This is a disappointing film from a premier director, one which begins as an epic then degenerates into a soap opera. Hunter, whose acting efforts have always been mediocre at best, is one of many young American volunteers during WW I to a French air force group known as the Lafayette
Escadrille. Most of the beginning deals with the training of the recruits--their difficulties with crude training planes and with the French language spoken by their impatient instructors. Hunter, when off duty, meets and falls in love with Choureau, a common streetwalker with some sensitivity;
she quits the oldest profession and takes a job, reforming for Hunter's sake. Hunter is a malcontented young man whose father, as Hunter relates, beat him. As a result of this abuse, Hunter resents any kind of authority (which might prompt one to ask why he joined the military in the first place).
Strutting, arrogant French officer Dalio, irritated by Hunter's inability to understand his commands, strikes him. Hunter knocks the officer to the ground, a serious offense. Before he can be jailed, Hunter's pals smuggle him out of camp and he spends a great deal of time hiding out in Paris in
his sweetheart's apartment. He later redeems himself by serving in the US Air Corps when America comes into the war.
There really isn't a lot here. The bloated Hunter segments are downright boring, but Clothier's aerial photography, what there is of it, is stunning. One of the best scenes in the movie, near the beginning, shows the young recruits sleeping in makeshift quarters shortly after arrival at the
training camp in France. Director Wellman's son then poignantly tells in voice-over what will happen to these brave flying warriors. Wellman later denounced the film as a failure, saying that although he had written the tale as a love story, Warner Bros. insisted on making it into a mini-epic,
changing his title C'EST LA GUERRE to LAFAYETTE ESCADRILLE. In his autobiography, A Short Time For Insanity, Wellman admitted the film collapsed "artistically, financially and spiritually. A bad picture is like a frightful birthmark on your face--it never leaves you, first run, second run, reruns,
TV prime time, late time, lousy time; it's always there for people to stare at unbelievingly or turn away from or, worse still, turn off, or should that be better still? It's your eternal badge of embarrassment."
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This is a disappointing film from a premier director, one which begins as an epic then degenerates into a soap opera. Hunter, whose acting efforts have always been mediocre at best, is one of many young American volunteers during WW I to a French air force… (more)