The War Lover

The War Lover is a 1962 British black-and-white war film directed by Philip Leacock and written by Howard Koch loosely based on the 1959 novel by John Hersey, altering the names of characters and events but retaining its basic framework. It stars Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner, Shirley Anne Field, Ed Bishop and features a young Michael Crawford.

The war itself is not the most important element of the film. Instead it focuses on the character of Captain Buzz Rickson played by McQueen and his determination to serve himself and get what he wants – in the process antagonising everyone.

The War Lover
The War Lover original cinema poster
American cinema poster
Directed byPhilip Leacock
Produced byArthur Hornblow, Jr.
Screenplay byHoward Koch
Based onThe War Lover
1959 novel
by John Hersey
StarringSteve McQueen
Robert Wagner
Shirley Anne Field
Music byRichard Addinsell
CinematographyRobert Huke
Edited byGordon Hales
Columbia British Productions (Columbia Pictures)
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • September 1962 (UK[1])
  • 25 October 1962 (US[2])
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


In 1943, Captain Buzz Rickson (Steve McQueen) is an arrogant pilot in command of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber nicknamed The Body. While stationed in Britain during the Second World War, one of the bombing missions is aborted because clouds obscure all potential targets, but Rickson ignores the order to turn around and dives under the clouds. He completes the mission, at the cost of one of the bombers in his squadron and its entire crew. Rickson revels in the fighting and destruction; when he is assigned to drop propaganda leaflets on a later mission, he makes his displeasure felt by buzzing the airfield. His commanding officer tolerates his repeated insubordination because he is the best pilot in the bomber group. Even so, when he asks the flight surgeon his opinion, the latter is uncertain whether Rickson is a hero or a psychopath. However Rickson's crew, especially his co-pilot, First Lieutenant Ed Bolland (Robert Wagner), trust his great flying skill.

Between missions, Rickson and Bolland meet a young English woman, Daphne Caldwell (Shirley Anne Field). Although she is attracted to both pilots, she quickly finds out what kind of man Rickson is and chooses Bolland. They soon begin sleeping together. She falls in love with him, although she suspects he will leave her behind and return to America at the end of his tour of duty.

Meanwhile, Bolland becomes increasingly disillusioned with Rickson and his arrogance and his callousness. Rickson pressures his navigator, Second Lieutenant Marty Lynch (Gary Cockrell), into transferring to another crew, because he questions his orders and behaviour. Lynch even says that Rickson is the kind of man who would have fought on either side. Soon afterwards, family man Lynch is killed in action. His friend Bolland takes it hard and blames Rickson.

Rickson meets a prostitute but does not do more than give her money to buy a dress, provided she looks in the mirror and calls herself "Daphne". When the crew is near the end of the required 25 missions to complete a tour and rotate back home, Rickson makes a move on Daphne, visiting her in her flat after Bolland has returned to the base. Rickson plans to embark on a second tour of duty, while his rival goes home. Daphne rejects his forceful advances, telling him she loves Bolland, but Rickson tries to make Bolland think otherwise.[Note 1]

Finally, on a long-range bombing mission to Leipzig, Colonel Emmet (Jerry Stovin) B-17 is shot down during the attack, leaving Rickson in command, Sergeant Bragliani (George Sperdakos) one of the waist gunners is wounded during the Messerschmitt attack run and is hit in the hand but he is still able to shoot, Rickson'S B-17 reaches Leipzig and the B-17's drop bombs during the attack, Rickson's B-17, is badly shot up and one crew member, the ball turret gunner, Sergeant Sailen (Michael Crawford) – known as "Junior" – dies of his wounds. The B-17 limps back over the English Channel, its bomb bay doors stuck in the open position and one armed bomb still partially stuck on its rack in the bay. Approaching the British coastline near Dover, the air-sea rescue is contacted and the rest of the crew (except Sergeant Prien, who was killed off-screen) bails out. As the last two crew members escape, Bolland is waiting to jump out of the open bomb bay with Rickson, when he notices that Rickson isn't wearing his parachute. Rickson then kicks the unsuspecting Bolland out of the B-17's bomb bay, returns to the cockpit and tries to nurse the bomber back to base by himself, only to crash into the white cliffs on the Kent coast.

Bolland reports Rickson's death to Daphne in Cambridge, who says: "It's what he always wanted." The pair of lovers walk away together.


