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The Spirit Of Saint Louis (1957)


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 22 May 2012 - 05:31 PM

I was watching TCM the other day and saw that The Spirit of Saint Louis starring Jimmy Stewart was coming on. I have started working towards getting a pilot's license and am currently studying at an online ground school sponsored by A.O.P.A. (which is a great organization for any of you aspiring flyers out there. LOTS of great information most all of it free.)and have conjured up a Quicksilver ultralight aircraft to keep me occupied until I can afford a Cessna 150 or 172 OR a Piper Cherokee, Colt or Warrior. (leaving my options open and waiting for money and the best deal.)

I had known James Stewart was a pilot during WWII and became a General before he retired but I had NO idea just how good this guy was. He started flying before the war and joined the military before America became involved as a private at a time when he was one of the most famous movie stars in the world after having won the Academy Award. He became a flight instructor first on small single engine trainers then on large aircraft and bombers.

He lobbied VERY hard to be sent overseas and was eventually granted permission. Once in Briton, he flew B-24s in daylight bombing missions deep into Germany first as a copilot then as pilot then as lead bomber pilot then as a squadron commander and was promoted to full bird Colonel and earned the respect from both his men and his superiors for his professionalism as a commanding officer and soldier. During his tour of duty he was awarded several medals for bravery and was almost killed when a shell blew though the cockpit between his legs and exited out the top missing him by inches.

He helped save many lives in one action where he noticed a flight of bombers moving off course towards a German fighter airfield and even though he was rebuked by the lead pilot of that flight when he tried to bring the mistake to his attention, knowing they were going to be cut to ribbons by the fighters, he took it upon himself to join the wayward bombers with his group. Because of the add firepower of the combined groups, many planes that would have been destroyed managed to make it home.

After the war Stewart joined the United States Air force Reserve when he when on to become a Brigadier General and actually flew at least 2 missions over Vietnam.

To me, this is the stuff of legends (and maybe a script)and Jimmy Stewart has become one of my all time heroes, SO, having never seen the film before,(not even portions of it)of course I HAD to watch it.

The story is of Charles Lindbergh's historic 1927 non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic from New York to Paris and all I can say is WOW, what a ride!! First of all the cinematography is STUNNING!! It has to be some of the most beautiful aerial footage I have ever seen. The work in this was flawless. The second amazing thing is a large proportion of the film takes place inside the cockpit of the Spirit, yet at NO TIME was I bored or distracted. How many actors could have pulled THAT off, keeping an audience glued to the 'scope aspect ratio screen while long sections have the star in a medium CU, talking to himself or a housefly. The flashbacks inter-cut with the cockpit and flying sequences were timed perfectly. It was a magnificent job of editing that looks deceptively simple and straight forward but could have SO easily been screwed up to were the film lost it's tempo and rhythm destroying it's build to the climax. The writing was also well done. The man against nature, God and himself themes combined into a powerful force on screen. A perfect storm, but I keep being drawn back to the cinematography. The weather, sea and land became characters more so than elements in the story.

I just don't see how those images could be duplicated today at least digitally. It feels like we've lost artistic elements that have been replaced with flash, smoke and a kind of sterility, all in the name of economy and profit. BUT I digress. I don't want to get into yet another ENDLESS F vs D debate so let me just state for the record, it is my own PERSONAL opinion and not a challenge to argue with you digi-guys.

Getting back on track, The Spirit of Saint Louis is now in my top ten favorite films. IF you have not seen this film, I consider it required viewing for any film maker and a GREAT way to spend a couple of hours. B)
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#2 Markshaw

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 01:43 AM

James Stewart was the All American Hero, one of a few who actually lived up to their hype, unlike certain other "heroes" I could mention cough cough John Wayne cough cough.
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 03:22 AM

EH, The Duke had his moments, but quite frankly, Stewart was a hard act to follow. Walter Matthau, before he started acting, was a radioman/gunner staff sergeant on a B-24 Liberator in Stewart's unit, the 453rd Bombardment Group. Daylight bombing over Germany was the most hazardous duty of WWII. 2/3rds of the 8th Air Force guys who took off ended up as casualties or MIAs

It truly must have been a nightmarish flying Hell full of fire and fury, bursting razor sharp shards of flak and demonic black smoke interwoven by hostel enemy fighters spitting white flashes of magnesium and lightening fast streams of lead that pierced effortlessly through aluminum, steel and human flesh.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 23 May 2012 - 03:24 AM.

