film directed by William H. Pine and starring Chester Morris, Richard Arlen and Jimmy Lydon.


Policeman Jon Davis (Richard Arlen) informs "Foxy" Pattis (Chester Morris) at his shooting gallery, that his criminal father has died. Foxy blames all policemen, feeling they harassed him all his life and were responsible for his death. John Davis enlists and "Foxy" Pattis is drafted into the United States Army Air Forces where Foxy becomes the instructor at an aerial gunnery school. He makes life miserable for Jon, now a "Flying Sergeant" student, trying to force the former policeman to resign.

Despite Foxy's hostility, Jon is able to pass the course. He later befriends a young Texas boy, Sandy (Jimmy Lydon), whose father was an airman killed at Hickam Field during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sandy invites Jon and Foxy to his family's ranch, where both men fall for Sandy's sister Peggy (Amelita Ward).

After graduation, Jon is commissioned as a Lieutenant and is assigned as a pilot of a light bomber, with many of his classmates now his crew. A belligerent Foxy serves as his gunner and is not accepted as a team player by the others. During a bombing mission against the Japanese, however, he makes the ultimate sacrifice in trying to protect the other crew members when the bomber is shot down behind enemy lines.



The use of USAAF aircraft in the film elevated Aerial Gunner from the standard B film of the era.[2]

Principal photography for Aerial Gunner by the Paramount Pictures Pine-Thomas Productions unit took place over a period from October 21–mid-November 1942.[3] Location work at the air gunner training school at Harlingen Air Force Base, Texas. Many of the real AAF trainees there appear in the film as extras.[4]

With the assistance of the USAAF, aerial scenes featured North American T-6 Texan and Beech AT-11 Kansan trainers at Harlingen Air Force Base, and Lockheed B-34 Lexington bombers. The use of operational aircraft lent an air of authenticity to the low-budget B film feature, although a number of ground scenes that were later added, which had to rely on studio rear projection work, looked amateurish.[2]


Aerial Gunner had its world premiere at Harlingen Air Force Base, where much of the film is set.[5] Other premieres at major cities followed.

The critical reception was mixed, with Kate Cameron of The New York Daily News describing the film as the "most ambitious picture" that Paramount producers William Pine and William Thomas had turned out.[5] Bosley Crowther completely disagreed in his review for The New York Times; he dismissed the effort as nothing more than "... heroics for the bumpkins in one-syllable clichés. There are a few interesting sequences in it of training at an aerial gunnery school and some routine, but always pretty pictures of planes climbing up and setting down. But never do they rise above the ceiling prescribed by a normal B-film. This is strictly a picture for the shooting-gallery trade."[6]



  1. ^ Later film stars Kirk Alyn and Jeff Corey make uncredited appearances.[1]


  1. ^ "Cast: Aerial Gunner (1943)." IMDb. Retrieved: August 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Hardwick and Schnepf 1989, p. 51.
  3. ^ "Original Print Information: Aerial Gunner (1943)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: August 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 72.
  5. ^ a b Orriss 1984, p. 73.
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Aerial Gunner (1943): The screen." The New York Times, June 26, 1943.


  • Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.

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