Posted on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 by Bryan Young
(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: The classic war film 12 O’Clock High.)
1949’s 12 O’Clock High is a seminal war film. Made in the late ’40s while the wounds of World War II were still fresh, it tells the story of a beleaguered American bomber wing suffering from morale and leadership issues. Gregory Peck plays General Frank Savage, a man sent in to reform the bomber wing and make them a force feared by the Germans who they seek to bomb into oblivion. The film was notable for the empathy at which it approached the subject matter of pilots dealing with trauma. For a film made in the ‘40s, that alone made it a radical concept.
It’s a remarkable film that gets into the head of the bombers and the leadership skills needed to motivate a group of people to fly, day after day, out to their deaths.
In the lead-up to The Last Jedi, this was a chief influence commonly cited by Rian Johnson. This was one of the films he screened for his cast and crew during pre-production and production, and it’s easy to see how it would have influenced the eighth episode of the Skywalker saga. It would be easy to point to it as an influence for A New Hope as well.