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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. Well, maybe!

    Remains: a story of the Flying Tigers

  • 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.

    Extant films:

    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, a Republic "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 tape. 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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