The Flight of the Phoenix (1965)

149 mins | Drama | 15 December 1965

Director:

Robert Aldrich

Writer:

Lukas Heller

Producer:

Robert Aldrich

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Editor:

Michael Luciano

Production Designer:

William Glasgow

Production Company:

Associates & Aldrich Co., Inc.
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HISTORY

According to the 19 Oct 1964 DV, the publication of Elleston Trevor’s new novel, The Flight of the Phoenix, incited a “spirited race” among Hollywood filmmakers to obtain the motion picture rights. Although an earlier 6 Oct 1964 DV story named actor James Franciscus among the contenders, the property was ultimately awarded to Robert Aldrich, who quickly began assembling a cast and production team, including actor James Stewart and his previous What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, see entry) and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, see entry) screenwriter Lukas Heller. Several contemporary sources noted that The Flight of the Phoenix marked Richard Attenborough’s first Hollywood film, and he was joined onscreen by a number of other international players.
       While multiple DV production charts cited a start date of 26 Apr 1965, the 29 Apr 1965 edition claimed principal photography had commenced that day at the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. studios in Los Angeles, CA. Meanwhile, the 12 May 1965 DV reported that an advance team of props and special effects technicians including Glenn Calvin traveled to the Buttercup Valley location near Yuma, AZ, to prepare for the cast and crew’s arrival. According to the 24 May 1965 DV, Fox leased the area from the U.S. government for five weeks and secured the assistance of the local media and Chamber of Commerce to keep the dunes free of obstruction and footprints, as the desert was intended to double for the barren wastelands of Libya. A 2 Jun 1965 DV article noted that Aldrich shot most of the scenes in ... More Less

