Moving to the Pacific theater of war, MIDWAY centers around a battle I actually know something about. The engagement at Midway plays a significant part in TRIAL BY FIRE, the second novel in my World War II trilogy, so I did quite a bit of research about it. Other than adding a fictional protagonist, a pilot and intelligence officer played by Charlton Heston, the history in this one is pretty accurate. There's also a fictional sub-plot about the son of Heston's character falling in love with a Japanese-American young woman, which naturally causes trouble in
six months after the attack on Hawaii Pearl Harbor.
But to get back to the war . . . I would have liked to see a little more about the
of the Battle Coral Sea, which is also pretty interesting. Some of the characters discuss it, mentioning the fact that the aircraft carrier was sunk there, but other than that it's sort of brushed aside. Of course, the movie is fairly long as it is, and that would have just made it longer. As in THE LONGEST DAY, there's a considerable lead-up to the action, with scenes of both sides jockeying for information and position. Henry Fonda is Admiral Nimitz (the pride of Lexington , which gets mentioned but not by name), Robert Mitchum is Admiral Halsey, Glenn Ford is Admiral Spruance, Toshiro Mifune is Admiral Yamamoto, Hal Holbrook is code-breaker Jim Rochefort . . . You get the idea, familiar names of actors and historical figures alike. Fredericksburg, Texas
Once the battle itself gets underway, there's plenty of action as new footage is interspersed with combat footage from the real thing. Another thing I really liked about MIDWAY is that all the aircraft carrier scenes were filmed on the U.S.S. Lexington (the second Lexington, which was commissioned in 1943 to replace the one sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea), which is now permanently docked at Corpus Christi where it's been turned into a museum. I've been there several times and have walked every foot of the flight deck, as well as visiting the pilot ready rooms and the bridge that figure so prominently in the film. Even the scenes set on the Japanese carriers were filmed on the
, with the negatives flopped because the Japanese carriers had the island on the opposite side of the flight deck from the American carriers. It was also good to see so many scenes of the Dauntless dive bombers in action, since two of my characters in the novel flew in a Dauntless and I learned a lot about those planes, too. Lexington
I'm probably letting my inner WWII buff influence me too much here, and I'll admit the fictional romance stuff is pretty hokey. But so much of the film rings true that I don't mind. I thoroughly enjoyed MIDWAY and I'm glad I finally watched it.