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Wing and a Prayer

An effective, efficient war film directed by Henry Hathaway, Wing and a Prayer (1944) concerns the Pacific Theater between Pearl Harbor and Midway. The central character is Aircraft Carrier X, a vessel given the secret task of roaming the far Pacific and giving the Japanese the idea that there are more U.S. ships out there than there really are, while the Navy rebuilds and consolidates its forces for the battle of Midway. Aboard X are the captain Charles Bickford, Air Force commander Don Ameche, and Dana Andrews as the flying-squadron leader mediating between the rigid Ameche and the frustrated crew, who are told to fly but not to engage the enemy. Several other faces are thrown in, among them Henry Morgan. William Eythe plays a movie star turned pilot, who keeps his Oscar in a nightstand drawer. Wing and a Prayer is the kind of movie in which we know a pilot is doomed when he starts a vegetable garden or looks longingly at a photo of his girl, but the film also incorporates actual combat footage, and the battle of Midway itself is presented in an interesting manner, occurring off-camera but communicated to the crew of the ship via radio speakers. It's a moderately entertaining, somewhat realistic film with good performances from the cast; the screenplay, credited to Jerome Cady, was nominated for an Academy Award. The packaging on Fox's DVD gives contradictory information about the aspect ratio, but in fact the transfer is full-frame (1.33:1). It's a clean, bright image, with a break in the film strip about halfway through (when Dana Andrews is talking to Henry Morgan in the rec room). Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 in English (English and French mono are also on board, as well as English and Spanish subtitles). Extras include the film's theatrical trailer, a montage of war-movie trailers, and trailers for six other Fox war films. Keep-case.
—D.K. Holm

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