Jet Pilot ( 1957 Classic Movie )

Review by Ty McLemore


Josef Von Sternberg

Lead Actors

John Wayne, Janet Leigh, Paul Fix


Howard Hughes, Jules Furthman

Plot synopsis

At the height of the Cold War in the late 1950s, a beautiful Russian pilot named Anna Marladovna (Janet Leigh) defects to the United States by landing her plane at a military air base in Alaska. Colonel Jim Shannon, (John Wayne) the commander of the base, is assigned to escort her to Washington for further instructions. Ultimately, he is given free reign in accompanying her to various parts of the country to gain valuable military intelligence.

 The two eventually fall in love, but complications arise when Jim learns that Anna is to be deported in a few days. They elope to Arizona for a brief wedding with the hope of delaying her departure. Upon their return, Jim learns from his superiors that Anna is in actuality a spy and was ordered to gather information on specific military planes and their maneuverability. Heartbroken, he agrees to escort her back to her homeland under the guise of a STILL married couple to see what strategic intelligence HE can now gather.

The two engage in a psychological cat-and-mouse dance in an effort to outmaneuver one other. Jim is allowed to fly newly developed Soviet aircraft in the hope that he will unwittingly reveal U.S. military tactics. Anna truly loves Jim, realizes that he feels the same and learns that he will be killed once he is no longer useful. She devises a plan to rescue him during a test flight and the two escape by jet to the safety of Vienna.

Who Would Like It

Anyone who is a fan of The Duke or Howard Hughes. This is my FAVORITE John Wayne movie in that he is out of his normal element as a cowboy. Wayne and Leigh’s acting is top notch in this heavy and emotional tale that at the time mirrored how many Russians and Americans viewed one other – with both fear and intrigue. In fact, the film was not released until 1957 – seven years after its completion because of the political climate between the two superpowers.

In addition, the air acrobatics in this movie are breathtaking and renowned test pilot Chuck Yeager was enlisted to perform many of them. Howard Hughes ultimately spent $9 million on this epic film – which some have dubbed a grand, supersonic ballet in the sky.

Finally, Anna’s perky, sweet, yet sexy and determined personality may have driven thousands of American men to contemplate defecting to the other side.  

Who Might Not Like It

Non-John Wayne fans or those bored by military types of movies.


In one scene, Jim and Anna fly two F-86 Sabres to Palm Springs for a much needed weekend of leisure. Along the way, they practice aerial maneuvers – including a game of “hopscotch” where they roll over one another in a mind-blowing scene that must be seen to be believed.

In another, Jim and Anna take their final flight home as she will be deported the next morning. The two converse over the radio in a gut-wrenching, dreadful and fatalistic tone as they attempt to say goodbye to one another. This scene nearly brings me to tears as one can feel the weight of their grief and pain.

On a trivial note, actor Paul Frees, who plays Lieutenant Tiompkin and who is appointed as Anna’s assistant once she returns to the Soviet Union, was also a voice-over artist. His association with Disney led to the use of his voice in both the Haunted Mansion and The Pirates of The Caribbean attractions at Disneyland. 


  1. J. L. PenningtonJuly 13, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Mr. McLemore, this Cold War yarn about two pilots from different countries with DIFFERENT ideologies falling helplessly in love is absurd on SO many levels.

    The fact that you mention that it couldn't be released until 7 yrs later proves my point. Hughes must've not only been drunk, but high to have ever conceived such contrite garbage.

  2. As usual, Mr. Pennington, you are wide of the mark on your criticisms. Hughes should be commended for bucking the norm and producing such a slick, well-acted film in the face of the Red Scare of the 1950s.

    While he may have been called many things during his lifetime, a coward or an idiot was never one of them. I am certain the same CANNOT be said of you.

  3. Mr Pennington, you are a complete idiot. My dad was a test pilot during the making of this film and he always bragged to us kids how proud he was to be a part of the U.S. Air Force.

    You're a disgrace to this country and to the human species. Please get a life!

  4. Dude, I hate to say it, but . . . everything you've ever said in life is wrong including this review, stand down friend, stand down!

  5. Listen up bro, John Wayne brings the pain without shame!

  6. Janet Leigh needs to give that money back she tole in Psycho!

  7. This is well written very in-depth I must go see this movie

  8. "His association with Disney led to the use of his voice in both the Haunted Mansion and The Pirates of The Caribbean attractions at Disneyland." - who knew?

  9. Oh OK, this is a Howard Hughes pic ha? Did he have any interesting tags as a producer like David E. Kelly?

  10. Can't believe how many women John Hudghes dated in his day!

  11. . . . rumor has it that Wayne had a thing for black women and had several affairs with them. Who knew the Duke had jungle fever?!?


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