|Directed by||William A. Wellman|
|Produced by||Lamar Trotti|
|Written by|| Lamar Trotti |
Darryl F. Zanuck (as Melville Crossman)
|Starring|| Gene Tierney |
Dame May Whitty
|Music by||David Buttolph|
20th Century Fox
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$1,250,000 (US rentals)|
Thunder Birds (subtitled "Soldiers of the Air" and also known as Thunderbirds) is a 1942 Technicolor film directed by William A. Wellman and starring Gene Tierney, Preston Foster, and John Sutton. It features aerial photography and location filming at an actual Arizona training base of the United States Army Air Forces named Thunderbird Field No. 1 during World War II.
The film was made as a propaganda vehicle to boost civilian morale,while at the same time providing a look at training activities and promoting airpower as a means of winning the war. Wellman was himself a veteran of the U.S. Air Service as a World War I fighter pilot.
Soon after the US enters World War II, Steve Britt (Preston Foster), a former World War I flying ace, arrives at Thunderbird Field, looking for a job as a civilian primary flight instructor. The base commander is an old friend, Lt. Col. "Mac" MacDonald (Jack Holt), working with Squadron Leader Barrett (Reginald Denny, himself a World War I aerial observer), who is in charge of the Royal Air Force cadets at the base.
Steve says he wants the job because he is too old for combat and the war will be won by pilots trained on bases like Thunderbird, but it is soon clear that he chose this base because his former girlfriend, Kay Saunders (Gene Tierney), lives nearby with her grandfather, retired Colonel Cyrus "Gramps" Saunders (George Barbier), also a close friend of Steve's.
Steve immediately flies to their ranch and performs stunts over a water tank where Kay is bathing, blowing her robe away and then dropping her his flying coveralls. When he lands, she seems miffed, but responds to his passionate kiss of greeting. Kay is still very fond of him, but no longer deeply in love.
Steve is introduced to the new class of RAF cadets, including Peter Stackhouse (John Sutton), whose father Steve knew. Mac warns Steve to "wash them out fast" if cadets cannot meet the requirements. Peter flies clumsily and is sick from acrophobia. After three such failures, Steve tries to persuade Peter to transfer, but Peter is confident he can overcome what he calls his "conditional reflex", and asks for more time.
Peter reveals the reason why he wants to fly. His brother was killed on a bombing mission and their grandmother, Lady Jane Stackhouse (Dame May Whitty), summoned Peter, then an intern at a London hospital, home to show him the cheque she is sending Winston Churchill for the purchase of a new bomber to carry on the fight in Tom's memory. Since no male is left in the family to do so, Peter leaves his hospital service to enlist in the RAF to learn to fly. After hearing his story, Steve agrees to keep Peter in training.
On his first leave, Peter meets Kay Saunders and is immediately infatuated. She dates Peter, but warns him that she might still be in love with Steve. Still, her instincts warn her that Steve would make a poor husband, as he is a carefree nomad not interested in settling down. Peter admires Steve and is grateful to him, so he warns Steve that he is in love with Kay and intends to propose marriage. Steve promises that he will not wash Peter out because of their rivalry. His judgment tells him that Peter will one day be a fine pilot. When Squadron Leader Barrett gives Peter a check flight, he gets sick again. Steve stands by Peter in a showdown, threatening to resign.
Gramps throws a Fourth of July party for the cadets and, to help Steve win Kay, tricks Peter into riding a bucking bronco. This backfires when Peter proves to be an adept horseman. Steve sees that Kay has fallen in love with Peter, even before she realizes it herself.
The decision on Peter's training must be made. Steve tells Peter to fly the aircraft just as he rode the bronco, by easing up and relaxing. The advice works. Steve then forces Peter to fly solo by bailing out, although he descends into a sandstorm and is blown along the ground toward a cliff. Peter lands nearby and saves Steve, but the wind flips his aircraft over. Mac believes that Peter's incompetence caused the damage, washes him out, and fires Steve. Kay convinces Mac and Barrett to giving them one more chance. She tells Steve that she has decided to marry Peter, and reminds him of his own words about where the war will be won. Peter makes good on the faith shown in him, making a deadstick landing when his engine fails during his solo flight. Soon after, Steve, hobbling on a cane, greets an incoming class of new RAF cadets.
