What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This movie is not on my list of essential films.
NOTE: This installment of Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies is being done as part of something called the 100 Years of Esther Williams Blog-a-Thon being hosted by Love Letters To Old Hollywood. This is the seventh event hosted by her in which I’ve been granted the honor of participation, and on subjects ranging from Doris Day, Clark Gable, and the aforementioned Esther Williams. While this event is a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Williams birth, and while she is definitely the subject of today’s hidden sports analogy, it’s Van Johnson who checks in on my list of favorite actors…and who will be the subject of Love Letters To Old Hollywood‘s next event which will be only a few short weeks from now!
But for this blog-a-thon, there’s a reason why on that list I noted the reason for Johnson’s popularity stemming from the fact that in many of his roles he isn’t the leading man…he’s more like a “regular guy named Joe.”
You can see all the participants in this blog-a-thon here:
This is movie which has been made more or less in a several incarnations; this one arguably being the best. There’s 1948’s Only Angels Have Wings; those who have seen either of those films will certainly find 1989’s Always with a familiar feel. But A Guy Named Joe gives the common theme the freshest feel, and it certainly features the best cast.
The plot centers on a daring if not reckless American bomber pilot named Pete Sandidge (played by Spencer Tracy) based in Britain during the Second Word War. Pete’s love interest is Women’s Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Dorinda Durston (played by Irene Dunne).
The first plot twist comes when Sandidge’s commanding officer “Nails” Kilpatrick (played by James Gleason) transfers him to a base in Scotland. Later Kilpatrick offers Pete an assignment back in the United States as a flight instructor. Despite the fact it would mean their separation, Dorinda begs him to take the transfer as she has an impending sense of his doom. To sweeten the deal, Dorinda promises that if Pete accepts the assignment in America, she will give up flying, which is something he has always wanted. To add a consequence, Dorinda tells Pete that if he does not take Kilpatricks’s offer, she will get a transfer to the Pacific. Pete agrees to return to America, but he has to fly one last combat mission with his best friend Al Yackey (played by Ward Bond).
The mission is to post and track a German aircraft carrier underway off the English coast. Varying from his usual “daredevil” antics, Pete follows orders and avoids unnecessary risks, but despite that he and Yackey and their crew are attacked by a Luftwaffe fighter. Their plane is heavily damaged and Pete is wounded, but despite that, he orders Yackey and the crew to bail out. After the crew is out of the plane, Pete dive-bombs the carrier, then crashes into the sea.
Pete awakes walking in the clouds, where he encounters an old friend and fellow flyer Dick Rumney (played by Barry Nelson). Upon the realization that Rumney perished in a fiery crash of his own, Sandidge says “Either I’m dead or I’m crazy,” to which Rumney replies “You’re not crazy.” Meanwhile, when Dorinda sees Yackey upon his return to the base, she senses what has happened to Pete
Back in the clouds, Rumney introduces Pete to another dead flyer known only as “The General” (played by Lionel Barrymore). “The General” gives Pete an assignment to be a de facto “guardian angel.” By this time, a year has passed; now Pete is sent on his task. He is returned to Earth where he is to pass his knowledge and experience to Ted Randall (played by Van Johnson) a young millionaire entering flight school.
Initially, Pete does not like Ted, but eventually grows fond of him. Ted cannot see Pete but somehow absorbs his advice subconsciously. Ted earns his wings, and is sent to the South Pacific to pilot a P-38 fighter. As it happens, Ted’s commanding officer is Al Yackey.
The main point of the plot gets its requisite complication when Randall encounters the still-grieving Dorinda, who got her transfer to the Pacific after Ted’s death. Ted meets her in an Officer’s Club, and has Pete right behind him. Ted extends her a dinner invitation, which she originally rejects. But Yackey, concerned that she has been grieving too long, convinces her to give Ted a chance.
As Hollywood would have it, Ted and Dorinda fall in love. He proposes, she accepts, and Pete finds himself cloaked in jealous dismay.
However, she discovers from Yackey that her betrothed has been given an exceptionally dangerous mission to destroy a massive Japanese ammunition dump. Since she would rather die herself rather than lose another love, while Ted is in his pre-flight briefing, she steals his aircraft as she is going to fly the mission for him. Realizing her intention, Pete joins her in the cockpit and guides her to complete the attack.
The ammunition successfully dump, Pete returns to the base, where he tells her that is is leaving for good so she can go on with her life. Upon landing, she and Ted rush to an embrace while Pete strolls off his his next “guardian angel” assignment.
The Hidden Sports Analogy:
Today’s sports analogy is literally about today, and not just because this marks the centenary of Williams’ birth. Today also is the closing day of the 32nd Summer Olympics. The key for this analogy come from the very words of our blog-a-thons’ host.
An unforgettable talent, brilliant businesswoman, and wonderful role model, Esther has been thrilling audiences for years and her influence is still felt today.~ Love Letters To Old Hollywood
I’ll keep this one short and to the point, because it really doesn’t need much explanation; it’s all in theemphasized portion of the quote above.
First, let’s take a sample of what Esther Williams is best known for.
Now, let’s take a look at the Olympic event known as Artistic Swimming.
I mean..c’mon…don’t even try to tell me this isn’t an entire Olympic event completely based on what Esther Williams did.
If that doesn’t define “lasting influence,” then I don’t know what does.
The Moral of the Story:
You might be cool, but you’ll never be “Got an entire sport created because of your movie career” cool.
Haha! Love your “moral of the story”…so well said! Who else can name that claim to fame. It’s amazing.
Yep, artistic swimming is absolutely based on what Esther used to do–they call her the sport’s godmother. She’s hugely influential. And “A Guy Named Joe” is a great movie, although I always thought Irene Dunne was a little old for Van Johnson.
I still can’t believe how serendipitous it was that the Olympics, an event she almost participated in and which featured a sport she helped legitimize, finished on Esther’s 100th birthday. The stars really aligned on that one!
I love Esther’s part in A Guy Named Joe — I always wish it was more than one scene, but at least it kicked off her amazing partnership with Van. 🙂
Thanks for joining in on my celebration of Esther!
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