Memphis Belle (1990)

PG-13 | 101 mins | Drama | 12 October 1990

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HISTORY


       End credits contain the following information: “Made in England at Pinewood Studios, and on location at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, and the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, by Enigma Films Ltd.”
       The character “Phil Rosenthal” is called “Lowenthal” by a morning duty non-commissioned officer (NCO).
       According to an undated document in AMPAS library files, five Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, five American Mustang fighter escorts, three German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, and a B-25 Mitchell camera ship were gathered at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, in Jun 1989, for the filming of Memphis Belle. Producer Catherine Wyler originally conceived the movie as a fictionalized remake of her father William Wyler’s famous wartime documentary, Memphis Belle (1944, see entry), but named the project Southern Belle to avoid comparison. However, when researchers uncovered three wartime Flying Fortresses named “Southern Belle,” the production reverted to the original title. The English airfield used for most of principal photography was the former Royal Air Force Binbrook base in Lincolnshire, where the production crew built World War II-style buildings and dummy B-17s for long shots. During filming, one of the real B-17 bombers was destroyed in an airfield accident, but nobody was seriously injured.
       Memphis Belle was one of three projects producer and former Columbia Pictures head David Puttnam purchased from the studio when he departed, according to the 6 Jul 1989 HR, which stated that aerial photography began at Duxford on 26 Jun 1989. Principal photography began three weeks later, on 17 Jul 1989, at Binbrook, and the “bulk of the filming” was completed by early Aug 1989, according ... More Less


       End credits contain the following information: “Made in England at Pinewood Studios, and on location at RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, and the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, by Enigma Films Ltd.”
       The character “Phil Rosenthal” is called “Lowenthal” by a morning duty non-commissioned officer (NCO).
       According to an undated document in AMPAS library files, five Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, five American Mustang fighter escorts, three German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters, and a B-25 Mitchell camera ship were gathered at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield in Cambridgeshire, England, in Jun 1989, for the filming of Memphis Belle. Producer Catherine Wyler originally conceived the movie as a fictionalized remake of her father William Wyler’s famous wartime documentary, Memphis Belle (1944, see entry), but named the project Southern Belle to avoid comparison. However, when researchers uncovered three wartime Flying Fortresses named “Southern Belle,” the production reverted to the original title. The English airfield used for most of principal photography was the former Royal Air Force Binbrook base in Lincolnshire, where the production crew built World War II-style buildings and dummy B-17s for long shots. During filming, one of the real B-17 bombers was destroyed in an airfield accident, but nobody was seriously injured.
       Memphis Belle was one of three projects producer and former Columbia Pictures head David Puttnam purchased from the studio when he departed, according to the 6 Jul 1989 HR, which stated that aerial photography began at Duxford on 26 Jun 1989. Principal photography began three weeks later, on 17 Jul 1989, at Binbrook, and the “bulk of the filming” was completed by early Aug 1989, according to the 3 Oct 1989 HR. Puttnam told the 18 Sep 1989 HR that production was scheduled to wrap 6 Oct 1989 at London’s Pinewood Studios. The 3 Oct 1990 WSJ reported that the film cost $23 million, which was $3 million higher than the original estimate.
       The captain of the primary B-17 was Dave Tallichet of Long Beach, CA, who flew his own Flying Fortress to England. An uncle of Catherine Wyler, Tallichet had flown twenty-one missions over Germany in a B-17 in early 1945, according to the 7 Nov 1990 Long Beach Press-Telegram. The real “Memphis Belle” was unavailable for the film because it was enshrined in Memphis, TN.
       The Dec 1990 Box announced that the film “opened well” and grossed $19 million in four weeks.
