Only some startlingly good aerial shots and overall strong production values lift this impossible story to the acceptable level. Wayne does his macho best as the colonel in charge of an Alaskan Air Force base. He is suddenly confronted by a defecting Russian pilot unlike any he might
expect, a beautiful blonde, Leigh. They fly to Washington, DC, and there Wayne learns to love his truculent but gorgeous cold war enemy. They marry, but Wayne comes to believe Leigh is a spy planted in the US to get top secrets. He agrees to pretend to defect to Russia to learn what he can, but
it's Leigh who learns that her side is tyrannical, and she and Wayne fly back to the US in a stolen Soviet jet. They settle down in Palm Springs, California, where they eat enormous steaks, Leigh wiping away a streak of gravy from her face so Wayne can plant a final kiss on her pouting lips.
The dialog is corny and the plot absolutely ludicrous. Producer Hughes decided to make JET PILOT a modern HELL'S ANGELS and his constant tinkering with the already poor script caused an eight-year delay in the film's release. He tried to convert innocent-looking Leigh into a Jean Harlow-like sex
symbol, parading her about in skimpy negligees. In one scene an embarrassed Wayne tries to search the well-endowed Leigh and in another the actress bounces about in only a towel after a shower. Director von Sternberg, noted for his sensitive Marlene Dietrich films of the 1930s, was brought in to
direct but soon ran afoul of Hughes, who couldn't keep his hands off the production. Nicholas Ray was then brought in to shoot more scenes and the Furthman script was diluted even more. Then Hughes kept trying to update the film with the latest jets and aerial footage that became hopelessly dated
as he tried to edit 150,000 feet of film (about 25 hours) and wound up with a lifeless mess. The whole mistake cost Hughes $4 million and did nothing for its stars, who looked incongruously young in 1957 (their scenes first shot in 1949).
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Only some startlingly good aerial shots and overall strong production values lift this impossible story to the acceptable level. Wayne does his macho best as the colonel in charge of an Alaskan Air Force base. He is suddenly confronted by a defecting Russi… (more)