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Movies and Television Topics related to WWI aviation movies, documentaries, television, etc.

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Old 10 July 2005, 02:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Lafayette Escadrille

I don't think I'd seen William Wellman's "Lafayette Escadrille" since I was 12, but I recall it being dreadful. Funny how bad movies stick in your head. I obtained a disk version and watched it again this morning. It was worse than I remember.
Wellman, a veteran of the Lafayette Flying Corps himself, wrote himself into the movie and cast his son as himself in the dullest role in a movie filled with hackneyed portrayals.
The big problem is that the movie really isn't about the Lafayette Escadrille. It's about a childish American sociopath and his dopey love affair with a vapid French woman who looks like Debbie Reynolds on anti-depressants.
The rest of the movie is filled with observations about how the French, they are a funny race. The skies of France, what little is shown, look remarkably like Southern California.
Wellman did assemble a dozen or so varied biplanes for the film, none of which were accurate. There are some well-done Bleriot trainers, however, used for comic relief.
Clint Eastwood has a very small role. The most vivid part went to David Jansen as a Lufbery-like recruit who -- sort of -- understood French.
Character, character, character. Any film, to be successful, no matter what it's about, has to be about people and their personalities, carried over a dramatic arc. Bruno Stachel in "Blue Max" was a jerk, but his ambition and class-conscious anger was understandable, and finely shaded by George Peppard. Tab Hunter's Thad in "Lafayette Escadrille" is a privileged psychotic who's plain creepy.
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Old 12 July 2005, 04:32 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Movies are like dreams: they don't have to make sense. Hell, they don't even have to be entertaining, let alone good. There's all kinds of unconnected affiliations, to wit:

I don't recall a single GW aeroplane in Aces High, but could be wrong because it's so atrocious that I refused to watch it a 2nd time, lo those many years ago.

The theme song in Kelly's Heroes ("Burning Bridges" by the Mike Curb Congregation) has zippo to do with WW II or gold or anything else.

The Battle of the Coral Sea (a Real Stinker) has nada do with the world's first carrier duel. IIRC, it's about submariners in a POW camp.
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Old 13 July 2005, 12:57 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Maybe......but "Burning...." really adds to the movie as does D. Sutherlands' sherman tank coming out of the tunnel with a loud speaker playing "The Battle Hymn".

And you may have noticed that the tv version of "Mash" never put the words to the theme song.
 
Old 13 July 2005, 05:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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There's a Veggie Tales movie, "Jonah" that has a song at the end that goes like this:

Quote:
This is the song that runs under the credits
These are the credits, so this is where it goes
Has nothing to do with the movie so we?ll say
Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

There once was a song, that ran under the credits
That went with the movie, but this is not that song
Has nothing to do with the movie so we?ll say
Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

Wouldn?t it be nice if the song under the credits,
Had something to do with the movie you just saw
But that?s not the case so for now we?ll have to say
Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey

There should be a rule that the song under the credits
Remotely pertains to the movie?s basic plot
That rule has not been made so for now we?ll have to say
Hey! Hey! Hey hey hey hey hey hey


Anyway, I think it's odd that a veteran of the unit that's the subject of the film would make a film that was as bad ad you say. But, then again, look at the TV show, "Black Sheep Squadron." It was actually an enjoyable show from what I remember, but it hardly resembled the actual history of the unit even though (or because) Pappy Boyington was a technical advisor.

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Old 21 July 2005, 02:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
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I love " Blk Sheep Sq ". I mean just the sight of those beautiful Corsairs flying. It was like "12 O'Clock High".

Mason Williams once wrote/recorded a 5 sec song :

Isn't life wonderful...Isn't Life great....Isn't life just the prefect way to pass the time away "
 
Old 21 July 2005, 12:44 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Buzz -

You are too kind in your criticism of 'Wild Bill' Wellman's classic stinker about the Lafayette Escadrille. If, as the promo's stated, the film was based loosely on Wellman's own service in France, it makes you wonder how he spent his off-duty hours with Spa 87! After the film's release, I understand that the surviving Lafayette pilots and their families were fiercely critical of Wellman, and avoided him like a leper until his death in 1975. A sad end to what had once seemed a promising career!
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Old 22 July 2005, 04:40 AM   #7 (permalink)
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If I can recall the one redeeming feature of Lafayette Escadrille, it would have to be the training sequences on the short winged Penguins. I don't know if the planes were accurate, but from what I've read the scenes themselves probably were. Other than that the movie is a complete waste, so bad that I wondered while I was watching it how Wellman managed to get the money to make it!

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Old 22 July 2005, 05:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog90
Other than that the movie is a complete waste, so bad that I wondered while I was watching it how Wellman managed to get the money to make it!

Bulldog
People can be found who will finance almost any scheme. The real question is whether Wellman made any money with the film.

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Old 22 July 2005, 11:30 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Laffin' at Lafayette

There's no consistant tone to the film -- ranging from the Abbott-and-Costello drill sequences to the cheap aviation scenes to the overwrought melodrama of the Paris stuff -- and that usually indicates meddling by the suits. But we don't know. It could have been even worse BEFORE scenes were rewritten or modified.

Wellman was such a thorough, coherent director before this. Whether it's his fault or not, he pretty much never worked again after this disaster.

The movie seems to have been created as a star vehicle for Tab Hunter, with requisite "serious" and "conflicted" scenes slathered on to make him seem like a real actor. But they lost sight of the characterization of the hero, unless they were trying all along to make him a sociopath.

Bulldog's right -- the training sequences are the best part of the film, not just the Penguin training but the groove of a gang of ragtag Yankee soldiers of fortune trying to fit into the French military machine, a situation that set up honest (and amusing) conflicts.
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Old 22 July 2005, 12:44 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Hi,

I agree that the training sequences with the Bleriot "penguins" and real Bleriots are the best (the only good) part of the movie. Reportedly after Welmann was done filming it, the suits at the studio altered it so much he tried to have his name taken off the film, and was so disgusted he never directed again. However, he DID write the script, I think, and is certainly to blame for much of its horrible plot, etc. I would imagine he was ashamed at how it turned out.

I note that many of Wellman's biographers state he was an "ace" who flew with the Lafayette Escadrille. He was neither, of course, but he wasn't above using his war record to open doors in Hollywood. He was credited with 2 victories as a pilot in the Lafayette Flying Corps, in Esc. 87. I note in one biog also that during his youth he was "put on probation for car theft" and quit high school to become a minor-league pro hockey player. This sounds a bit like the character Tab Hunter played in the movie, though Wellman's son played 'him' in the movie. It was such a dreadful movie that it is said to have "incurred upon Wellman the enduring wrath of the surviving Lafayette pilots and their families." No wonder.

The brief combat flying sequences in the film are lifted from Wellman's earlier color movie, "Men with Wings" from 1938. It's a much better movie - I wish they'd bring THAT one out on DVD or even VHS. The combat flying featured a Garland-Lincoln Nieuport or two, beefed up by other doctored-up biplanes in "French" camouflage and the black cat Escadrille insignia of Wellman's old Esc. SPA 87. They were opposed by one real Fokker D.VII and several Travelair "Wichita Fokkers" painted up in bright flying circus colors. Ironically, all this great color footage was changed into black & white when it was used in "Lafayette Escadrille". And yes, the hills of California are pretty hard to disguise underneath all those whirling biplanes. But then, it was the same in "Dawn Patrol" and "Hell's Angels"

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