       End credits contain the following acknowledgments: “The producers wish to acknowledge their appreciation of the 120 additional craftsmen whose unique skills have contributed to the making of Memphis Belle. ” Other acknowledgments include: “Academic Animals; Bermans & Nathans; D & D Transport; George McKnight & Focus Transport; Gomm Metal Developments Ltd; Heavylift Cargo Airlines Ltd; Hoffman Travel; Location Caterers Ltd; Kodak Limited; Model Effects Ltd; Renown Freight Ltd; Ruben Sedgwick; The Travel Company.” Also, “The producers wish to acknowledge their indebtedness to: The Memphis Belle Memorial Association; Combat Cameramen of the USAAF; Air Vice Marshal M. J. Pilkington, CBE, RAF; Air Vice Marshal J. D. Spottiswood, CB, CVO, AFC, RAF (Ret’d); Mr. Keith Ansell; Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO, DFC; Group Captain R. J. Howard, AFC, RAF; Imperial War Museum—Duxford; Civil Aviation Authority; Federal Aviation Authority; RAF Air Traffic Control; Ministry of Defence; Margaret Polk; Colin Waterworth—Netwon-Le-Willows; Jim Gavin—USA; Skip Lehmann—USA; Dr. Harry Friedman—USA; Marc Pierre—IGN, Paris; Christian Roy—IGN, Paris.” The film is dedicated: “For W.W. and L.A.P.”
      Opening title cards contain the following information: “In the summer of 1943, a fierce battle raged in the skies over Europe. Every day, hundreds of young airmen faced death as they flew bombing raids deep into enemy territory. Fewer and fewer were coming back.” A title card early in the film indentifies the place and time as “England May 16th 1943.” Prior to end credits, title cards give the following information: “The ‘Memphis Belle’ flew her 25th and final mission on 17th May, 1943…. Over a quarter of a million aircraft battled for supremacy in the skies over Western Europe, and nearly 200,000 air-crew lost their lives…. This film is dedicated to all the brave young men, whatever their nationality, who flew and fought in history’s greatest airborne confrontation.”

              The voice of U.S. Army public relations officer “Col. Bruce Derringer” introduces the crewmen as they play tag football: “Okay, let’s see who we’ve got here. ‘Virge’ Hoogastayer, what kind of name is that? Youngest of six, worked in the family diner before joining up, writes home every week, nicknamed ‘The Virgin.’ Who’s this goon? Jack Bocci, from South-Side Chicago, graduate of several reform schools. Better keep him in the background. This is the religious one, there’s always a religious one. Eugene McVey from Cleveland, there’s always one from Cleveland, nineteen, high strung, always coming down with something. How’d he get in this bunch? Richard ‘Rascal’ Moore, eighteen, five-foot-four, a hundred and twenty pounds, has a real reputation as a lady’s man, at least that’s what he says. Clay Busby, a farmer’s son, and look at this, when his father lost the farm in a poker game, Clay started playing piano in a New Orleans cathouse. Papers’ll love that. This kid couldn’t be more Irish if he tried: Danny Daly. A-student, editor of the school paper, valedictorian, he volunteered the day after he graduated from college. Hmm, not bad. I think I’ve got something to work with here.” No actors are listed in opening credits, and when the twelve principals are identified in end credits, their names are matched with photographs, but character names are not given. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Dec 1990.
---
Daily Variety
23 Nov 1988
p. 3
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1989
p. 6
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1990
p. 2, 22
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1989
p. 10, 31
Hollywood Reporter
18 Sep 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1990
p. 5, 47
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 1990.
---
LAExam
6 Apr 1989.
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
7 Nov 1990
Section B, p. 1, 2
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1989
Calendar, p. 2
Los Angeles Times
12 Oct 1990
Calendar, p. 1
New York Times
15 Sep 1988.
---
New York Times
12 Oct 1990
p. 6
Screen International
7 Oct 1989.
---
Screen International
27 Oct 1990.
---
The Times (London)
23 Nov 1989.
---
Variety
26 Oct 1988
p. 10
Variety
10 Sep 1990
p. 58
Village View (Westwood, CA)
5-11 Oct 1990.