Thunder Birds was intended by Fox studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck to be a follow-up to his popular A Yank in the R.A.F. , given the working title of A Tommy in the U.S.A. Using the pen name "Melville Crossman," Zanuck himself wrote the original story. The studio also purchased rights to a magazine story entitled "Spitfire Squadron," written by Arch Whitehouse, but did not use it as part of the screenplay.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Dana Andrews would play the lead in Thunder Birds opposite Gene Tierney and that either Bruce Humberstone or Archie Mayo would direct.
William Wellman, however, agreed to direct in exchange for financial backing from Zanuck to film the novel The Ox-Bow Incident , which Wellman began immediately after production ended for Thunder Birds.
With cooperation from the United States Army Air Corps, production filming began on location at the actual Thunderbird Field No. 1 northwest of Glendale, Arizona, from mid-March to May 6, 1942. The storyline of international flight students, including Chinese trainees, revolved around cadets flying the Stearman PT-17 primary trainer, but also featured many live action formation flights of Vultee BT-13 Valiant and North American AT-6 trainers.Filming coincided with the time frame of the story. Additional sequences were filmed in the first week of June 1942 at the Falcon Field Training Facility in Mesa, Arizona, with retakes during July 1942. Stunt pilot Paul Mantz flew the live action flying scenes.
20th Century Fox released Thunder Birds on June 6, 2006, as a Region 1 DVD, while in Region 2, it is available as part of a DVD box set of Gene Tierney's films for TCF.
Thunder Birds was received with decidedly mixed reviews. The New York Times reviewer, Bosley Crowther critiqued the basic plot that "simply dished up another of those frightfully hackneyed tales, more to be censured than prettied, about an American instructor and a British flying cadet at the field who, in love with the same American lassie, vie to see which one can be the nobler goof."
Audiences, however, were thrilled by the aerial scenes, which Crowther reported contained "many shots of basic trainers rolling and zooming on yellow wings against the blue. Those are the only exalting glimpses in the whole film."Film historians consider Thunder Birds a classic aviation film.
Wings is a 1927 American silent war film set during World War I, produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman, released by Paramount Pictures, and starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appears in a small role which helped launch his career in Hollywood.
Laura is a 1944 American film noir produced and directed by Otto Preminger. It stars Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb along with Vincent Price and Judith Anderson. The screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, and Betty Reinhardt is based on the 1943 novel Laura by Vera Caspary.
The former Royal Air Force Station Kenley, more commonly known as RAF Kenley was an airfield station of the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and the RAF in the Second World War. It played a significant role during the Battle of Britain as one of the three RAF stations specifically tasked with the defence of London. It is located near Kenley, Surrey, England.
Gene Eliza Tierney was an American film and stage actress. Acclaimed for her great beauty, she became established as a leading lady. Tierney was best known for her portrayal of the title character in the film Laura (1944), and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Ellen Berent Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (1945).
Thunderbird or Thunderbirds may refer to:
Tyrone Edmund Power III was an American actor. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Power appeared in dozens of films, often in swashbuckler roles or romantic leads. His better-known films include The Mark of Zorro, Marie Antoinette, Blood and Sand, The Black Swan, Prince of Foxes, Witness for the Prosecution, The Black Rose, and Captain from Castile. Power's own favorite film among those that he starred in was Nightmare Alley.
George Montgomery was an American actor, painter, director, producer, writer, sculptor, furniture craftsman, and stuntman who is best remembered as an actor in Western films and television.
The Way to the Stars is a 1945 British war drama film made by Two Cities Films. In the United States it was known as Johnny in the Clouds and distributed by United Artists. It was produced by Anatole de Grunwald and directed by Anthony Asquith. The screenplay was co-written by noted dramatist, Terence Rattigan, as a significant reworking of his 1942 play Flare Path, which incorporated his Royal Air Force (RAF) experiences as a Flight Lieutenant. The film stars Michael Redgrave, John Mills, Rosamund John and Stanley Holloway.
