Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Movie that should be bruned.

Recently I saw about ten minutes of a movie that I swore I would never watch ever again.

Normally, I do not write off movies.  Every film has some good point, a powerful scene, dialogue that will not go away or an amazing musical score.

This movie had none of those things going for it.  What it had was a name that drew people to it, because it was based on an actual historic triumph.

What makes this movie tragic, is that it could have been an amazing epic, about an amazing collection of men, who pulled off a miracle, of  surviving against overwhelming odds.

The movie was, THE MEMPHIS BELLE, a movie that had it been researched written and acted properly would have been an amazing story of heroism, courage and bravery.

The Memphis Bell, was a  B-17 Flying Fortress  heavy bomber that was the first plane and crew to complete 25 missions successfully over Europe in World War Two.  

This was such an event that on its' last mission the U.S. Army Air Forces, had a film crew aboard to chronicle this last mission.  This film is still available for public viewing and has been shown on the History Channel and Public Broadcasing several times.

So why is this movie so bad?  Well to begin with  it was full of mis representations, stereotypes and falsehoods,to the level that the names of the crew of the Memphis Belle were changed to protect the men who actually flew in this historic plane.

This was the 25th mission, no the first of sixth of tenth.  This was a milestone.  The crew for the most part had been together since day one.  They had flown many harrowing missions and were combat hardened.

No one screamed or protested about the danger they were facing.  ,  everyone wore oxygen masks, goggles and field helmets over their leather flight helmets.

Also, all crew wore heavy insulated leather gloves.  You were flying at 25,000 feet in a plane that was not pressurized and at temperatures bellow freezing.

No one choked up, and no one fired endless reams of ammo, because each gunner had so much ammo to his section.  Gunners were trained to let the enemy plane lead and fire where it would be, a technique hunters use.

I could forgive these stereotypes if this were not a real aircraft and crew that had been documented in film already, Memphis Bell Story of a Flying Fortress.  However we were dealing with real people.

I have to compare this to Tora Tora Tora, the film that chronicled the attack on Pearl Harbor.  This film was historically accurate, it portrayed both the Japanese and Americans with great depth and accuracy.  No one was a cowardly frightened child, these people were cool calm and collected.

It is hard to believe that actors such as Matthew Modine, Eric Stolz and Harry Conic Jr. could give such terrible performances, but considering they were not even playing the actual crew, but instead made up characters for the film that is probably why.

Here is the list of the actual crew of the Memphis Belle, and their combat record, as well as the missions they flew.

PILOT: Robert K. Morgan was reassigned to the Pacific Theater following his combat tour in Europe and PR tour in the USA. Lt. Col. Morgan commanded the 869th Bombardment Squadron and flew the Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Dauntless Dottie" on the very first B-29 raid over Tokyo. Morgan completed 25 combat missions in B-29s by the end of the World War II. Retired from the USAF with the rank of Colonel.
CO-PILOT: James A. Verinis from Woodbridge, Connecticut also piloted the B-17 "The Connecticut Yankee". Retired from the USAF with the rank of Lt. Colonel.
NAVIGATOR: Charles B. Leighton from Flint, Michigan eventually retired to become a teacher and guidance counselor before he passed away in 1991.
BOMBADIER: Vince Evans was Hollywood writer, a restaurant operator and race car driver. He completed a second tour of duty aboard B-29s with Bob Morgan in the Pacific. Evans passed away in 1980.
ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER #1: Leviticus "Levy" Dillon transferred to the 306th BG after he crewed Missions #1, #2, #3, & #5 aboard the "MEMPHIS BELLE". He was wounded on Mission #3 though he never reported the injury and consequently there is no official record. Dillon retired to Providence Forge, Virginia.
ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER #2: Eugene Adkins from Johnson City, Tennessee flew on the Mission #4 and Missions #6 ~ #10 when he suffered severe frostbite. He was a Gunnery Specialist on B-17s, B-29s, B-36s, and B-50s. Retired from the USAF with the rank of Major. Adkins passed away in 1995.
ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER #3: Harold P. Loch from Green Bay, Wisconsin eventually retired as a building contractor and records registrar.
RADIO OPERATOR/GUNNER: Robert Hanson became a regular member of the crew during their training at Walla Walla, Washington in 1941. He kept a log book of the "MEMPHIS BELLE" missions. He eventually retired from business to Mesa, Arizona.
BALL TURRET GUNNER: Cecil Scott from Arapahoe, North Carolina acquired one "Damaged" enemy aircraft credit as a gunner aboard the "MEMPHIS BELLE". Scott retired after 30 years with the Ford Motor Company. He passed away in 1979.
RIGHT WAIST GUNNER #1: E. Scott Miller from Kingwood, West Virginia flew 15 missions with the "BELLE". but missed the PR tour because he hadn't completed a full tour of 25 missions at the time. Miller passed away in 1995.
RIGHT WAIST GUNNER #2: Casimer A. "Tony" Nastal from Apache Junction, Arizona flew one mission on the "MEMPHIS BELLE" but qualified for the PR tour with his 24 other combat missions on other Flying Forts. After the PR tour, Nastal returned to the ETO and completed a total of 60 combat missions.
LEFT WAIST GUNNER: Clarence E. "Bill" Winchell downed the eighth and final German fighter from the guns of the "MEMPHIS BELLE. His diaries provide most of the accurate accounts of the missions. Winchell retired as a chemical engineer and passed away in 1994.
TAIL GUNNER: John P. Quinlan was the only officially wounded crew member of the "MEMPHIS BELLE". After the PR tour, he tried unsuccessfully to fly again with Robert Morgan in the Pacific Theatre. Quinlan was eventually assigned to the CBI Theatre and downed 3 Zeros, to become a "gunner Ace" before his B-29 was shot down. He had already shot down 2 German fighters from the "BELLE". Quinlan eventually retired to Stephentown, New York.
CREW CHIEF: Joe Giambrone came from Hulneville, Pennsylvania and saw to the the replacement of nine engines, both wings, two tails, both main landing gear and more to keep the "BELLE" in top form. Giambrone retired as a Construction Company Office Manager in 1992.