---
WSJ
3 Oct 1990
Section B, p. 1, 10
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Warner Bros. presents
in association with Fujisankei Communications Group,
British Satellite Broadcasting and County NatWest Ventures
An Enigma production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Dir, Aerial unit
Asst dir, Aerial unit
3d asst dir, Aerial unit
3d asst dir, Aerial unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Focus
Clapper/Loader
Cam grip
Cam grip
Trainee
Trainee
Trainee
Gaffer
Best boy
Best boy
Elec
Stills photog
Cam, Aerial unit
Cam op, Aerial unit
Cam op, Aerial unit
Cam op, Aerial unit
Cam op, Aerial unit
Focus, Aerial unit
Focus, Aerial unit
Focus, Aerial unit
Clapper-Loader, Aerial unit
Clapper-Loader, Aerial unit
Clapper-Loader, Aerial unit
Clapper-Loader, Aerial unit
Video op, Aerial unit
Cam grip, Aerial unit
Aerial rigs, Aerial unit
Photog, Addl 2d unit
Asst, Addl 2d unit
Lighting equip supplied by
Cam equip supplied by
Grip equip supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Supv art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Story board artist
Story board artist
Asst art dir
Draughtsman
Draughtsman
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Trainee
Trainee
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Scenic artist
Prod buyer
Const mgr
Lettering des
Lettering artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
[Scenic artist] asst
Asst const mgr
Asst const mgr
Supv plasterer
Supv painter
Supv painter
Supv stagehand
Supv rigger
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Stand by crew
Prop master
Stand by props
Stand by props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Dressing props
Prop storeman
Drapes
Armourer
Armourer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost co-ord
Military cost adv
Ward mistress
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst, Aerial unit
MUSIC
Mus rec eng
Mus rec eng
Mus rec at
Mus rec at
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd maintenance
Re-rec eng
Re-rec eng
Supv sd ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd rec, Aerial unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Supv spec eff and model unit dir
Spec eff ed
Travelling matte co-ord
Spec eff floor supv
Sr spec eff tech
Photographic transparencies
Model unit cam, Model unit
Addl model photog, Model unit
Cam op, Model unit
Blue screen supv, Model unit
Blue screen tech, Model unit
Asst dir, Model unit
Focus, Model unit
Focus, Model unit
Focus, Model unit
Trainee, Model unit
Gaffer, Model unit
Elec, Model unit
Elec, Model unit
Elec, Model unit
Elec, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Stand by crew, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Modeller and tech, Model unit
Opt eff by
Opt eff by
Titles des by
Titles des by
Titles by
Titles by
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Make-up chief
Chief hairdresser
Make-up
Make-up
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Addl casting, US
Addl casting, UK
Loc mgr
Prod co-ord
Prod asst
Scr supv
Asst cont
Research
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Computer op
Loc cashier
Unit pub
Pub asst
Loc mgr, Aerial unit
Cont, Aerial unit
Prod runner, Aerial unit
Chief pilot
Aerial co-ord & pilot
Aviation ground co-ord
Consultant aeronautical eng
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No N3703G courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No G-BFDF courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No G-BFDF courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No G-BFDF courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No G-BFDF courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No N-17W
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No N-17W
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No F-AZDX courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No F-AZDX courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No F-AZDX courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No F-BEEA courtesy of
Flying Fortress B.17, Reg No F-BEEA courtesy of
Cam plane
Cam plane, Mitchell B.25
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Fighter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Fighter aircraft arr through
Aviation spirit supplied by
Film library research by
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
SONGS
"The Chestnut Tree," written by Tommie Connor, Jimmy Kennedy and Hamilton Kennedy
"Greeneyes" [sic], written by Nilo Menendez, E. Rivera and Eddie Woods
"I Know Why (And So Do You)," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, courtesy of RCA/Bluebird Records
+
SONGS
"The Chestnut Tree," written by Tommie Connor, Jimmy Kennedy and Hamilton Kennedy
"Greeneyes" [sic], written by Nilo Menendez, E. Rivera and Eddie Woods
"I Know Why (And So Do You)," written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, courtesy of RCA/Bluebird Records
"Flying Home," written by Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Southern Belle
