Tagged: Pilot Uniform

James Coburn in The Great Escape

James Coburn as Louis Sedgwick in The Great Escape (1963)

Vitals

James Coburn as Louis Sedgwick, Australian RAAF Flying Officer

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today is the 20th anniversary of the death of James Coburn, the prolific and reliable Nebraska-born star who grew to fame through memorable appearances in the ’60s, including the requisite Westerns and war films including the 1963 ensemble epic The Great Escape, dramatizing the real-life mass breakout of more than six dozen Allied airmen from Stalag Luft III during World War II. Ultimately, there were three successful escapees; of the 73 captured, 50 were summarily executed on Hitler’s direct orders.

Coburn portrayed the fictional Australian officer Louis Sedgwick, an amalgamation of the camp “manufacturer” Johnny Travis (RAF) and Dutch flying ace Bram “Bob” van der Stok, one of the three successful escapees who made his getaway, crossing much of occupied Europe with the help of French Resistance networks. Continue reading

The Right Stuff: Sam Shepard’s Flight Jacket as Chuck Yeager

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

Sam Shepard with Brig Gen Chuck Yeager during production of The Right Stuff (1983)

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Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, record-setting U.S. Air Force test pilot

Murac Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), Kern County, California, from fall 1947 to summer 1961

Film: The Right Stuff
Release Date: October 21, 1983
Director: Philip Kaufman
Costume Supervisor: James W. Tyson

Background

Today marks the 75th anniversary of when Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, piloting a rocket-propelled Bell X-1 aircraft—named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife—over the Mojave Desert at a speed greater than Mach 1. The event is depicted at the start of The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman’s 1983 flight epic based on Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book of the same name, chronicling the pivotal early years of American aeronautics between Yeager’s supersonic achievement and the conclusion of the successful Project Mercury manned space missions.

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Battle of Britain: Ian McShane’s RAF Uniforms

Ian McShane as Flight Sergeant Andy Moore in Battle of Britain (1969)

Ian McShane as Flight Sergeant Andy Moore in Battle of Britain (1969)

Vitals

Ian McShane as Flight Sergeant Andy Moore, Royal Air Force pilot

England, Summer 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Today commemorates the anniversary of a decisive aerial battle in the skies over England that marked one of the first substantial Allied victories in World War II. Luftwaffe attacks on British ports and fleets had launched the Battle of Britain in June 1940, followed by sporadic and deadly raids that culminated with a German attempt to essentially eradicate any British defenses to clear the way for Operation Sea Lion, Hitler’s intended invasion of England.  On September 15, two waves of German attacks on London were successfully repelled by the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, primarily the No. 11 Group RAF, a decisive defense that prompted then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

29 years later to the day, Battle of Britain was released in the grand tradition of star-studded war epics, boasting a talented cast that included Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, and a relative newcomer named Ian McShane. Continue reading

William Holden in Stalag 17

In recognition of POW/MIA Day, observed on the third Friday of September, let’s delve into one of the first major movies to shine a light on the POW experience.

William Holden as Staff Sergeant J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953)

William Holden as Staff Sergeant J.J. Sefton in Stalag 17 (1953)

Vitals

William Holden as J.J. Sefton, USAAF Staff Sergeant and prisoner of war

“Somewhere on the Danube”, December 1944

Film: Stalag 17
Release Date: May 29, 1953
Director: Billy Wilder
Wardrobe Credit: J. Allen Slone

Background

I don’t know about you, but it always makes me sore when I see those war pictures… all about flying leathernecks and submarine patrols and frogmen and guerrillas in the Philippines. What gets me is there never was a movie about POWs… about prisoners of war.

… and so Clarence Harvey Cook (Gil Stratton) begins his narration, setting the scene for the week leading up to Christmas 1944 when he and his fellow downed colleagues discovered a potential informant—er, a “dirty stinkin’ stoolie”—in their barracks.

After two airmen are shot trying to escape, suspicion eventually falls on J.J. Sefton, the cigarette-dealing but cigar-chomping staff sergeant whose cynicism has already rendered him unpopular with most of the Americans aside from Cookie, who serves as Sefton’s unofficial batman and describes him as “one of the most unforgettable ch-characters you’ve ever met.” Continue reading

Battle of Britain: Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader "Skipper" in Battle of Britain (1969)

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader “Skipper” in Battle of Britain (1969)

Vitals

Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader

England, Summer to Fall 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.

This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.

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Hendley in The Great Escape

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Hendley in The Great Escape (1963)

Vitals

James Garner as Robert Hendley, American-born RAF Flight Lieutenant and “scrounger”

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Steve McQueen’s daring Captain Hilts may get all the glory of The Great Escape‘s legacy, but James Garner’s affable and resourceful “scrounger” Hendley remains one of my favorite characters from any war movie.

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Sidney Reilly Goes Undercover in Russia

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in the seventh episode of Reilly: Ace of Spies.

Sam Neill as Sidney Reilly in the seventh episode of Reilly: Ace of Spies (1983).

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Sam Neill as Capt. Sidney Reilly, British secret service agent and Canadian Royal Flying Corps airman

Russia, Spring 1918

Series: Reilly: Ace of Spies
Episode: “Gambit” (Episode 7)
Air Date: October 12, 1983
Director: Jim Goddard
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Waller

Background

The mini-series Reilly: Ace of Spies, being based on Sidney Reilly’s own exaggerated account of his life, certainly stretches the truth – if not downright fictionalizes – many parts of Reilly’s story. However, the show does a fine job of serializing Reilly’s most important and life-altering adventure: the attempted overthrow of the Bolshevik government. Continue reading

Hilts in The Great Escape

Steve McQueen as the unflappable Capt. Hilts in The Great Escape

Steve McQueen as the unflappable Capt. Hilts in The Great Escape (1963).

This weekend marked the 69th anniversary of “The Great Escape”, the mass escape of allied airmen from the German-controlled Stalag Luft III in Lower Silesia. The escape, which involved the efforts of 600 men, achieved the goal of RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell to “make life hell for the Hun.”

In 1963, the story was filmed by the Mirisch Company as The Great Escape.

Vitals

Steve McQueen as Capt. Virgil Hilts, U.S. Army Air Forces pilot and escape artist

Sagan-Silesia (Zagan, Poland), Spring 1944

Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve heard of The Great Escape and have hopefully seen it roughly a hundred times in your life. Continue reading

Catch Me If You Can – Pan Am Uniform

Need a costume this weekend for Halloween that’s identifiable but still looks good? James Bond and Don Draper are good go-tos, but those “costumes” can also be worn on a day to day basis. For an original and sharp 60s-style Halloween costume, consider a Pan Am uniform reminiscent of Frank Abagnale’s co-pilot outfit in Catch Me If You Can.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can (2002).

Vitals

Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, Jr., international teenage con man posing as Pan Am pilot Frank Black, aka Frank Taylor, aka Frank Roberts

Pretty much anywhere in the world, notably New York, Miami, and France, 1960s

Film: Catch Me If You Can
Release Date: December 25, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Designer: Mary Zophres

Background

By the time he was 19, Frank Abagnale, Jr., had amassed millions of dollars posing as a college teaching assistant, a lawyer, a doctor, and – most notably – a Pan Am co-pilot.

Choosing to imitate a pilot in order to fly around the world for free, Abagnale called Pan Am to ask for a “replacement” uniform, decorated it with a forced FAA pilot’s license, and flew over 1,000,000 miles on over 250 flights in 2 years. After flying to 26 countries with travel, lodging, and food all expensed to Pan Am, Abagnale was captured in Europe. Continue reading