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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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