Tagged: Pilot

Devotion: Jonathan Majors’ Flight Suit as Jesse Brown

Jonathan Majors as ENS Jesse Brown in Devotion (2022)

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Jonathan Majors as ENS Jesse L. Brown, groundbreaking U.S. Naval Aviator

From Quonset Point, Rhode Island to the Korean coast, Spring to Fall 1950

Film: Devotion
Release Date: November 23, 2022
Director: J.D. Dillard
Costume Designer: Deirdra Elizabeth Govan

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

February is Black History Month, a fitting occasion to highlight the life and career of trailblazers like Jesse Brown, the first African-American aviator to complete the U.S. Navy flight training program.

Jesse LeRoy Brown was born on October 13, 1926, perhaps coincidentally sharing a “birthday” with the U.S. Navy itself as this was exactly 151 years to the day after the Continental Navy was founded in 1775. Two years after he enlisted in the Navy, Brown received his pilot wings in October 1948 and was commissioned as an ensign (OF-1) six months later. Ensigns Brown stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Leyte when it was ordered to Korea at the start of the war in the summer of 1950, ultimately flying 20 combat missions in an F4U-4 Corsair, a propeller-driven fighter whose fatalist nicknames of the “Ensign Eliminator” and “Widowmaker” never deterred the courageous aviator. 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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The Thing: Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady

Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady in The Thing

Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady in The Thing (1982)

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Kurt Russell as R.J. MacReady, helicopter pilot

Antarctica, Winter 1982

Film: The Thing
Release Date: June 25, 1982
Director: John Carpenter
Costume Supervisors: Ronald I. Caplan, Trish Keating, and Gilbert Loe

Background

We’re not gettin’ out of here alive… but neither is that thing.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Thing, which premiered June 25, 1982 and remains the personal favorite of director John Carpenter. Four days ago on June 21, British Antarctic research stations would have observed their Midwinter Day celebration that typically includes watching horror movies about being trapped in the snow such as The Thing and The Shining.

Indeed, the action begins during “first goddamn week of winter” grumbles R.J. MacReady, a grizzled helicopter pilot embedded with an American scientific research crew stationed in Antarctica. The U.S. Outpost 31 crew is baffled by the sudden appearance of a Norwegian gunman shooting at what appears to be a relatively benign wolfdog (Jed). “Maybe we’re at war with Norway,” quips Nauls (T.K. Carter), the cook, who more helpfully offers that “five minutes is enough to put a man over down here” as the team mulls over the gunman’s possible motives.

That night, it’s not the Norwegian who the crew needs to be alarmed about, but instead the curious creature locked up with the dogs. As their canine handler Clark (Richard Masur) warns Mac:

It’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is…

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Midway: Charlton Heston’s Naval Aviation Khaki

Charlton Heston as Captain Matthew Garth in Midway

Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth in Midway (1976)

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Charlton Heston as CAPT Matthew Garth, U.S. Naval Aviator

Pearl Harbor to Midway Island, Spring 1942

Film: Midway
Release Date: June 18, 1976
Director: Jack Smight

Background

Many familiar with World War II history are familiar with the significance of Monday’s date as, on June 6, 1944, the Allies landed at Normandy in northern France as part of the “D-Day” invasion that laid the groundwork for the eventual Allied victory. Two years earlier, the Americans had been engaged in yet another decisive battle that would turn the tide of the second World War.

The Battle of Midway had commenced 80 years ago today on June 4, 1942, following intelligence gathered by the U.S. Navy that allowed it to prepare for a counterattack against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Three days of battle followed, with American forces destroying all four Japanese fleet carriers that had engaged and—in both a tactical and symbolic victory—had also been part of the six-carrier force that attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier.

Though the Americans also suffered the loss of a carrier, a destroyer, and approximately 150 aircraft, casualties were considerably higher on the Japanese side (including nearly double the amount of aircraft lost), marking an early turning point of the Pacific War in favor of the Allies and which historian John Keegan has called “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”

In addition to an 18-minute color documentary directed during the battle by John Ford, the Battle of Midway has been the subject of two major movies, mostly recently in 2019. A star-studded retelling of the battle and its lead-up was produced by The Mirisch Company in 1976, starring—among many others—Henry Fonda as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet. Having served in the Navy in real life during World War II, Fonda had actually partly narrated Ford’s 1942 documentary and also appeared as an unnamed admiral inspired by Nimitz in the 1965 epic In Harm’s Way.

The cast was rounded out by both established international stars from Robert Mitchum to Toshiro Mifune and relative newcomers like Dabney Coleman, Erik Estrada, and a non-mustached Tom Selleck. Being made just over 30 years after World War II ended meant a number of actual veterans among its cast; in addition to Fonda, Glenn Ford, Charlton Heston, Hal Holbrook, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Webber had all served.

