Twelve O'Clock High

Twelve O'Clock High

4.8 10
Director: Henry King

Cast: Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill


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Twelve O'Clock High asks how much can a soldier give? When the U.S. 8th Army Air Force 918th Bombardment Group is ordered on their fourth harrowing mission in four hard days, Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) demands "maximum effort." The pilots and crews are forced to fly lower, to fly farther, and to test themselves…  See more details below


Twelve O'Clock High asks how much can a soldier give? When the U.S. 8th Army Air Force 918th Bombardment Group is ordered on their fourth harrowing mission in four hard days, Brigadier General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) demands "maximum effort." The pilots and crews are forced to fly lower, to fly farther, and to test themselves -- overstressed and fatigued -- right up until death's door. When their dedicated colonel speaks out in their defense, Savage mercilessly takes over command -- an officer should not sympathize with his men. The general will compel the 918th to stop pitying itself and to hone its morale in the face of danger. Yet, as the men grow colder due to Savage's orders and the missions bring them closer to their crucial German targets, the general learns the practical impossibility of raising the confidence of young men while also sending them to their deaths. He begins to understand that it is the burden of command that makes even the toughest leader sympathetic. Eventually caring for his men above all else, it is Savage who is forced to carry the hardships of "maximum effort" -- asking himself, How much can a man take? ~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, All Movie Guide

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
Most war films maintain that the officer's experience is incomparable to the trauma that befalls the enlisted man. The genre's resulting narratives consistently dwell on the emotional distance between a higher-up and his inferiors -- an exaggerated separation mended only by a common goal (winning the war) and never a common experience (fighting the battle). Henry King's Twelve O'Clock High rejects this practice. The film portrays the pressures of war as torturous to all dutiful soldiers and as a catalyst for mutual admiration and compassion between all ranks. Twelve O'Clock High reveals that a commander can understand his men, and in turn, those men can sympathize with their commander. Based on the reign of actual American Brigadier General Frank A. Armstrong Jr., the story of Gregory Peck's General Savage remains one of the most fair and celebrated accounts of leadership. To expertly match this narrative honesty with technical accuracy, King also became one of the first directors to incorporate real footage of distressed American planes, taken by the German Luftwaffe. The film's look is as genuine and unaffected as its tale. Twelve O'Clock High is a sincere and realistic war film, so inspiring that it was required viewing at the U.S. Air Force Academy for years after its release.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
20th Century Fox
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Disc 1; Commentary with historians Rudy Belhmer, Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman; Disc 2; Memories of Twelve O'Clock High featurette; WWII and the American Home Front Featurette; Inspiring a Character: General Frank A. Armstrong fetaurette; The Pilots of Eighth Air Force featurette; Still gallery; Interactive pressbook

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gregory Peck Gen. Frank Savage
Hugh Marlowe Lt. Col. Ben Gately
Gary Merrill Col. Keith Davenport
Millard Mitchell General Pritchard
Dean Jagger Major Harvey Stovall
Robert Arthur Sergeant McIllhenny
Paul Stewart Major "Doc" Kaiser
John Kellogg Major Cobb
Joyce MacKenzie Nurse
Lee MacGregor Lieutenant Zimmerman
Sam Edwards Birdwell
Roger Anderson Interrogation Officer
John Zilly Sergeant Ernie
William Short Lieutenant Pettinghill
Richard Anderson Lieutenant McKessen
Lawrence Dobkin Captain Twombley
Kenneth Tobey Sentry
Campbell Copelin Mr. Britton
Peter Ortiz Weather Observer
Steve Clark Clerk in Antique Shop
Patrick Whyte Clerk
Robert Patten Lieutenant Bishop
Russ Conway Operations Officer
Don Hicks Lieutenant Wilson
John R. McKee Operations Officer

Technical Credits
Henry King Director
Sy Bartlett Screenwriter
W.D. Flick Sound/Sound Designer
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
Beirne Lay Screenwriter
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Barbara McLean Editor
Alfred Newman Score Composer
Ben Nye Makeup
Maurice Ransford Art Director
Leon Shamroy Cinematographer
Lyle Wheeler Art Director
Darryl F. Zanuck Producer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Twelve O'Clock High
1. Main Titles [1:42]
2. A Special Item [1:34]
3. Return to Archbury [3:42]
4. A Tragic Run [4:10]
5. McKesson's Crew [2:57]
6. Lord Haw-Haw's Message [2:47]
7. Maximum Effort [3:33]
8. General Savage [4:30]
9. In Trouble [2:54]
10. Relieved of Command [4:49]
11. Scared Stiff [2:23]
12. The New Commander [5:42]
13. Yellow [6:24]
14. The Bar's Closed [3:11]
15. Back to Fundamentals [2:48]
16. Morale Problem [5:14]
17. The Retread [3:45]
18. The Leper Colony [2:41]
19. Loyalty [2:54]
20. Davenport's Return [4:15]
21. The Gamble [3:53]
22. No Confidence [4:24]
23. Iron-Tailed [3:02]
24. Germany [4:25]
25. Stowaways [4:56]
26. Casualties [1:40]
27. Something Extra Special [1:22]
28. Critical Mission [4:53]
29. Combat Assembly [4:01]
30. Twelve O'Clock High [3:16]
31. Confused [9:02]
32. Battle Fatigue [2:36]
33. State of Shock [3:26]
34. The Final Count [2:57]
35. Field of Memories [4:50]
36. End Titles [1:02]

