Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Thunder Birds

(Soldiers of the Air, 1942)

Gene Tierney was one of the most beautiful women to work in Hollywood. Here she is in glorious super-saturated Technicolor, with lips as red as moist cherries, very dark brown hair, and pale blue eyes.

Oh, yeah, there’s some airplanes in it, too. The star is the Boeing-Stearman Model 75.or PT-17 trainer. It’s a biplane. After the war there were thousands of them available as surplus, and they went to work as crop dusters and such. Some are probably still flying. Here they are painted a cheerful blue in the fuselage, with bright yellow wings, to make it easier for Jap gunners to see them. (Nah, not really, I suppose it was for better visibility in finding the ones cracked up by student pilots.) There are also legions of Vultee BT-13 Valiants and North American T-6 Texans flying in formation. William Wellman, a WWI aviator, filmed this quickie morale-building trifle at Thunderbird Field No. 1 in Arizona, where he had all the extras he could possibly need in the form of real American, British, and Chinese trainees. Thunderbird Field has an interesting history. It was financed by Hollywood people, including Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, Hoagy Carmichael, and Margaret Sullavan. It was laid out so that the taxiways and structures formed a thunderbird when seen from the air. The plot is strictly ho-hum, a love triangle between an old veteran instructor (Preston Foster) and a young Brit trainee with motion sickness. There is one mildly amusing scene with a bunch of Red Cross nurses in training, falling upon the visiting airmen and trying to bandage them up, incompetently. But these dames are starved for male attention, and no one seems to mind. The movie is interesting as an historical piece, but not much more.