  • Steve McQueen as Captain Buzz Rickson
  • Robert Wagner as 1st Lieutenant Ed "Bo" Bolland[3]
  • Shirley Anne Field as Daphne Caldwell
  • Gary Cockrell as 2nd Lieutenant Marty Lynch (one of the crew)
  • Michael Crawford as Staff Sergeant 'Junior' Sailen (one of the crew)
  • Robert Easton as Technical Sergeant Handown (one of the crew)
  • Al Waxman as Staff Sergeant Prien (one of the crew)
  • Tom Busby as Staff Sergeant Farr (one of the crew)
  • Bill Edwards as 2nd Lieutenant Max Brindt (one of the crew)
  • Chuck Julian as Staff Sergeant Lamb (one of the crew)
  • George Sperdakos as Staff Sergeant Bragliani (one of the crew)
  • Bob Kanter as 2nd Lieutenant Haverstraw (one of the crew)
  • Jerry Stovin as Colonel Emmet
  • Ed Bishop as Colonel Vogt (credited as Edward Bishop)
  • Richard Leech as Murika
  • Bernard Braden as the Flight Surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel Randall

Actor Warren Beatty turned down the role of Rickson, possibly because he had recently caused the divorce between Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, and the two men were not on speaking terms.[4][5]


The War Lover was filmed in Britain at RAF Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, RAF Manston in Kent, around Cambridgeshire (including in the grounds of King's College, Cambridge), and at Shepperton Studios in Surrey.[6]

Three Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers formed the main aerial component in the film and were composed of one B-17G and two postwar PB-1W Coast Guard rescue aircraft located in the United States. After extensive modifications, the three warbirds flew the arduous transatlantic crossing to Britain.[7] Martin Caidin, who would later write the novels on which the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man and the film Marooned were based, was one of the pilots who flew the B-17s for the film. Caidin chronicled the adventures of the crossing in the book Everything But The Flak.

The War Lover was shot in 1961 and released in the United States on 25 October 1962.[8] The film opened in London in June 1963.[9] Some short but rare footage of actual air combat is included – especially the attacking Messerschmitt Bf 109G armed with 20 mm cannons firing at the B-17s. The film also makes use of the crash landing footage from the 1949 film Twelve O'Clock High.

Mike Reilly, a stuntman, doubling for Wagner, was killed during the production of The War Lover when he fell to his death in a parachuting accident.[10]

In 2003, Sony Pictures colourised the film but to date the colour version has never been released on video.


The War Lover was unfavourably compared to other wartime aviation epics like Twelve O'Clock High (1949) and suffered in comparison. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times focused on the lack of interesting characters in the film. "But the fellows who sit in the cockpit of the one plane on which the actions center are a dull pair and are rendered even duller by poor acting and weak direction. Steve McQueen, is the emotionally-mixed-up pilot who tries to steal his co-pilot's girl. Robert Wagner is the co-pilot and Shirley Anne Fields is the girl. Altogether they make what at best is an average drama of love and jealousy into a small and tepid expose of one man's absurd cantankerousness."[11]

In a similar vein, the review of The War Lover in Variety noted, "...the central character emerges more of an unappealing symbol than a sympathetic flesh-and-blood portrait ... The scenario seems reluctant to come to grips with the issue of this character’s unique personality – a 'war lover' whose exaggerated shell of heroic masculinity covers up a psychopathic inability to love or enjoy normal relationships with women."[12]



  1. ^ In the novel, Daphne does not say she loves Bolland.


  1. ^ "The War Lover: BBFC classification date." Retrieved: 7 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Release dates: 'The War Lover'." IMDb. Retrieved: 7 December 2012.
  3. ^ Wagner and Eyman 2008, p. 153.
  4. ^ "Interview with Shirley Anne Field." Cinema Retro, September 2009, p. 60. Retrieved: 7 December 2012.
  5. ^ Biskind, Peter. Star: The Life and Wild Times of Warren Beatty. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Retrieved: 7 December 2012.
  6. ^ "Locations: The War Lover." IMDB. Retrieved: 13 May 2011.
  7. ^ "The War Lover (1962).", 28 October 2007. Retrieved: 13 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Release dates: 'The War Lover'." IMDB. Retrieved: 13 May 2011.
  9. ^ "Notes: The War Lover." TCM. Retrieved: 13 May 2011.
  10. ^ Orriss 1984, p. 183.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "The War Lover". The New York Times, 7 March 1963.
  12. ^ "Review: 'The War Lover'." Variety. Retrieved: 31 March 2015.


  • Brown, Gary. "The War Lover." Warbirds Worldwide Special Edition, December 1997.
  • Caidin, Martin. Everything But The Flack. New York: Popular Library, 1964.
  • Dolan, Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Harwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Buff's Guide to Aviation Movies". Air Progress Aviation, Volume 7, No. 1, Spring 1983.
  • Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorne, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.
  • Wagner, Robert and Scott Eyman. Pieces of My Heart: A Life. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. ISBN 978-0-06-137331-2.

External links

André Maranne

André Maranne (born 1926) is a French former actor, best known for playing Frenchmen in English-language roles in the UK from the mid-1950s.Born André Gaston Maillol, he used André Maranne as a stage name for many years. As of 2005, he was residing in Brighton, East Sussex.

Arthur Hewlett

Arthur Hewlett (12 March 1907 in Southampton, Hampshire – 25 February 1997 in London) was a British actor.Hewlett made his stage debut in 1930 at Plymouth Rep, and his theatre work included the original British production of Bernard Shaw's Buoyant Billions at the Malvern Festival in 1949.He is perhaps best remembered for his roles on television, including Quatermass and the Pit, Police Surgeon, The Avengers, The Saint, No Hiding Place, The Baron, The Troubleshooters, Follyfoot, The Changes, Blake's 7, Doctor Who (in the serials State of Decay and Terror of the Vervoids), Shoestring, Juliet Bravo, The Black Adder and Moondial. Arthur Hewlett also played Dr Grant in Emmerdale Farm in 1973, and the part of Mr Medwin in an episode of Doctor At Large entitled "Where There's A Will".


Bovingdon is a village in Hertfordshire, England, four miles southwest of Hemel Hempstead, and it is a civil parish within the local authority area of Dacorum. It forms the largest part of the ward of Bovingdon, Flaunden and Chipperfield, which had a population of 4,600 at the 2001 census, increasing to 9,000 at the 2011 Census.

Burt Kwouk

Herbert Tsangtse Kwouk, OBE (; Chinese: 郭弼; 18 July 1930 – 24 May 2016) was an English actor, known for his role as Cato in the Pink Panther films. He made appearances in many television programmes, including a portrayal of Imperial Japanese Army Major Yamauchi in the British drama series Tenko and as Entwistle in Last of the Summer Wine.

Deaths in September 2003

The following is a list of notable deaths in September 2003.

Entries for each day are listed alphabetically by surname. A typical entry lists information in the following sequence:

Name, age, country of citizenship at birth, subsequent country of citizenship (if applicable), reason for notability, cause of death (if known), and reference.

Fred Griffiths (actor)

Fred Griffiths (8 March 1912 – 27 August 1994) was an English film and television actor. A former London cabbie and wartime fire fighter discovered by director Humphrey Jennings, and cast in his documentary film Fires Were Started in 1943; and over the next four decades played supporting roles and bit parts in 150 films, including various Ealing, Boulting Brothers and Carry On comedies, before eventually retiring in 1984.

List of American films of 1962

A list of American films released in 1962.Lawrence of Arabia won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

M. J. Frankovich

Mitchell John "M. J." Frankovich (September 29, 1909 – January 1, 1992), best known as Mike Frankovich, was an American football player turned film actor and producer. Frankovich was the adopted son of actor Joe E. Brown and his wife, Kathryn.

Michael Crawford

Michael Patrick Smith, (born 19 January 1942), known by the professional stage name of Michael Crawford, is an English actor, comedian, singer, voice artist.

He has received international critical acclaim and won numerous awards during his career, which has included many film and television performances as well as stagework on both London's West End and on Broadway in New York City. He is best known for playing the character Frank Spencer in a popular 1970s sitcom titled Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, which first made him a household name, as well as for originating the title role in The Phantom of the Opera. His performance in the latter musical drama earned him both the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical.Crawford has also published the autobiographical work Parcel Arrived Safely: Tied With String, which covers the changes in his career over the multiple decades. Since 1987, he has served as the leader of the Sick Children's Trust as well and acted as a public face for the British social cause organization.

Number One (1969 film)

Number One is a 1969 American film drama released by United Artists and directed by Tom Gries.

The film stars Charlton Heston as Ron "Cat" Catlan, aging quarterback for American professional football's New Orleans Saints, and Jessica Walter as his wife. Musician Al Hirt plays himself, as do several real-life members of the 1968 Saints. The football scenes were shot at the Saints' then-home field, Tulane Stadium.

Philip Leacock

Philip David Charles Leacock (8 October 1917 – 14 July 1990) was an English television and film director and producer. His brother was documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock.

Robert Easton (actor)

Robert Easton (born Robert Easton Burke, November 23, 1930 – December 16, 2011) was an American radio, film, and television actor whose career spanned more than 60 years. His mastery of English dialect earned him the epithet "The Man of a Thousand Voices". For decades, he was a leading Hollywood dialogue or accent coach.

Robert Wagner

Robert John Wagner Jr. (born February 10, 1930) is an American actor of stage, screen, and television, best known for starring in the television shows It Takes a Thief (1968–1970), Switch (1975–1978), and Hart to Hart (1979–1984). He also had a recurring role as Teddy Leopold on the TV sitcom Two and a Half Men and has a recurring role as Anthony DiNozzo Sr. on the police procedural NCIS.

In movies, Wagner is known for his role as Number 2 in the Austin Powers trilogy of films (1997, 1999, 2002), as well as for A Kiss Before Dying, The Pink Panther, Harper, The Towering Inferno and many more.

In 2018, Wagner was named a person of interest in an ongoing investigation into the mysterious drowning death of his wife, Natalie Wood, in 1981.

Russell Waters

Russell Waters (born 10 June 1908, Glasgow, Lanarkshire – d. 19 August 1982, Richmond, Surrey) was a Scottish film actor.Waters was educated at Hutchesons' Grammar School, Glasgow and the University of Glasgow. He began acting with the Old English Comedy and Shakespeare Company then appeared in repertory theatre, at the Old Vic and in the West End. On screen Waters generally found himself playing mild mannered characters. Waters played the leading man in Richard Massingham's amusing instructional short subjects, among them Tell Me If It Hurts (1936), And So Work (1937), The Daily Round (1947) and What a Life! (1948).In feature films, Waters played secondary roles such as Craggs in The Blue Lagoon (1949), Mr. West in The Happiest Days of Your Life, Palmer in Chance of a Lifetime and "Wings" Cameron in The Wooden Horse (all three in 1950). In later years, Waters was briefly seen as the Harbour master in The Wicker Man (1973), and his final film role was as Dr. Jones in Ken Loach's Black Jack in 1979.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos was a comic book series created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and published by Marvel Comics from 1963 to 1981. The main character, Sgt. Nick Fury, later became the leader of Marvel's super-spy agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. The title also featured the Howling Commandos, a fictional World War II unit that first appeared in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (cover dated May 1963).

Shirley Anne Field

Shirley Anne Field (born 27 June 1936) is an English actress who has performed on stage, film and television since 1955.

Tom Busby

Tom Busby (7 November 1936 – 20 September 2003) was a Canadian actor and agent. Among his film credits were The War Lover (1962); The Dirty Dozen (1967) as Milo Vladek, one of the dozen; and Heavenly Pursuits (1986).Busby was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was responsible for training Glasgow youngsters at Community Service Volunteers (CSV). Among his many pupils were Billy Boyd, actor (The Lord of the Rings) and Cameron McKenna, voice-over artist (BBC and STV Announcer). Busby also directed comedian Chic Murray in another version of A Christmas Carol shown in 1992 on the BBC.The novelist Siân Busby was his daughter.He died on September 20, 2003 at his home in Glasgow, Scotland, he was 66 years old. The cause of death was a heart attack.

Twelve O'Clock High

Twelve O'Clock High is a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army's Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against Nazi Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II, including a thinly disguised version of the notorious Black Thursday strike against Schweinfurt. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King (uncredited) and Beirne Lay Jr. from the 1948 novel 12 O'Clock High, also by Bartlett and Lay. It was directed by King and stars Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell and Dean Jagger.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two: Dean Jagger for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Thomas T. Moulton for Best Sound Recording. In 1998, Twelve O'Clock High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".

Films directed by Philip Leacock


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.