Flying Tigers (1942)

98, 100 or 102 mins | Drama | 8 October 1942

Director:

David Miller

Cinematographer:

Jack Marta

Editor:

Ernest Nims

Production Designer:

Russell Kimball

Production Company:

Republic Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were Yanks Over the Burma Road and Yanks Over Singapore . According to HR news items, M-G-M had also considered using the title Yanks Over the Burma Road for the 1942 picture A Yank on the Burma Road (see below), but could not do so because Republic was the first company to register the title with the Hays Office. After the opening credits, there is a picture of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and the following written prologue, which is signed by Chiang: "Since the Flying Tigers first spread their wings in the skies above China, the enemy has learned to fear the intrepid spirit they have displayed in face of his superior numbers. They have become the symbol of the invincible strength of the forces now upholding the cause of justice and humanity. The Chinese people will preserve forever the memory of their glorious achievements."
       The picture was loosely based on the real-life American Volunteer Group, who were known as the Flying Tigers. The group was organized by Brigadier General Claire Chennault, an American former Air Force pilot who recruited and trained pilots to fight in defense of Burma (now Myanmar). In 1937, Chennault went to China as an advisor to an aviation school sponsored by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the summer of 1941, he had began recruiting American personnel to join the fight. The Chinese government paid the flyers a bonus for every Japanese plane they shot down, and between Dec 1941 and Jul 1942, Chennault's men were responsible for destroying almost 300 Japanese aircraft. In ... More Less

