The McConnell Story (1955)

106-107 or 109 mins | Biography | 3 September 1955

Director:

Gordon Douglas

Producer:

Henry Blanke

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

Gen. Otto P. Weyland, Chief of the Tactical Air Command, U.S.A.F., appears after the opening credits, and dedicates the film to the men of the United States Air Force. The following written acknowledgment appears after the film: “To the 366th Fighter Bomber Wing, to the 479th Fighter Day Wing, to the Tactical Air Command and all units of the United States Air Force, both active and reserve, without whose assistance this picture would not have been possible—grateful appreciation.”
       As depicted in the film, the real Joseph C. McConnell, Jr. (1922—1954) began flying in World War II as a navigator on B-24 airplanes. After achieving pilot status, he pushed for an assignment as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War, although he was considered, at 28, too old by the Air Force. Flying Sabre F-86 jets, McConnell battled with Soviet-developed airplanes called MiG-15s. Although he experienced several close encounters with death, as the film showed, McConnell remained unharmed and downed a record-breaking total of sixteen MiGs. In one day, he downed three MiGs, which made him the first “triple ace” pilot of the Korean War. Following this, Air Force officials, not wanting to further risk their best pilot, ordered him to return immediately to the United States and he was assigned to train other pilots.
       A Sep 1955 LAEx reported that when McConnell returned from the war in 1953, his Apple Valley neighbors presented him with a $16,000 “Appreciation House,” an event that was also depicted in the film. Approximately one year later, McConnell died in a crash near Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert when the hydraulics failed on the F-86h he was ... More Less

Gen. Otto P. Weyland, Chief of the Tactical Air Command, U.S.A.F., appears after the opening credits, and dedicates the film to the men of the United States Air Force. The following written acknowledgment appears after the film: “To the 366th Fighter Bomber Wing, to the 479th Fighter Day Wing, to the Tactical Air Command and all units of the United States Air Force, both active and reserve, without whose assistance this picture would not have been possible—grateful appreciation.”
       As depicted in the film, the real Joseph C. McConnell, Jr. (1922—1954) began flying in World War II as a navigator on B-24 airplanes. After achieving pilot status, he pushed for an assignment as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War, although he was considered, at 28, too old by the Air Force. Flying Sabre F-86 jets, McConnell battled with Soviet-developed airplanes called MiG-15s. Although he experienced several close encounters with death, as the film showed, McConnell remained unharmed and downed a record-breaking total of sixteen MiGs. In one day, he downed three MiGs, which made him the first “triple ace” pilot of the Korean War. Following this, Air Force officials, not wanting to further risk their best pilot, ordered him to return immediately to the United States and he was assigned to train other pilots.
       A Sep 1955 LAEx reported that when McConnell returned from the war in 1953, his Apple Valley neighbors presented him with a $16,000 “Appreciation House,” an event that was also depicted in the film. Approximately one year later, McConnell died in a crash near Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert when the hydraulics failed on the F-86h he was testing. As shown in the film, he tried to land the plane using throttle and rudder, a technique he had used successfully in Korea, but ground turbulence intervened. As a last resort, he ejected from the plane, but was, by then, too close to the ground to survive. According to a Sep 1955 LAT news item, his death on 25 Aug 1954 occurred while The McConnell Story was in preparation, causing a new, tragic finale to be added to the screenplay. A Sep 1955 LAEx article reported that the Air Force later announced that the crash was caused by the failure of ground mechanics to secure a nut and bolt on the craft's stabilizer.
       A Dec 1954 HR news item adds William Lester to the cast, but his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. HR news items and an Aug 1955 LADN article reported that portions of the film were shot in the following locations, many of them identified in the film: Apple Valley, CA; Ft. Devins, MA; Orange County Air Field, Santa Ana, CA; the air fields at Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, CA, and Pullman, WA; Grand Central Terminal, Glendale, CA; Dow Field, Bangor, ME; Elmendorf Field, Anchorage, AK; and the following Air Force Bases: Edwards AFB, Palmdale, CA; George AFB, Victorville, CA; Hamilton AFB, DeWitt, CA; Williams AFB, Chandler, AZ; and Randolph Field and Hondo Air Force Bases in Texas. Some aerial footage was also filmed over Alexandria Air Force Base in Louisiana. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Aug 1955.
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 55
p. 3.
Film Daily
16 Aug 55
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 1954
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Dec 1954
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Dec 1954
p. 18.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jan 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Aug 55
p. 3.
Los Angeles Daily News
30 Aug 1955
p. 12.
Los Angeles Examiner
1 Sep 1955.
Section II, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Aug 55
p. 553.
New York Times
30 Sep 55
p. 23.
Variety
17 Aug 55
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
John Beradino
Laura Elliott
Pat Blake
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
SOUND
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Dial supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 September 1955
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 31 August 1955
Production Date:
24 November 1954--late January 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
3 September 1955
Copyright Number:
LP7122
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
WarnerColor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Duration(in mins):
106-107 or 109
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17396
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1941, Joseph “Mac” McConnell, Jr., a private in the Army medical corps near Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who aspires to be an airplane pilot, hopes the Army will send him to flight school. Mac goes AWOL to take private piloting lessons, but while flying with his instructor, he realizes that military police are waiting for him at the airport. To avoid arrest, he parachutes out of the plane and then hitches a ride with teenager Bob Brown. After eluding Mac’s pursuers, Bob takes him to his home in Fitchburg, where he introduces Mac to his mother, young brother and sister Pearl, whom Mac nicknames “Butch.” When the military police track Mac to the house, Mac hastily exits through a back window and returns to the base, where his superior, Sgt. Sykes, sentences him to the stockade. Wanting to see Butch again, Mac sneaks out and returns to the Brown home and later, after a brief courtship, proposes to her at a boxing match. Sykes is reluctant to give the irresponsible Mac permission to marry, until he meets Butch and realizes that she will be a stabilizing influence on him. Trying to help the young couple, Sykes arranges for Mac’s promotion and transfer to a medical school in Texas, but the transfer order comes through on the McConnells’ wedding day, thus preempting their honeymoon. The couple moves to an inexpensive apartment near the Army base, but Mac and his teachers soon agree that he belongs in flight school. When he is transferred to Washington state, Butch, who is pregnant, returns to Fitchburg. During his leave at Christmastime, Mac tries to hitchhike across country, but he runs out of ... +


