James Cagney made his first Technicolor appearance in the morale-boosting aviation flick Captains of the Clouds. Cagney plays Brian MacLean, a hotshot Canadian bush pilot who delights in stealing jobs-and women-away from his competitors. Brian is forced to shape up in a hurry when he's assigned to train other pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force. At the ending of the training period, he is given his first real RCAF assignment: The seemingly unimportant task of shepherding American bomber planes across the Atlantic to England. With startling suddenness, Brian comes to realize the true importance of his job when he is forced into a deadly confrontation with a fleet of Nazi raider planes. Real-life Canadian WW1 flying ace Billy Bishop plays a small but pivotal role in Captains of the Clouds, while the leading-lady duties were handled by Warner Bros. stock actress Brenda Marshall (aka Mrs. William Holden). Cinematographer Sol Polito earned an Oscar nomination for his vivid color photography, though aerial photographers Elmer Dyer, Charles Marshall and Winston Hoch were certainly just as deserving.
by Hal Erickson synopsis