Release Date:
12 October 1990
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 12 October 1990
New York opening: week of 12 October 1990
Production Date:
17 July--6 October 1989
Copyright Claimant:
The Bountiful Company, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
10 December 1990
Copyright Number:
PA499482
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Filmed on AGFA XT 320
Duration(in mins):
101
Length(in feet):
9,196
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
30553
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On 16 May 1943, American B-17 bomber troops are stationed in England. Some of the young men play football in a field. The squadron's commanding officer gets a telephone call requesting twenty-four bombers for tomorrow’s mission. The officer does not know how many planes he will have tomorrow until the ones currently on a bombing run return. He has already lost a quarter of his squadron. Another officer tells him eighteen planes have returned and three are still out. Public relations officer Colonel Bruce Derringer looks down from the control tower and sees the ten-man crew of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 Flying Fortress. He calls them the luckiest men in the world. All volunteers, they have flown twenty-four missions “without a scratch” and will soon become the first crew in the Eighth Air Force to complete their tour of duty and return home. However, the commander reminds Col. Derringer that the crew still has one more mission. The crewmen from the squadron’s bombers wait until the last airplane returns, but it lands with only one wheel down, crashes, and explodes, killing everyone aboard. Col. Derringer interviews the officers of the Memphis Belle. Captain Dennis Dearborn, the pilot, says he named the bomber after his girl friend. Col. Derringer also interviews the cocky co-pilot, Lieutenant Luke Sinclair, and bombardier Valentine "Val" Kozlowski, who has taken four years of medical school. A Life magazine photographer takes pictures, but Lieutenant Phil Rosenthal, resisting the image of a happy crew, refuses to smile for the camera. The colonel tells them ... +


On 16 May 1943, American B-17 bomber troops are stationed in England. Some of the young men play football in a field. The squadron's commanding officer gets a telephone call requesting twenty-four bombers for tomorrow’s mission. The officer does not know how many planes he will have tomorrow until the ones currently on a bombing run return. He has already lost a quarter of his squadron. Another officer tells him eighteen planes have returned and three are still out. Public relations officer Colonel Bruce Derringer looks down from the control tower and sees the ten-man crew of the Memphis Belle, a B-17 Flying Fortress. He calls them the luckiest men in the world. All volunteers, they have flown twenty-four missions “without a scratch” and will soon become the first crew in the Eighth Air Force to complete their tour of duty and return home. However, the commander reminds Col. Derringer that the crew still has one more mission. The crewmen from the squadron’s bombers wait until the last airplane returns, but it lands with only one wheel down, crashes, and explodes, killing everyone aboard. Col. Derringer interviews the officers of the Memphis Belle. Captain Dennis Dearborn, the pilot, says he named the bomber after his girl friend. Col. Derringer also interviews the cocky co-pilot, Lieutenant Luke Sinclair, and bombardier Valentine "Val" Kozlowski, who has taken four years of medical school. A Life magazine photographer takes pictures, but Lieutenant Phil Rosenthal, resisting the image of a happy crew, refuses to smile for the camera. The colonel tells them they will fly all over America on the Memphis Belle, give speeches for the war bond effort, and be treated like heroes. Luke Sinclair is overjoyed at the prospect of being famous. Dennis Dearborn requests that the colonel keep the Life magazine story and the American tour from the crewmen, because it might distract them from the mission. Luke is unhappy about that decision, but the colonel agrees. In the barracks, Virgil “Virge” Hoogastayer discusses his postwar plans to open a chain of restaurants in different cities, all serving the same hamburger. The men rifle through the footlocker of a crewman from another plane who did not come back, claiming items they want before everything is shipped home to his family. Noticing the crewman forgot to take his good luck charm on the mission, the superstitious Danny Daly puts it in his own pocket. That evening, a big band plays at a party for the squadron, and the servicemen dance with British women. Virgil tells one young woman, Faith, about his hamburger restaurants. Co-pilot Luke Sinclair confides to Col. Derringer that he feels cheated out of being the pilot. Danny Daly, the poet of the crew, walks out to the Memphis Belle and talks to “her.” She has never let him and