Maj. Pete Sandidge is a very able pilot who seems to have a streak of luck as far as flying goes. World War II is raging and Pete has come out of it pretty so far. He even has a beautiful girlfriend Dorinda Durston, herself a qualified pilot who ferries aircraft to different bases. When Pete is killed however, he finds himself in heaven and learns that every pilot has a guardian angel. He returns to Earth where, unseen by anyone, he coaches a pilot-in-training Ted Randall. Ted is a pretty good kid and is coming along nicely but when he’s shipped to New Guinea he runs into Dorinda who has remained faithful to her lost love. As Ted pursues her, Pete will have to decide what he wants to do about it.
Nice Story With Appealing Cast
This is one of those old-fashioned, nice stories with generally nice people, some good lessons to be learned and some touching scenes. You just have to go with the fantasy-type theologies, in this story dead people coming back as angels-you-can see.
Irene Dunne never looked better, although the soft-focus lens helped her looks. She isn’t beautiful but she’s wholesomely pretty, and thus appealing. Spencer Tracy gives his normal strong performance but I liked supporting actor Ward Bond in here better. Tracy gives an excellent short speech at the end of this film.
Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy on the set of A Guy Named Joe (1943)
The special-effects in the aviator-war scenes were not good but, hey, this film was made about 65 years ago. You could tell the planes were model airplanes on several shots.
Note: this film was re-made by Steven Spielberg 40 years later under the title “Always.” That was a nice film, too, but I think I’d still take this version.
Interesting comparison with “Always” by Spielberg.
Author: TxMike from Houston, Tx, USA, Earth
24 October 2002
As many viewers I saw “Always”, actually several times, before I even learned about “A Guy Named Joe.” It is factual that the later film was a remake of the earlier one, but being in more modern times a significant story difference was depicted. I have no reason to compare the two against each other, for each one is a fine film on its own.
Set in WW II England, “A Guy Named Joe” gets its title from a comment made by one of the British children waiting to talk to Pete after one of his bombing runs over Germany. He told one of the other children, “that’s what all American soldiers are called, guys named Joe.” There was no actual character named Joe in the film.
I had never seen Spencer Tracy in his prime, and he was quite a handsome actor. Now I understand why he was so popular. He plays Pete, the pilot who takes unapproved chances to get difficult jobs done. In “Always”, Dryfuss as Pete does the same for putting out forest fires. In both films Pete dies during a heroic mission and in heaven is sent to help a novice pilot, who ends up romancing his old girlfriend, Drinda.
I understand that at least one viewer who was in WW II thinks this is not a very good or realistic film. Maybe not, but it is still entertaining, and for me interesting to see a film made the year before I was born. Worth seeking out, for anyone who also enjoyed “Always” to see where it came from. Two different films from two different times, both excellent.
A Girl Named Irene, A Guy Named Spence, and Another Guy Named Van
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
24 April 2005
This is a wonderful romantic picture set in World War II and I have to say Spencer Tracy has almost as much chemistry with Irene Dunne as he does with Katharine Hepburn.
During his career Spencer Tracy was basically two types of character, the cryptic tough guy adventurer and later on a wise father figure. In A Guy Named Joe his Pete Sandidge gets to be both. But he has to get killed before he morphs into his second character.
Spencer Tracy is an ace pilot who’s over in the European Theatre and his girlfriend, Irene Dunne is also a pilot, a la Amelia Earhart. She’s forever worried about the risks he takes and then her wishes turn into reality as he gets himself killed.
Of course he’s not quite ready to enter the pearly gates. It seems as though Heaven has an Air Corps advisory program for ghosts to advise living pilots and Spence’s first assignment is Van Johnson. Wouldn’t you know it, Van’s the guy that’s getting Irene on the rebound. Tracy’s not enough of a ghost yet that the old green-eyed monster isn’t grabbing hold of him. So………………………..
With Tracy being dead, the possibilities of endings are limited. But it’s at this point that Tracy grows into the father figure character we know him better from in his later work.
Van Johnson’s career got a big boost from this film. He’s previously been in mostly B films, a lot of them as successor to Lew Ayres in the later in the Dr. Gillespie series. He was injured in a motorcycle accident during the shooting and Spencer Tracy threatened to walk off the picture if Van was replaced. Van healed and the film started him into the upward path of his career.
Irene Dunne who did almost as many musicals as straight drama in the 1930s got to sing in this film. That’s always a plus. Here she sings a great rendition of I’ll Get By which was enjoying a revival of popularity in the World War II years.
Rounding out the supporting cast are Lionel Barrymore, Ward Bond, James Gleason, Barry Nelson, and Don DeFore all performing to their usual standards of excellence.
A really great romantic film like they don’t make any more.
Who’s that beside you?
Author: Alex da Silva from United Kingdom
27 March 2016
During WW2, fighter pilot Spencer Tracy (Pete) has a maverick streak which causes him problems and gets him sent to Scotland for reconnaissance flights and eventually back to the USA to train junior pilots. However, this is not before he is given a final assignment to sink a Nazi aircraft carrier alongside several destroyers. Well, as per usual he goes all maverick and it doesn’t work out too well for him. Or does it? The message of the film is one of acceptance of your situation and Tracy is perfect to lead us through the proceedings as he does indeed help those junior pilots. He also helps his partner and fellow pilot Irene Dunne (Dorinda) to come to terms with her situation as she has to let go of confinement and share out the love.
It’s a sentimental film that is sentimental in a good way with ghosts helping out. We have 2 locations – Earth and the halfway-house before Heaven which is presided over by deceased ace pilot Lionel Barrymore (The General). The film is a little long and the first 45 minutes is pretty dull, an exercise in setting the scene which dragged on a bit. However, the film gets going once Tracy is given his final mission and we see the introduction of novice pilot Van Johnson (Ted). It is at this point that we also get the humour going as there is amusing dialogue from the non-mortal Tracy as he walks around in the land of the living casting disapproving facial expressions. The film is also a story for Tracy to accept his fate as his true love Irene Dunne goes off with another.
Van Johnson tells an amusing story of someone who grew another foot and whilst I can see the attraction that he may have had for Dunne, I think that Esther Williams (Ellen), in a non-swimming role, was far more suited to him romantically. Ward Bond (Al) is good as Tracy’s pilot pal who remains with the living but I’m afraid I cannot say the same for Commander/General James Gleason (Nails) who annoyingly barks his way through the film. Shut up Gleason!
Overall, a film with a nice story – you may get emotional. You may also start to wonder whose spirit is standing beside you, and whilst they may poke fun at you on occasion, they are ultimately there to help you along – your Guardian Angel. I met mine in a dream – there were two of them, a little boy and a little girl and when I asked them “Who are you?”, the little boy turned around and said “I’m your Guardian Angel”. And it was me at age 4…… I’m my own Guardian Angel! So, there is definitely weird stuff that goes on in life. Or in my head!