Now Here are the actors and characters they played.  See if you can match them up with the real crew of this famous plane.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew Modine...
Eric Stoltz...
Tate Donovan...
1st Lt. Luke Sinclair
D.B. Sweeney...
Billy Zane...
Lt. Val "Valentine" Kozlowski
Sean Astin...
Harry Connick Jr....
Reed Diamond...
Sgt. Virgil Hoogesteger (as Reed Edward Diamond)
Courtney Gains...
Sgt. Eugene McVey
Neil Giuntoli...
Sgt. Jack Bocci
David Strathairn...
Col. Craig Harriman
John Lithgow...
Jane Horrocks...
Mac McDonald...
Les (as Mac Macdonald)

This is the actual mission log of the real Memphis Belle.  Which was named after a ship in a motion picture and the pin up was from a magazine.

1 Brest, France November 7, 1942 U-Boat Pens
 2 St. Nazaire, France November 9, 1942 U-Boat Pens
 3 St. Nazaire, France November 17, 1942 U-Boat Pens
 4 Lille, France December 6, 1942 Marshalling Yards
 5 Rommily-Sur-Seine, France December 20, 1942 German Aircraft Depot
 6 St. Nazaire, France January 1, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 7 Lille, France January 13, 1943 Marshalling Yards
 8 Lorient, France January 23, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 9 Emden, Germany February 4, 1943 War Plant (Ford Factory)
 10 Hamm, Germany February 14, 1943 Marshalling Yards
 11 St. Nazaire, France February 16, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 12 Wilhelmshaven, Germany February 26, 1943 Sea Port
 13 Brest, France February 29, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 14 Lorient, France March 6, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 15 Roven, France March 12, 1943Marshalling Yards
 16 Abbeville, France March 13, 1943German Fighters
 17 Wilhelmshaven, Germany March 22, 1943Sea Port
 18 Roven, France March 28, 1943Marshalling Yards
 19 Antwerp, Belgium April 5, 1943War Plants
 20 Lorient, France April 16, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 21 Bremen, Germany April 17, 1943W ar Plant (Focke-Wulf Factory)
 22 St. Nazaire, France May 1, 1943 U-Boat Pens
 23 Antwerp, Belgium May 4, 1943War Plants
 24 Lorient, France May 15, 1943U-Boat Pens
 25 Wilhelmshaven, Germany May 17, 1943 Sea Port

The real men, in front of their B-17, being awarded for completing their 25th mission by two Generals of the 8th U.S.A.A.F.

The Hollywood fake story came out in October of 1990, by which time many of the men who had flown on this historic plane had died, the few alive obviously the writer and producer didn't feel necessary to interview, why interview people when you intend on making up names and changing events anyway?

  If you want to see the true story, here is the link  for the actual film by the U.S. War Department that was issued in 1944.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for clearing the misinfo up. Don't see Gravity, it was the worst movie I have ever seen !