According to the 19 Oct 1964 DV, the publication of Elleston Trevor’s new novel, The Flight of the Phoenix, incited a “spirited race” among Hollywood filmmakers to obtain the motion picture rights. Although an earlier 6 Oct 1964 DV story named actor James Franciscus among the contenders, the property was ultimately awarded to Robert Aldrich, who quickly began assembling a cast and production team, including actor James Stewart and his previous What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962, see entry) and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964, see entry) screenwriter Lukas Heller. Several contemporary sources noted that The Flight of the Phoenix marked Richard Attenborough’s first Hollywood film, and he was joined onscreen by a number of other international players.
       While multiple DV production charts cited a start date of 26 Apr 1965, the 29 Apr 1965 edition claimed principal photography had commenced that day at the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. studios in Los Angeles, CA. Meanwhile, the 12 May 1965 DV reported that an advance team of props and special effects technicians including Glenn Calvin traveled to the Buttercup Valley location near Yuma, AZ, to prepare for the cast and crew’s arrival. According to the 24 May 1965 DV, Fox leased the area from the U.S. government for five weeks and secured the assistance of the local media and Chamber of Commerce to keep the dunes free of obstruction and footprints, as the desert was intended to double for the barren wastelands of Libya. A 2 Jun 1965 DV article noted that Aldrich shot most of the scenes in chronological order, allowing the actors to grow their own beards representative of the characters’ time spent stranded in the desert. On 1 Jul 1965, DV announced that the unit had since returned to the Fox studio backlot and resumed filming on Stage 6, which housed 100 tons of sand.
       While work with the principal actors continued in Los Angeles, the 7 Jul 1965 DV claimed that Aldrich’s second unit team in Yuma struggled to capture footage of the climactic airplane takeoff and landing, which was delayed due to the excessive heat and threatened to push the production schedule into overtime. On the morning of 8 Jul 1965, stunt pilot Paul Mantz (who was paid at a rate of $600 per day) performed the landing maneuver three times in a custom-built aircraft he had assembled from the wings of a T-11 Beechcraft and a North American AT-6 along with fellow stunt flier Frank Tallman. Although the first two runs were satisfactory, Mantz opted to try the shot a third time, which resulted in a fatal crash. While Mantz was killed instantly, a 9 Jul 1965 LAT article reported that stuntman Bobby Rose survived with serious injuries. The 4 Aug 1965 Var claimed that the incident had been recorded by multiple cameras, and footage was included in Fox Movietone newsreels shown in London, England; Sydney, Australia; and Paris, France.
       Principal photography at the Fox studios concluded on 6 Aug 1965, according to a 12 Aug 1965 DV brief. Although Aldrich planned to complete the necessary stunt sequences within the next few days, a 21 Sep 1965 DV news item indicated that the scene had yet to be shot with a replacement pilot. The 19 Jan 1966 Var referred to a negative cost of $5 million, with an additional $200,000 spent on re-shoots and insurance fees following Mantz’s accident.
       On 15 Dec 1965, Var announced that The Flight of the Phoenix had begun a limited seven-day engagement at the Stanley Warner Theatre in Hollywood to qualify for Academy Awards consideration. The film received extensive promotional assistance from Fox, as the studio had approved a $100,000 budget to host a press junket surrounding the 20 Jan 1966 London premiere. Articles in the 2 Jun 1965 and 28 Jul 1965 Var detailed publicity events that were intended to amplify the multinational cast’s appeal to overseas audiences by hiring Italian actress Elsa Martinelli, French Anouk Aimee, German Hildegarde Neff, and Mexican Elsa Cardenas to plug the picture in their respective foreign territories. Additionally, the 12 Jan 1966 Var indicated that Ornella Vanoni’s original Italian rendition of the title theme “Senza Fine” was covered by several other popular artists, including Connie Francis, Anna Moffo, The Brass Ring, Frank Chacksfield, and Mitch Miller. According to the 17 Sep 1965 DV, Francis recorded the song in both English and Italian for the U.S. release, as well as multiple other languages to be used for foreign distribution.
       The picture debuted 31 Jan 1966 at the Astor Theatre in New York City, with regular screenings beginning at both the Astor and Paris Theatre the following day. Los Angeles showings resumed 2 Feb 1966 at the Stanley Warner Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. A 14 Feb 1966 DV item revealed that another benefit premiere was scheduled to be held in Santa Monica, CA, in early Mar, with assistance from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
       The Flight of the Phoenix was nominated for Academy Awards for Actor in a Supporting Role (Ian Bannen) and Film Editing. Bannen was also nominated for the Golden Globe’s New Star of the Year – Actor, while the film received a nomination for Best Motion Picture – Drama. According to various sources, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) originally nominated Hardy Kruger in the Supporting Actor category, but Aldrich and Kruger contested the honor, claiming that he should instead be considered for the Lead Actor category since he shared top billing with James Stewart and Richard Attenborough. Kruger asserted he would not accept the award if he should win, and his nomination was ultimately withdrawn from the category. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Oct 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Oct 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1964
p. 1.
Daily Variety
19 Nov 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Apr 1965.
---
Daily Variety
29 Apr 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1965
p. 8.
Daily Variety
12 May 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
24 May 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1965
p. 6.
Daily Variety
1 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Jul 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Daily Variety
17 Sep 1965
p. 20.
Daily Variety
21 Sep 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Dec 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
27 Jan 1966
p. 4.
Daily Variety
28 Jan 1966
p. 1.
Daily Variety
14 Feb 1966
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
9 Jul 1965
p. 1, 3.
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1965
Section F, p. 29.
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1965
Section E, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1966
Section C, p. 13.
New York Times
1 Feb 1966
p. 26.
Variety
2 Jun 1965
p. 18.
Variety
14 Jul 1965
p. 51.
Variety
28 Jul 1965
p. 7.
Variety
4 Aug 1965
p. 26.
Variety
15 Dec 1965
p. 25.
Variety
12 Jan 1966
p. 26.
Variety
19 Jan 1966
p. 26.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2nd unit dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Aerial seq
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Prop master
Dial supv
Dial supv
Constr coordinator
Main titles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor (New York, 1964).
SONGS
"Senza Fine," music and Italian lyrics by Gino Paoli, English lyrics by Alec Wilder.
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 December 1965
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles Academy Awards engagement: 15-21 December 1965
London premiere: 20 January 1966
New York opening: 31 January 1966
Los Angeles opening: 2 February 1966
Production Date:
late April--autumn 1965
Copyright Claimant:
Associates & Aldrich Co.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1965
Copyright Number:
LP32239
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Color
De Luxe
Duration(in mins):
149
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Frank Towns, pilot of an oil field cargo-passenger plane, crashes in the North African desert. The crash is the fault of the alcoholic navigator, Lew Moran, who neglected to check the radio, which is now broken. Two of the men on the plane have died in the crash, and the rest are faced with death in the desert as the result of a diminishing water supply and a scarcity of food. The survivors are organized by Towns and are led by two British soldiers, Captain Harris and Sergeant Watson. Harris decides to try to get some water and leads Carlos on an expedition. They are followed by Trucker Cobb, who has suffered a mental breakdown. Only Harris returns. Heinrich Dorfmann, a German model-plane designer, comes up with a plan to remodel the double-engine plane into a salvaged single-engine model. Towns is opposed to the idea at first, but to keep their sanity all the men work on the plane. (In hallucination, they see a mirage of Farida, a dancer.) A party of Arabs meets them on the desert; but when Harris and Dr. Renaud beg them for water, the Arabs slit the two men's throats. Finally the plane is finished, and the surviving men strap themselves to its wings as it rises out of the ... +


Frank Towns, pilot of an oil field cargo-passenger plane, crashes in the North African desert. The crash is the fault of the alcoholic navigator, Lew Moran, who neglected to check the radio, which is now broken. Two of the men on the plane have died in the crash, and the rest are faced with death in the desert as the result of a diminishing water supply and a scarcity of food. The survivors are organized by Towns and are led by two British soldiers, Captain Harris and Sergeant Watson. Harris decides to try to get some water and leads Carlos on an expedition. They are followed by Trucker Cobb, who has suffered a mental breakdown. Only Harris returns. Heinrich Dorfmann, a German model-plane designer, comes up with a plan to remodel the double-engine plane into a salvaged single-engine model. Towns is opposed to the idea at first, but to keep their sanity all the men work on the plane. (In hallucination, they see a mirage of Farida, a dancer.) A party of Arabs meets them on the desert; but when Harris and Dr. Renaud beg them for water, the Arabs slit the two men's throats. Finally the plane is finished, and the surviving men strap themselves to its wings as it rises out of the desert. +

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

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