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Twelve O'Clock High 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
MJT More than 1 year ago
I found this movie to be very stirring as a history buff. As a retired military member I enjoyed very much the presentation of what life must have been like bombing targets over Europe, without knowing if the mission you were on, would be your last. I especially enjoyed the discussions between the Commander and his staff in determining courses of action as this portrayed a good leadership example. Overall, if your looking for a true-to-life perspective of what the aircrew and the ground crew went through during World War II, this is the movie to watch.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great movie - however, with all due respect to Aubry Anne D'Arminio and her review I would like to point out that Frank Savage did not 'mercilessly take over command of the 918th'. He was commanded by the Group Commander (a Major General) to take over the 918th. His hard nosed approach worked and the 918th became a highly effective fighting force. This movie continues to be used in today's corporate training culture as a model of leadership under stress and duress. A wonderfully accurate movie of this time period, it uses actual combat footage during the air scenes. Dean Jagger deserved his Oscar and Gregory Peck should have earned one as well!
Guest More than 1 year ago
We studied this film as part of the U.S. Air Force Academy's Military Training curriculum. We examined this film as a classic study of leadership under stress at the Air Command & Staff College. And this film has been studied at the Air War College. Corporate leadership forums draw from its lessons. It is leadership from the gut, under severe stress, no more, no less. Awesome. There has never been another like it. Don't miss it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent film, but my copy came scratched and froze at around 31 minutes. I had waited a month to watch it, and defective merchandise can only be returned within 14 days. If you order this, watch it right away.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clearly the finest war movie ever made. Shows war for what it always is: the engagement of men (and women) in the ultimate test of being human. Gregory Peck was never better, nor will anyone else be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing look at the air war in Europe wuring World War II. The Eighth air Force suffered so many losses at the beginning of the war. This movie pulled no punches when it came to detailing this point. It showed the protaganist, General Savage (Gregory Peck) for what he was, a human being with feelings and a breaking point. It showed how there are no winners in war, just losers and dead men and women. I would recommend this film to all, young and old, especially to those who wish to glorify war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The ensemble cast in this 1949 drama, headed by Peck and Jagger, is superb. Gary Merrill as the former commander, Hugh Marlowe as the scorned coward, Millard Mitchell as the Commanding General at HQ and Paul Stewart as the group medical officer are all brilliant. No film made either during or after the war better depicted the pressure of command or the mindset of the young men sent to sure death during low-level, daylight precision bombing raids into the heart of Europe during WWII. The only other movie that comes close is Command Decision (1948), starring Clark Gable, John Hodiak, Van Johnson and Brian Donlevy. For you TV trivia buffs, you may recall the "Twelve O'Clock High" TV series on ABC (1964-1967) starring Robert Lansing and Paul Burke (of "Naked City" fame). It is no coincidence that both "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Command Decision" were made after the war. The realistic depiction of bomber group life (and death) in these films would not have sat well with either the wartime government or the average American.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorite war movies. One especially remarkable feature of it is that it contains so little "action" in the usual sense. In the last twenty minutes or so the viewer "goes along" on a bombing mission over Germany, most of it put together with great skill from actual combat footage. The rest of the drama is played out on the ground, in offices and living quarters. Younger viewers may find the film dated and a little sanitized (it's in black-and-white, and the language is devoid of profanity), but it demonstrates how good acting, writing, and direction could transcend the limitation of the medium. The first scene, in which a B-17 makes an emergency landing with wounded crew members on board, is a classic. No blood or gore whatever is visible, but the viewer can't miss the message about what those young men went through. To my notion this is the best study of the military command experience on film. A good counterbalance, examining the military experience from the standpoint of the enlisted man, is "The Sand Pebbles," with Steve McQueen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Twelve O'Clock High is one of the best WWII movies ever. It clearly shows the toll that war takes on men and machines. Gregory Peck's performance is one of his best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago