Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Arch, 1928

Lafayette Escadrille Memorial Arch, 1928 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the 1957 Lafayette Escadrille, a punk kid (Tab Hunter) at the time of the Great War travels to France to join (with other Americans) an elite air force corp—the Lafayette Escadrille.  The corp is training to fight before the U.S. has entered the war.  In Paris, the young rebel falls in love with a French prostitute (Etchika Choureau) but he also aggressively strikes his drill sergeant and, after being sprung from jail by his Yank buddies, runs away.  He is now a deserter until he is given a second chance.

A personal project for Hollywood’s William Wellman, this is not one of the director’s better movies.  Not only does it seem partly dishonest, it is also rather imperfectly directed and Tab Hunter’s acting is utterly by-the-numbers.  Further, for a long time it makes French men, soldiers and otherwise, look like fools.  By the time it reaches midpoint, however, it gets a bit better.  Its anodyne love story, though it receives too much screen time, assuredly has its moments; and there is some nifty stuff involving the old WWI fighter planes.  But it’s a shame for Lafayette Escadrille to have to be a half-enticing failure.