The working titles of this film were Yanks Over the Burma Road and Yanks Over Singapore . According to HR news items, M-G-M had also considered using the title Yanks Over the Burma Road for the 1942 picture A Yank on the Burma Road (see below), but could not do so because Republic was the first company to register the title with the Hays Office. After the opening credits, there is a picture of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek and the following written prologue, which is signed by Chiang: "Since the Flying Tigers first spread their wings in the skies above China, the enemy has learned to fear the intrepid spirit they have displayed in face of his superior numbers. They have become the symbol of the invincible strength of the forces now upholding the cause of justice and humanity. The Chinese people will preserve forever the memory of their glorious achievements."
       The picture was loosely based on the real-life American Volunteer Group, who were known as the Flying Tigers. The group was organized by Brigadier General Claire Chennault, an American former Air Force pilot who recruited and trained pilots to fight in defense of Burma (now Myanmar). In 1937, Chennault went to China as an advisor to an aviation school sponsored by Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and by the summer of 1941, he had began recruiting American personnel to join the fight. The Chinese government paid the flyers a bonus for every Japanese plane they shot down, and between Dec 1941 and Jul 1942, Chennault's men were responsible for destroying almost 300 Japanese aircraft. In Jul 1942, Chennault's group was replaced by the regular Army Air Corps, which some of his men joined. At the end of WWII, Chennault formed a private airline, the Civil Air Transport, which evolved into the CIA-led Air America after Chennault's death. The Flying Tiger Line, which was started by AVG pilot Bob Prescott after the war, became one of the largest air-freight carriers in the United States.
       According to a 30 Jan 1942 DV news item, Republic purchased an "original story" entitled "The Flying Tigers" from Charles M. Ross, but the extent of Ross's contribution to the completed picture has not been determined. On 14 Jun 1942, NYT reported the Republic dropped plans to have an actor playing Chiang appear in the film after being informed by "the Hays Office that it would be improper to show the Generalissimo without permission." Apparently the script originally called for Chiang to bring "Woody Jason" back to the American base, but when the plans were changed, "Woody" was killed instead.
       A 3 Apr 1942 LAT news item noted that a copy of the script had been sent to M-G-M contract player Laraine Day for consideration. Presumably she was being sought for the part of "Brooke Elliott." HR news items include Helen Peyton and George Givot in the cast, but their participation in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Director David Miller and actor John Carroll were borrowed from M-G-M for this production, which modern sources note was John Wayne's first "war picture." Victor Young, who wrote the musical score, was borrowed from Paramount. HR news items noted that Lawrence Moore and Kenneth Sanger were members of the American Volunteer Group who were invalided home from Burma. In addition to serving as technical advisors for the film, HR noted that they suggested two sequences which were included in the film and that they were to be included in the cast.
       According to the HR review, the picture included "some clips of dog-fighting from confiscated Japanese reels. The ground fire by Jap ack-acks is also actual footage, as is that shot of the deserted Chinese child, crying amid the bombing rubble." Although a HR news item noted that Republic constructed its own fleet of P-40 fighter planes, by "using obsolete planes and re-designing its own simulted P-40s at a reported cost of $2,200," studio publicity revealed that some aircraft sequences were shot at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Co. in Buffalo, NY. According to the film's pressbook, "The Curtiss people had painted up a squadron of real P-40s with the well known tiger shark design to be used in these scenes and the company made their test pilots and stunt flyers available to depict some of the precision flight formations for which the 'Tigers' were famous." The pressbook further notes that these scenes "had to be sent to Washington, D.C. for censorship, so that no vital information could reach the enemy....No scene showing the interior of a plane could be shown. In fact Republic had to design an instrument board of its own for cockpit closeups."
       According to HR news items, "action and plane footage" was shot on location at Flagstaff, AZ. HR news items also noted that the picture was "lined up for more first run playing time than any previous Republic offering," and that by 18 Nov 1942, the film had "broken all the company's [box-office] records by a tremendous margin" and the gross receipts were on the "way to the $2,000,000 mark." Curtiss-Wright continued its association with the picture, according to HR , in its employment drive: "All persons making application for jobs with the company were handed a pair of tickets to the picture to convince them of the importance of plane manufacture in the war."
       The picture received Academy Award nominations for Sound Recording, Music Score and Special Effects. Modern sources note that the planes built by Republic for the film were constructed with the aid of United Air Services, which was run by Paul Mantz, who is also listed as appearing the film as a stunt flyer. Supervising the construction were Mantz's chief pilot Clarence "Ace" Bragunier and chief mechanic Robert King. Modern sources add Ted Lydecker ( Spec eff ) and William D. Pawley ( Tech adv ) to the production crew. Pawley was an executive of the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Co.
       A 14 Aug 1942 HR news item asserted that after viewing a rough cut of the film, Republic executives "decided to produce a sequel titled The Sky Dragons that will show the AVG flyers in China following their absorption into the Army." Although Edmund Grainger was slated to produce and John Wayne to star, the sequel was not made. Shortly before Flying Tigers ' release, Grainger entered the Signal Corps. According to a 2 Nov 1966 HR news item, rights to the film were purchased by producer Richard Michaels, who intended to develop the story into a one-hour television series. The project was not completed, however. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Oct 1942.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jan 1942.
---
Daily Variety
29 May 1942.
---
Daily Variety
23 Sep 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
23 Sep 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Feb 42
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 42
pp.1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Mar 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Apr 42
p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 42
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 42
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Apr 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
1 May 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 May 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 May 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
26 May 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 42
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 42
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jul 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Sep 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Oct 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Oct 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 42
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Nov 42
p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
3 Apr 1942.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Sep 42
p. 921.
New York Times
14 Jun 1942.
---
New York Times
23 Oct 42
p. 25.
Variety
4 Feb 1942.
---
Variety
23 Sep 42
p. 8.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Loc cam
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Tech adv
Loc mgr
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Yanks Over the Burma Road
Yank Over Singapore
Release Date:
8 October 1942
Production Date:
27 April--24 June 1942
Copyright Claimant:
Republic Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
8 October 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11620
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
98, 100 or 102
Length(in feet):
9,141
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8468
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In late 1941, before the United States has entered World War II, Jim Gordon leads a team of American pilots who have volunteered to help the Chinese people fight off their Japanese attackers. Jim despairs at the losses his outnumbered men sustain, but is supported by his right-hand man, Hap Davis, and his sweetheart, Red Cross nurse Brooke Elliott. Desperate for more pilots, Jim goes to Rangoon, in Burma, where he is approached by Blackie Bales. Jim turns down Blackie's request to join his group, who are known as "The Flying Tigers," because Blackie once caused the death of another pilot through his drunken negligence. Blackie's wife Verna pleads with Jim, telling him that her husband is no longer a drunk and needs to regain his self-esteem. Jim decides to take a chance on Blackie, and also enlists Alabama Smith and Woody Jason, a grandstanding daredevil who has quit a Chinese airline. Back at the base, Woody makes it clear that he is only interested in the money the pilots receive for shooting down Japanese fighters, and that he cares nothing about the war. Woody's attitude alienates the other pilots, especially as he ignores the usual teamwork procedures. Meanwhile, Blackie proves that he has reformed, and his fellow pilots accept him as a friend. One afternoon, the squadron goes up after the base is bombed, and Blackie's plane is hit. Blackie is forced to bail out, and Woody, intent on racking up another kill, does not protect him after he opens his parachute, resulting in Blackie's death when a Japanese pilot shoots him. Woody insists that he could not have saved Blackie, ... +


