Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Memphis Belle

Today is the fourth of five Tuesdays in this month's TCM Spotlight, Five Came Back, looking at five movie directors who served in World War II. This week looks at William Wyler, who brought us what I think is one of the great movies about the World War II experience, The Best Years of Our Lives. That movie is coming up overnight at 12:30 AM (or late tonight if you're in a more westerly time zone), but the one I'd like to point out today is The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, which you can catch at 10:30 PM.

Perhaps you've seen the 1990 movie Memphis Belle. It tells the story of the people who flew the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber that flew 25 missions over Nazi Germany and survived. Making it through 25 missions was apparently a big achievement, which is one of the reasons the plane and its crew became famous and worthy of a Hollywood dramatization of their story. The other reason, I think, is this documentary.

William Wyler filmed the air corps as they went about their business, giving this much more realism than anything Hollywood could ever have done back on the sound stages. Better yet, Wyler was able to film this in color. (George Stevens, the subject of the spotlight next week, brought a lot of color film with him from the US, and his color movies of the war are part of the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. It doesn't look like those are being shown at all.)

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