Directed by William A. Wellman
USA 1942


  A well done Technicolor story about flight training at Thunderbird Field, Arizona in 1942 at the height of WWII. Great cast of supporting players, with main stars Gene Tierney, Preston Foster, and John Sutton well suited for their roles. Beautiful flying shots with the Arizona desert as background. The dialogue in some spots is not too realistic in terms of aviation, e.g. when Preston Foster, playing the role of a civilian flight instructor at a military training school exclaims that a student's "motor conked out" while viewing the incident from the ground with his former sweetheart, Gene Tierney. Hilarious scene early in the movie where civilians are learning to be "civilian defense" first aid workers: Preston Foster, leg in cast, is loaded into an ambulance that then races away with the back door unlatched ejecting him out the back door and allowing him to fall attached to a stretcher onto the street. Touching brave sentiments portrayed by famed English actress, Dame May Whitty, on the loss of her son in combat. Jack Holt as the C.O. of the school, and Reginald Denny, as the British officer in charge of English cadets, add greatly to the overall quality of the picture, and Holt's facial expressions when he is dancing with Gene Tierney are particularly funny in the dance scene late in the picture. Peter Lawford has an uncredited bit part as a cadet in the movie. Overall, a very enjoyable movie if the viewer is interested in WWII aviation pictures, especially for the color quality.

TRIVIA NOTE: Famed aviation ace Richard Bong is one of the pilots flying the formation of North American AT-6s ("Texans") in the movie (uncredited), done before he shipped out to the Pacific to become the "Ace of Aces" by shooting down 40 Japanese planes, more than any other US pilot in WWII. (He died 8/6/45 at Burbank, California while taking off in a P-80 "Shooting Star" jet which lost power on takeoff.)

Excerpt from anonymous comments at IMdb located HERE.


Theatrical Release: October 19th, 1942

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DVD Review: 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:18:15 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.44 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Mono)  
Subtitles English, Spanish, None

Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• 2 Fox MovieTone news reels
• Theatrical trailer
• Fox Flicks

DVD Release Date: June 6th, 2006

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Chapters: 20




WOW! Although the film itself might be considered a run-in-the-mill World War II drama its Technicolor glory has been rendered with superb detail on this new Fox DVD. It looks absolutely beautiful. There are some minor artifacts in the sky scenes but leading lady Gene Tierney is at her most stunning, IMHO. As commented HERE:
'... fans have a singular opportunity to see what she would have looked like in the classic mystery "Laura" had it been filmed in color. For although Tierney was frequently photographed in Technicolor during the early 1940's ("The Return of Frank James", "Belle Starr", "Heaven Can Wait"), her role in "Thunder Birds" was the first - and only - Technicolor film to feature her in a contemporary setting while wearing her hair in the same style and length as "
Laura". (Tierney had changed her hair length and makeup style by 1945 and the classic "Leave Her to Heaven".)'
For this reviewer she certainly epitomized the Golden Age of Hollywood (referring roughly to the period beginning with the advent of sound until the late 1940s. The American cinema reached its peak of efficiently manufactured glamour and global appeal during this period).

Extras on this progressive DVD include 2 Fox MovieTone reels relating to war efforts and Tierney, as well as a trailer. I am recommending the DVD solely on the basis of Gene Tierney and the spectacular Technicolor photography. The film may be an also-ran but it is supported enough by these two elements to make it worthwhile viewing.

Gary W. Tooze


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Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC


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Mississauga, Ontario,


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