William Augustus Wellman was an American film director notable for his work in crime, adventure, and action genre films, often focusing on aviation themes, a particular passion. He also directed several well-regarded satirical comedies. Beginning his film career as an actor, he went on to direct over 80 films, at times co-credited as producer and consultant. In 1927, Wellman famously directed Wings, which became the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture at the 1st Academy Awards ceremony. Under his direction, the 1937 film A Star Is Born won the Academy Award for Best Story.
RAF Little Rissington is an RAF aerodrome and RAF station in Gloucestershire, England. It was once home to the Central Flying School, the Vintage Pair and the Red Arrows.
Island in the Sky is a 1953 American aviation adventure drama film written by Ernest K. Gann based on his 1944 novel Island in the Sky, directed by William A. Wellman, and starring and co-produced by John Wayne. It was released by Warner Bros. Due to its realism depicting the events surrounding an actual aircraft crash, it is considered one of the "classic" aviation films. Unlike most Wayne movies, the picture is an ensemble piece, also featuring Andy Devine, Lloyd Nolan, James Arness, and Paul Fix.
Falcon Field is in an airport located in Maricopa County, Arizona. It was originally built 6 miles northeast of Mesa, which owns it. However, it is now within city limits. The National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021 categorized it as a reliever airport. Scheduled service to Bullhead City on Western Express Air ended in January 2007.
On the Riviera is a 1951 Technicolor musical comedy film made by 20th Century Fox. Directed by Walter Lang and produced by Sol C. Siegel from a screenplay by Valentine Davies and Phoebe and Henry Ephron, it is the studio's fourth film based on the 1934 play The Red Cat by Rudolph Lothar and Hans Adler. This version stars Danny Kaye, Gene Tierney and Corinne Calvet, with Marcel Dalio, Henri Letondal and Sig Ruman.
Gallant Journey is a 1946 American historical film written, produced and directed by William A. Wellman and starring Glenn Ford and Janet Blair. The film is a biopic of the early U.S. aviation pioneer John Joseph Montgomery. Gallant Journey depicts his efforts to build and fly gliders, from his childhood through to his death in 1911. The chief stunt pilot for the film was Paul Mantz.
Thunderbird Field was a military airfield in Glendale, Arizona, used for contract primary flight training of Allied pilots during World War II. Created in part by actor James Stewart, the field became part of the United States Army Air Forces training establishment just prior to American entry into the war and was re-designated Thunderbird Field #1 after establishment of Thunderbird Field #2 at nearby Scottsdale, on 22 June 1942. Thunderbird # 1 is located southeast of the intersection of West Greenway Road & North 59th Avenue in Glendale, Arizona.
Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake is a 1942 adventure film directed by John Cromwell, starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney. The film was adapted from Edison Marshall's 1941 historical novel Benjamin Blake. It is notable as the last film Frances Farmer appeared in before her legal problems and eventual commitment to psychiatric hospitals until 1950.
The Legion of the Condemned is a 1928 American silent film directed by William A. Wellman and produced by Jesse L. Lasky, Wellman, and Adolph Zukor and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Written by former World War I flight instructor John Monk Saunders and Jean de Limur, with intertitles by George Marion, Jr., the film stars Fay Wray and Gary Cooper.
High Flight is a 1957, CinemaScope, British, cold war drama film in Technicolor, directed by John Gilling and featuring Ray Milland, Bernard Lee and Leslie Phillips. High Flight was filmed with the co-operation of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The title of the film was derived from the poem of the same title by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American aviator who flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and lost his life in 1941 over RAF Cranwell, where much of the film was shot.
Men With Wings is a 1938 American Technicolor war film, directed by William A. Wellman and starring Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, and Louise Campbell. Donald O'Connor also has a small part as the younger version of MacMurray's character. The two would soon star in the film Sing You Sinners together along with Bing Crosby.
International Squadron is a 1941 American war film directed by Lewis Seiler and Lothar Mendes that starred Ronald Reagan, Olympe Bradna and in his final film, James Stephenson. The film is based on the Eagle Squadrons, American pilots who volunteered to fly for the Royal Air Force during World War II. International Squadron featured noted Hollywood pilot Paul Mantz who acted as the film's aerial coordinator and flew during the production.