If Jet Pilot seems hopelessly out of date today, imagine how filmgoers in 1957 reacted when this relic from 1949 was taken off the shelf. Many, many years in the making due to the maniacal tinkering by producer Howard Hughes (who reportedly lost $4 million on it - a massive sum back then), the film was deemed unreleasable upon completion; only when Universal-International took over distribution of a handful of RKO Radio productions did it finally see the light of day. John Wayne stars as an air force colonel stationed in an Alaskan outpost only 40 miles or so from the Soviet Union. Wayne is put in charge of Russian jet pilot Janet Leigh, who claims that she wants to defect. Actually, Leigh is a Communist spy, but thanks to Wayne's affectionate attentions she is won over to the side of Democracy. Thus it is that Leigh rescues the Duke when he is kidnapped and nearly brainwashed by her Commie comrades. Jet Pilot was eventually bought back from U-I by Hughes for his personal collection; not only did he buy into the propagandistic plotline, but he was also enthralled by the aerial scenes, some of which were staged by legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager. The 1949 production date for a number of sequences explains not only why so many of the actors look young for 1957, but the existence of several supporting cast members who had died in the interim (such as Jack Overman and Richard Rober).
by Hal Erickson synopsis