Flying Tiger films, past and possible
This has been another huge year for Flying Tiger films, or rumors of same.
A film crew from China is scheduled to interview survivors and other
interested parties in the United States in September. This for a
documentary in cooperation with a company on Taiwan. Meanwhile,
Harrison Ford is being touted for a made-for-TV
feature film or mini-series about the Flying Tigers.
(In both cases, I suspect that no distinction is being made between the
AVG and the uniformed U.S. Army squadrons that replaced it in July 1942,
and perhaps not between them and the hard-luck squadrons that fought the
Japanese during the 1930s.) Ford presumably would play Chennault--a
great role for him, one would think, now that he has aged past the
romantic lead. With refreshing candor, a spokesman noted that the project
was only in the talking stage, which I find very encouraging. John Woo
was never as restrained.
John Woo, a Hollywood director who went
home to China, spent two years making grand statements about Flying Tiger
Heroes, which evidently was to show the AVG as flying wing-to-wing
with the Chinese Air Force. Production was
been punted from last December to this summer, and Tom Cruise and later Liam
Neeson have been mooted as the star who would play Claire Chennault.
I've learned from the scriptwriter duo who bought
the rights to Remains
that they're written the script for this AVG
story set in Burma and have pitched it
to the usual suspects. It now seems to be asleep.
Alan Armstrong has long been pitching a movie script about
the 2nd AVG bomber group recruited in
November 1941 but aborted after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
He published his research as a book,
Preemptive Strike. He tells me that the project now exists as two
scripts, a documentary 'poised for co-production' and a feature film
'presently being shopped to studio targets in Hollywood and abroad'.
Several years ago, in cooperation with Olga Greenlaw's sister,
I sold the screen rights to
The Lady and the Tigers. That project too is in limbo.
Morgan Creek in 2001 had a project entitled Flying Tigers,
which went as far as the mockup of a bunch of Tomahawks. Filming was
scheduled to take place in California and Mexico, but later was shifted
to Australia. Alas, the movie doesn't seem to show any longer on the
Morgan Creek website.
There was a serious effort to make a Chennault film in
the 1990s. It had major backers and a title like
Earth, Wind, and Fire. Supposedly it was based on the
Chennault-Bissell feud, with Tom Cruise starring.
This project too seems to have evaporated, though it may explain why
Mr Cruise has been mentioned for Flying Tiger Heroes.
Wayne Adams Barker recorded a screenplay titled Flying
Tigers Never Say Die in 1994
About 1992, a Chinese friend told me that
she'd been hired to work on the script of a Taiwanese film involving the
love affair between a beautiful Chinese girl and a gallant Flying
Tiger named Johnny Blackstone. It was, she said, a dreadful script, and
she soon went to work in China for the Disney Panda epic. I named one of
the heroes of Remains in honor of this project.
Lewis Productions, Inc. and Embassy Productions, Inc.
recorded a Flying Tigers screenplay in 1984.
And here's what I know about movies that relate to the Flying Tigers,
broadly defined. If the film is available on video at Amazon, there's
a hotlink to it.
The Flying Tigers (Republic, 1942). Here is the classic,
"B" flick starring John Wayne in a hilariously wrong-headed account of the
American Volunteer Group. Nice shots of small-mouthed P-40s (filmed at
the Curtiss factory with repainted fighters not yet delivered to the
USAAF) and fixed-gear Nakajima Ki-27s (taken from a Japanese film).
The very odd bomber is the the only Capelis XC-12 'Safety Aircraft Transport'
built. The movie ends with the lads hearing about the attack on Pearl
Harbor, which of course
took place nearly two weeks before the AVG ever fired a shot in
anger. Two "dishonorably discharged" AVG clerks
had something to do with this project. Current videotape version is colorized.
Available at Amazon
on DVD disk
as well as used copies on VHS
Also available at Historic Aviation
on DVD disk.
God Is My Co-pilot (1943). Dennis Morgan and Raymond Massey
star. Strictly speaking, not about the AVG at all, since it was based on
Scott's best-selling account of how he came to be commander of the
23rd Fighter Group. Filmed at Luke AAF Aux. Field #7.
Curtiss P-40F's from 554 FTS Luke, B-25C/D/G Mitchells from 952 TS,
AT-6's dressed up as Zeros, and a Republic P-43 Lancer. Used copies may be available at Amazon
on VHS tape
The Sky's the Limit (RKO, 1942). Fred Astaire (!) as a singing,
dancing, romancing Flying Tiger veteran in New York before reporting for
duty with the US military. His co-star is Joan Leslie, who plays an endearing
photographer--and she can dance! (Leslie was later romanced in real life
by Glen Edwards.) AVG veteran R. T. Smith was
technical adviser on this film, which may explain why I enjoyed it far more
than I expected.
Available at Amazon on VHS tape
Hers to Hold (1943). An AVG pilot (Joseph Cotton) falls in
love with a B-17 assembly worker (Deanna Durban).
China's Little Devils (1945). Harry Carey and Paul Kelly
as two AVG Flying Tiger pilots befriending Chinese orphans.
P-40 mock-ups, footage from the John Wayne film.
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email. Blue skies! -- Dan