Bombers B-52

Bombers B-52 (released in the UK as No Sleep till Dawn[1]) is a 1957 Warner Bros. CinemaScope film in WarnerColor, produced by Richard Whorf and directed by Gordon Douglas. The film stars Natalie Wood and Karl Malden, and co-stars Marsha Hunt and Efrem Zimbalist Jr..[2] It was adapted from a Sam Rolfe story by screenwriter Irving Wallace. Leonard Rosenman composed the score.

Bombers B-52
Directed byGordon Douglas
Produced byRichard Whorf
Written byIrving Wallace
Story bySam Rolfe
StarringNatalie Wood
Karl Malden
Marsha Hunt
Efrem Zimbalist Jr
Music byLeonard Rosenman
CinematographyWilliam H. Clothier
Edited byThomas Reilly
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • November 22, 1957 (1957-11-22)
Running time
106 min.
CountryUnited States

The film's storyline concerns the introduction of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber into the US Strategic Air Command (SAC) inventory during the Cold War era of the 1950s. A dilemma arises for a respected and highly experienced master sergeant when he must choose between continuing his career in the Air Force or accepting a lucrative job offer in the private sector that would pay him three times his military salary.


The Strategic Air Command is about to introduce the B-52 Stratofortress bomber as its primary manned strategic weapon. Stationed at Castle Air Force Base, California, with the 329th Bomb Squadron, 20-year United States Air Force (USAF) veteran MSgt. Chuck Brennan dislikes his commanding officer, the "hotshot" Lt. Col. Jim Herlihy. Brennan has not trusted Herlihy since an incident in the Korean War. This career-long problem interferes with flight operations and aircraft support. When Herlihy starts dating Brennan's daughter Lois, tensions grow. Brennan demands his daughter break off the relationship.

Brennan, Herlihy, and others try to solve all the technical problems that plague the introduction of the B-52. On one top-secret test flight to Africa, after being refueled in mid-air, a control panel short-circuits, causing a fire. Herlihy orders everyone to bail out and ejects Brennan when he refuses to leave the bomber. After safely landing the burning aircraft at Castle AFB, Herlihy sends out search parties, who manage to recover all of the crew successfully except for Brennan. Following a hunch, Herlihy eventually finds his chief aircraft mechanic, who is severely injured, and airlifts him by helicopter from remote back country to the base hospital.

While recovering, Brennan realizes that he was wrong about Herlihy, who risked his life to bring him home. He accepts that his daughter and his commanding officer should now reunite. Eventually, Brennan also has to choose between a high-paying civilian job and his US Air Force career. When told that his discharge papers are ready to sign, he decides to continue the career he loves in the USAF.



Bombers B-52 was filmed with the full cooperation of the United States Air Force at Castle and March Air Force Bases in California, where examples of Boeing B-47 Stratojet bombers, North American F-86 Sabre fighters and B-52s were based. During production, Natalie Wood was named "Sweetheart of Castle Air Force Base".[3]

The first choice for the starring role was Tab Hunter, who subsequently turned it down because he was tired of playing military roles.[4] Writer Irving Wallace wrote a "racy" screenplay; one of the working titles was No Sleep till Dawn (which was used as the title for the film's UK release).[5] The screenplay was later the subject of a 1980s exposé of sexual innuendo by film historian Hal Erickson.[3]


Reviews of Bombers B-52 mainly focused on the aerial scenes, which during the Cold War era did project a near-propaganda effort, using many period aircraft to depict the era faithfully.[6] The review in The New York Times was mildly laudatory, describing it as a "frank tribute to Air Force nuclear power, laced together with a familiar service feud ... Irving Wallace's dialogue is excellent. Furthermore, his unpretentious scenario is credible and persuasive in training sequences and especially in the hearth scenes".[7] The performances of the leads was also considered "natural". Overall, The New York Times critic thought "'Bombers B-52' is not [terrific], but it could have been much, much worse".[7] Variety gushed that it was "magnificently mounted, with breathtaking scenes of the new B-52s", while Time magazine more aptly characterized Bombers B-52 as a "$1,400,000 want ad for Air Force technicians".[3] In other reviews, the dichotomy of 19-year-old Natalie Wood being courted by 40-year-old Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was noted, as well as the attempt to portray a contemporary, if tepid, love story.[3]

Comic book adaption

See also



  1. Leverence 1974, pp. 233–234.
  2. "Bombers B-52". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
  3. Fristoe, Roger. "Article: Bombers B-52." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 29, 2012.
  4. Hunter and Muller 2005, p. 147.
  5. Leverence 1974, pp. 233–234.
  6. Maltin 2009, p. 158.
  7. "'Bombers B-52'; Film at Paramount Stars Karl Malden." The New York Times, November 23, 1957.
  8. "Dell Four Color #831". Grand Comics Database.
  9. Dell Four Color #831 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)


  • Hunter, Tab and Eddie Muller. Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. New York: Algonquin Books, 2005. ISBN 978-1565124660.
  • Leverence, John. Irving Wallace: A Writer's Profile. Bowling Green, Ohio: Popular Press 1, 1974. ISBN 978-0879720636.
  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
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