Though most of its characters are real-life figures, Midway centers around a fictionalized hero in the form of naval aviator CAPT Matthew Garth (Heston), for whom the battle presents the culmination of his increasing personal and professional troubles. Continue reading

Goldfinger: Pussy Galore’s Corduroy Jacket and Turtleneck

Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964)

Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964)

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Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore, a “damn good pilot”

Fort Knox, Kentucky, Fall 1964

Film: Goldfinger
Release Date: September 18, 1964
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Supervisor: Elsa Fennell

Background

Today would have been the 96th birthday of the late Honor Blackman, best known for her role as Cathy Gale on the second and third seasons of The Avengers, which she left to star in her iconic performance in Goldfinger as Pussy Galore, the assertive aviator who transforms from enemy to ally of Sean Connery’s James Bond.

Arguably one of the most famous (and most famously named) women of the Bond franchise, the high-flying judo expert Pussy Galore established a new type of “Bond girl”, a tough, action-oriented equal rather than the demure damsel in distress. Pussy also nearly equals the stylish secret agent with her strong wardrobe, primarily comprised of tailored jackets and slacks, apropos her profession that still carried masculine connotations in the early 1960s. Continue reading

The Aviator: Dressed to Test the H-1 Racer

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and ambitious aviation and movie mogul

Los Angeles, September 1935

Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

85 years ago today on September 13, 1935, a sleek silver aircraft rocketed through the air over Santa Ana, California, at a record-breaking speed over 350 miles per hour, making four passes over Martin Field before a crash-landing that deposited its owner—one of the wealthiest and most ambitious men in America at the time—into a beet field, alive and hardly discouraged. As Howard Hughes’ colleagues ran over to extract the 29-year-old entrepreneur and aviator from the wreckage of the H-1 Racer, he hardly had his own safety in mind, issuing the command: “We can fix her, she’ll go faster!”

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Cary Grant’s Flight Jacket in Only Angels Have Wings

Cary Grant as Geoff Carter in Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Cary Grant as Geoff Carter in Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

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Cary Grant as Geoff Carter, regional airline manager and pilot

South America, Spring 1939

Film: Only Angels Have Wings
Release Date: May 15, 1939
Director: Howard Hawks
Costume Designer: Robert Kalloch

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Calling Barranca, calling Barranca…

Set in the fictional “port of call for the South American banana boats”, Only Angels Have Wings begins with the arrival of Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), a Brooklyn musician who soon catches the eye of two American aviators, Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn). While the daredevil duo gambles for the opportunity to take Bonnie to dinner, Cary Grant makes his swaggering introduction as Geoff Carter, a fellow pilot and manager of a regional mail carrier flying regular routes over the treacherous Andes Mountains.

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The Aviator: Leo’s Navy Jacket and White Slacks

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Vitals

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and ambitious aviation and movie mogul

Los Angeles, Summer 1935

Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

Almost five years after the success of his World War I epic Hell’s Angels, Howard Hughes lands his seaplane at the beach to the tune of Bing Crosby crooning the 1933 ballad “Thanks”, backed by “musical host of the coast” Jimmie Grier and his Orchestra. The graceful approach of the Sikorsky S-38 “Flying Boat” and the dapper Hughes deplaning from it dazzles the cast and crew of Sylvia Scarlett, Katharine Hepburn’s first of four films with director George Cukor and co-star Cary Grant.

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The Bridges at Toko-Ri: William Holden’s Naval Flight Jacket

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954)

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William Holden as LT Harry Brubaker, bitter U.S. Navy Reserve aviator

Off the Korean coast, November 1952

Film: The Bridges at Toko-Ri
Release Date: December 1954
Director: Mark Robson
Costume Designer: Edith Head

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Mid-century flight must be my subconscious theme heading into the new year given my last few posts about Frank Sinatra’s jet-setting style and then Sean Connery’s charcoal traveling suit in Goldfinger. Let’s at least move forward from the fuselage to the cockpit where William Holden sits at the controls of his Grumman F9F-2 Panther in The Bridges at Toko-Ri as military aviator LT Harry Brubaker, flying for the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.

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The Aviator: Leo’s Plaid Loafer Jacket

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004)

Vitals

Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, eccentric and reclusive aviation mogul

Los Angeles, November 1947

Film: The Aviator
Release Date: December 25, 2004
Director: Martin Scorsese
Costume Designer: Sandy Powell

Background

On this day in 1947, Howard Hughes successfully tested his H-4 Hercules flying boat after a half-decade of development. The 26-second flight off Cabrillo Beach defied critics who had decried the “Spruce Goose” as a waste of more than $23 million, including government funds allocated to the now-unnecessary craft during wartime. Continue reading