the crew down. Hiding inside the airplane are Virgil and Faith, but Virgil is so clumsy, she realizes this is his first time making love and takes charge. Inside the dancehall, the Memphis Belle crewmen razz the newcomers, and Danny Daly takes pity on a nervous crewman by giving him the lucky charm. Col. Derringer tries to get everyone to give a cheer to the Memphis Belle, but the place remains quiet because cheering is bad luck. A non-commissioned officer awakens the commanding officer before dawn, but Lt. Phil Rosenthal, the Memphis Belle’s navigator, is not in bed. Val Kozlowski finds Phil stumbling drunk, muttering that his “number is up.” Val drags him into the showers to sober him up in time for the flight. Over breakfast, the crew hopes their mission is “a milk run” – slang for an easy flight. The squadron officers attend a navigator’s briefing. Today’s target is a fighter-plane manufacturing factory in Bremen, Germany. The B-17s are loaded with bombs and filled with fuel. The men assigned to the mission include tail gunner Clay Busby, radio operator Danny Daly, top turret gunner Virgil Hoogastayer, ball-turret gunner Richard “Rascal” Moore, and left and right gunners Eugene McVey and Jack Bocci. Takeoff is delayed because of cloud cover over Bremen. Luke Sinclair makes a deal with Clay Busby to fire the tail gun over Germany, because he wants to claim he shot the enemy when he returns to America. The men wait, betting on whether they stay or go, but soon the call comes to start their engines. The B-17s take off for Germany. The Memphis Belle almost collides with another bomber in the clouds, but while Luke ducks, Dennis pulls the plane down at the last second. The crewmen put on their oxygen masks and test their guns. German fighters attack the formation. The lead bomber, Windy City, is hit and explodes before the crew can bail out. Phil Rosenthal struggles not to panic. When the German hit-and-run mission is over, the crew discusses who they knew on the Windy City. Eugene McVey panics when he loses his St. Christopher’s medal, and when Jack Bocci finds it, he pretends to toss it out of the plane. Danny Daly placates Eugene by giving him a “lucky rubber band.” Back at the base, Col. Derringer arranges a homecoming party for the Memphis Belle, but the commanding officer calls him into his office and reprimands him. He makes the public relations officer read letters from grieving wives, siblings, and parents. Meanwhile, another lead B-17 is damaged and drops out of the formation, leaving the Memphis Belle in the lead. The airplanes are less than four minutes from the bombing run. German planes strafe the Memphis Belle, slightly wounding Jack Bocci. He returns Eugene’s St. Christopher’s medal to him. Flak explodes in the air around them and punches a hole in the left wing, creating a fuel leak. Bremen is hidden beneath clouds, but the bombardier needs to be on target because the other B-17s are following them. Dennis Dearborn decides to circle around again, even though the extra five minutes will put them in greater danger. Phil Rosenthal tries to hit the bombardier’s release button, but Val Kozlowski pushes him away. Dennis explains over the intercom that if they do not hit the factory, another mission will have to return tomorrow. Also, he does not want to bomb the civilians in the area. As German fighter pilots attack, Luke Sinclair goes back to take over the tail-gunner job from Clay Busby. He shoots down an airplane, but it knifes through another American B-17, slicing it in half. Danny Daly listens to the crew’s screams on his radio. Luke returns to the cockpit, demoralized. Visibility over the target is still zero, but then, for a moment the clouds part, revealing the target below. The bombs drop. When a German fighter hits the ball turret beneath the bomber, McVey saves Rascal. Danny Daly is hurt, and Phil Rosenthal orders the reluctant Val Kozlowski to use his medical training. One of the engines catches fire, so Dennis puts the bomber in a steep dive to extinguish the flames. The maneuver puts severe stress on the wings, and he and Luke fight to pull up the plane at the last second. Val doubts if Danny can survive long enough for the trip back to England and wants to parachute him into enemy hands, where he may get help, but Phil demands that he save him. The squadron bombers return to base in England, but the Memphis Belle is late. Two engines are out, and the men dump their guns into the sea below to lighten the load. Danny awakens, and Val keeps him alive. As the Memphis Belle approaches the base, only one landing wheel descends. They try to lower the other wheel by hand. A third engine goes out, leaving only one. The wheel cranks down and locks only seconds before the B-17 touches the airfield. All the other crewmen rush to the Memphis Belle, and Col. Derringer welcomes them home. The men celebrate. +

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

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