John Wayne in Flying Tigers (1942)

Tigers in the Skies

Capt. Jim "Pappy" Gordon (John Wayne) is in charge of the famous Flying Tigers, the volunteer pilots who take to the skies over China to do battle with the Japanese fighters. But Jim finds his troubles are not only the Japanese who seek to shoot him and his squadron out of the sky but also young pilot Woody Jason (John Carroll). Woody is a hot shot pilot who believes he can win the war single handed but he also plans of winning Brooke Elliott (Anna Lee) who just happens to be Jim's girl.

There is a review on the internet where the reviewer mentions seeing "Flying Tigers" as a child and the image of a Japanese pilot grabbing his face as blood oozed from his fingers having a huge impact back then. And that is what you have to remember about this wartime made propaganda movie as the sight of seeing "the enemy" bleeding to death would have probably not just shocked in its perceived gore but also probably got a cheer from a patriotic audience.

Anna Lee in Flying Tigers (1942)

The trouble is that when you watch "Flying Tigers" almost 75 years later it is much easier to view it in tired eyes with plenty of wartime propaganda going on. There are the familiar aspects from the romance which sees John Wayne dealing with a younger rival whilst also having to deal with the youthful enthusiasm of a hot shot pilot who will put his men in danger through his rule breaking heroics which of course causes plenty of antagonism. Then there is the dealing of anyone who isn't American as either the enemy or in need of America's superior help. That it is not a criticism as the object of "Flying Tigers" was to stir up a patriotic response alongside entertaining its audiences and as such it succeeds.

But what that means is for anyone who watches "Flying Tigers" with an interest in history and hoping to gain an insight into the real goings on of the Flying Tigers are going to walk away none the wiser. Maybe some of those will still be entertained thanks to the heroics of John Wayne and John Carroll doing hot shot and comically cocky but familiar is all you are going to get.

What this all boils down to is that for John Wayne fans "Flying Tigers" will be a lot of fun with entertaining but familiar characters, romance and humour. But for those who watch expecting anything more than typical John Wayne and at the same time typical wartime propaganda will end up disappointed.