Twelve O'Clock High | 1949
General Frank Savage (Gregory Peck) finally starts to crack after whipping a US bomber group into shape during WWII. Widely regarded as one of Hollywood’s more accurate depictions of wartime, the film seems to have been adopted as a kind of exemplary leadership training manual.
Set in the fictitious UK airbase of ‘Archbury’, the movie was mostly filmed in the States, though a second unit filmed establishing shots of the UK base at RAF Barford St John, about four miles southeast of Banbury in in Oxfordshire.
Used as a communications station since it closed in 1946, the airfield’s runways and perimeter tracks still exist, though original World War II buildings have been replaced by modern structures, and lots of aerials. Its current function seems a bit hazy but, like all military installations since 9/11, it’s subject to heightened security.
Most of the filming, though, was at Duke Field, a few miles north of the main Eglin Air Force Base, off Route 10, about 50 miles east of Pensacola on the Florida coast. Extra buildings, including the control tower, were added for the film. The base, where the ‘Doolittle Raiders’ seen in Pearl Harbor, trained, was also seen in the 1944 account of the raid, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, with Spencer Tracy. Eglin Air Force Base base is home to the Air Force Armament Museum.
Take-offs and landings were filmed at, the temporarily inactive, Cairns Army Airfield (which was previously Ozark Army Airfield), part of Fort Rucker near Daleville, Alabama, where the runways more closely matched those of the UK.
And fortuitously, being somewhat overgrown at the time of filming, Cairns proved ideal as post-war ‘Archbury’ for the film’s bookends.