In late 1941, before the United States has entered World War II, Jim Gordon leads a team of American pilots who have volunteered to help the Chinese people fight off their Japanese attackers. Jim despairs at the losses his outnumbered men sustain, but is supported by his right-hand man, Hap Davis, and his sweetheart, Red Cross nurse Brooke Elliott. Desperate for more pilots, Jim goes to Rangoon, in Burma, where he is approached by Blackie Bales. Jim turns down Blackie's request to join his group, who are known as "The Flying Tigers," because Blackie once caused the death of another pilot through his drunken negligence. Blackie's wife Verna pleads with Jim, telling him that her husband is no longer a drunk and needs to regain his self-esteem. Jim decides to take a chance on Blackie, and also enlists Alabama Smith and Woody Jason, a grandstanding daredevil who has quit a Chinese airline. Back at the base, Woody makes it clear that he is only interested in the money the pilots receive for shooting down Japanese fighters, and that he cares nothing about the war. Woody's attitude alienates the other pilots, especially as he ignores the usual teamwork procedures. Meanwhile, Blackie proves that he has reformed, and his fellow pilots accept him as a friend. One afternoon, the squadron goes up after the base is bombed, and Blackie's plane is hit. Blackie is forced to bail out, and Woody, intent on racking up another kill, does not protect him after he opens his parachute, resulting in Blackie's death when a Japanese pilot shoots him. Woody insists that he could not have saved Blackie, and Jim grudgingly allows him to stay. Soon after, the men are notified that they must begin continuous day and night reconnaissance patrols. Jim splits the squadron up into two teams, and when he is forced to ground Hap, whose depth perception has been growing worse, he appoints Woody as his second-in-command. One night, Woody persuades Brooke to go out with him, and the pair sneak off base. Woody does not return in time for the night patrol, and Hap, trying to cover for Woody, goes up in his place. Hap's sight problems are his undoing, however, and he is killed while protecting Jim's flank. Jim orders Woody to leave in two days, but his departure is forestalled when they learn of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Colonel Lindsay orders Jim to attack and destroy a crucial bridge across a canyon, along which the Japanese are sending supplies. Devastated by Hap's death and wrongly believing that Brooke loves Woody instead of him, Jim volunteers for the suicide mission. Woody sneaks aboard Jim's plane, which is loaded with nitroglycerin, and tells Jim that he has grown up, and wishes to carry on with the fight. Jim allows him to go along, and does not notice that Woody is wounded when they are attacked by anti-aircraft guns after blowing up the bridge. A supply train has gotten through, however, and after Jim puts on a parachute, Woody pushes him out of the plane and dives into the train, destroying it, as well as himself. Later, Jim reconciles with Brooke and passes on Woody's silk scarf to new recruit Barrett to inspire the youngster. +

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

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