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Film / The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

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The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell is a 1955 film directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gary Cooper, Ralph Bellamy, Charles Bickford and Rod Steiger.

The film is a dramatization of the notorious court-martial of General William "Billy" Mitchell for publically complaining about the High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces following two disasters.


This film features examples of:

  • Armchair Military: Mitchell's complaint stems from the High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The court finds Mitchell guilty, but he has presented his case to the public, which is considered a win since he wanted to raise awareness about the state of the Air Service.
  • Colonel Badass: Even when demoted from brigadier general to colonel, Mitchell shows that he is brave and fearless when confronting and expressing his disagreement to his superiors.
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  • Court-Martialed: Mitchell is court-martialled for for his public complaints about the High Command.
  • A Father to His Men: It's clear that Mitchell's criticisms come from caring deeply about his men, such as his friend Zachary Lansdowne, who was killed in one of the two disasters that he witnessed.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Given that it's based on a true story, at the time of the film's release most people probably knew already that Mitchell will not win the case.
  • Never My Fault: Basically the military's approach to Mitchell's criticisms, as the fact that they are accurate is constantly shot down.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mitchell, who is concerned about the neglect of the aerial fighting forces. His superiors, not so much.

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