In 1941, Joseph “Mac” McConnell, Jr., a private in the Army medical corps near Fitchburg, Massachusetts, who aspires to be an airplane pilot, hopes the Army will send him to flight school. Mac goes AWOL to take private piloting lessons, but while flying with his instructor, he realizes that military police are waiting for him at the airport. To avoid arrest, he parachutes out of the plane and then hitches a ride with teenager Bob Brown. After eluding Mac’s pursuers, Bob takes him to his home in Fitchburg, where he introduces Mac to his mother, young brother and sister Pearl, whom Mac nicknames “Butch.” When the military police track Mac to the house, Mac hastily exits through a back window and returns to the base, where his superior, Sgt. Sykes, sentences him to the stockade. Wanting to see Butch again, Mac sneaks out and returns to the Brown home and later, after a brief courtship, proposes to her at a boxing match. Sykes is reluctant to give the irresponsible Mac permission to marry, until he meets Butch and realizes that she will be a stabilizing influence on him. Trying to help the young couple, Sykes arranges for Mac’s promotion and transfer to a medical school in Texas, but the transfer order comes through on the McConnells’ wedding day, thus preempting their honeymoon. The couple moves to an inexpensive apartment near the Army base, but Mac and his teachers soon agree that he belongs in flight school. When he is transferred to Washington state, Butch, who is pregnant, returns to Fitchburg. During his leave at Christmastime, Mac tries to hitchhike across country, but he runs out of time halfway there and has to return without seeing her. When he arrives at the base late, he is punished with sentry tour. Forbidden to contact Butch, Mac learns about his daughter’s birth from friend and fellow student, Ty Whitman. After completing school, Ty is chosen to be a pilot, but the disappointed Mac is assigned to be a navigator. Later, while fighting the Nazis over France, Mac and his crewman on a B-17 aircraft are attacked by a new German jet plane and after crash landing, are rescued. After World War II, Mac, trying to forget his dream of flying, is miserable at his desk job in Nebraska. When Ty tells him about the Army’s recruitment of experienced fliers for a new jet corps, he volunteers. Reluctantly agreeing with Ty that Mac was “born to fly,” Butch supports Mac’s decision, but fears for his safety. After training, Mac makes his first solo flight on one of the new jet planes, while Ty, radioing from the ground, talks him through the terrifying experience of flying at supersonic speed. Mac is transferred from base to base with his family, which eventually includes another daughter and son. Before he is sent to fight in the Korean War, Mac takes Butch on a picnic in Apple Valley, California, where he has bought property. While he tells Butch of his plans to build a house there when he returns, planes passing overhead fly in the “missing man formation” and Mac explains that the pilots are honoring a colleague who was killed. In Korea, Mac helps to rescue men on a downed aircraft in the middle of enemy territory. During another mission, his plane is shot down over the sea and he must parachute to safety. Mac distinguishes himself by gunning down enemy aircraft, which are called MiGs, setting a record for the most hits. After downing 15 MiGs, he is named the first triple jet ace in history, but after shooting down his 16th, Ty and his superiors fear that he is getting tired and reckless and transfer him stateside to train new pilots. In the States, he is given a hero’s welcome and meets the president. When he and Butch return to Apple Valley, their neighbors, who are proud that the hero has chosen to live in the area, present the family with the keys to a house that was specially built for them. After they settle in, Ty, who is now a colonel, asks Mac to take a job testing new jets. Mac is eager, but Butch, concerned about his safety, demands that he refuse the offer. However, she changes her mind, and Mac begins testing the new F86h. Mac flies the plane faster and faster, despite Ty’s warning to slow down. When Mac reports that the controls on the plane have frozen, Ty radios Mac to bail out. Mac, believing that he can regain control, stays aboard and perishes when the plane crashes. Ty immediately goes to the McConnell home to tell Butch about Mac’s death, but seeing planes in the missing man formation overhead, she has already realized what happened. Months later, Ty takes the bitter and still-grieving Butch to the base. As they watch the new test pilot check out modifications prompted by Mac’s accident, Ty says that Mac’s death will save the lives of many men, and Butch agrees that nothing about Mac was wasted.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.