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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:07 PM

Accidental double post

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 23 May 2012 - 08:10 PM.

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#5 Daniel Jackson

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Posted 30 May 2012 - 06:39 AM

EH, The Duke had his moments, but quite frankly, Stewart was a hard act to follow. Walter Matthau, before he started acting, was a radioman/gunner staff sergeant on a B-24 Liberator in Stewart's unit, the 453rd Bombardment Group. Daylight bombing over Germany was the most hazardous duty of WWII. 2/3rds of the 8th Air Force guys who took off ended up as casualties or MIAs

It truly must have been a nightmarish flying Hell full of fire and fury, bursting razor sharp shards of flak and demonic black smoke interwoven by hostel enemy fighters spitting white flashes of magnesium and lightening fast streams of lead that pierced effortlessly through aluminum, steel and human flesh.


Always had a soft spot for James Stewart a True American and a fine actor.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 June 2012 - 01:15 AM

I just watched the movie for the first time on HDNet, properly letterboxed in HD. It was great, a fine biopic/adventure with a lot of attention to detail regarding building the plane and the flight. Some great aerials too. I read that this was quite an expensive movie to make -- they built three working replicas of The Spirit of St. Louis (at the modern equivalent of 11 million dollars) so that crews could fly it over the actual locations to recreate his flight and capture it in CinemaScope.

Robert Burks shot this movie between "The Wrong Man" and "Vertigo"; it's interesting to me just how many shots were done with a Fog Filter on the camera, something Burks also did in "Vertigo" but was generally not done in 1950's cinematography.
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#7 Leo Anthony Vale

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 03:34 AM

Let's not ignore that this was directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, who also took the secret of how to make watchable romantic comedies to the grave with him.
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:46 PM

I just watched the movie for the first time on HDNet, properly letterboxed in HD. It was great, a fine biopic/adventure with a lot of attention to detail regarding building the plane and the flight. Some great aerials too. I read that this was quite an expensive movie to make -- they built three working replicas of The Spirit of St. Louis (at the modern equivalent of 11 million dollars) so that crews could fly it over the actual locations to recreate his flight and capture it in CinemaScope.

Robert Burks shot this movie between "The Wrong Man" and "Vertigo"; it's interesting to me just how many shots were done with a Fog Filter on the camera, something Burks also did in "Vertigo" but was generally not done in 1950's cinematography.

3.7 mil per plane??!! You LITERALLY can buy a relatively new advanced jet fighter for that kind of money. No KIDDING a 1997 ex-Blue Angels F/A-18 went for just over 1 mil on E-bay. I also saw a Harrier jump jet go for around the same price! WOW!!

I wonder what happened to them. HOPEFULLY, they were donated or sold to a museum OR were kept in the studio's prop department. It would be a tragedy if they were cut up and destroyed or parted out. B)
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#9 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 03 June 2012 - 02:59 PM

Ah, apparently there were saved according to Wikipedia:

In order to accurately depict the transatlantic flight, three replicas at a cost of $1.3 million (equal to $11,278,509 today) were made of the "Spirit of St. Louis" for the various film units stateside, in Europe, and for studio work. A similar Ryan Brougham was bought by Stewart and modified with Lindbergh's supervision. It was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan by Stewart in 1959, and a second replica at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The third replica is displayed in the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. :)
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#10 Adrian Samuals

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Posted 06 June 2012 - 03:01 AM

Ah, apparently there were saved according to Wikipedia:

In order to accurately depict the transatlantic flight, three replicas at a cost of $1.3 million (equal to $11,278,509 today) were made of the "Spirit of St. Louis" for the various film units stateside, in Europe, and for studio work. A similar Ryan Brougham was bought by Stewart and modified with Lindbergh's supervision. It was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan by Stewart in 1959, and a second replica at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The third replica is displayed in the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis. :)


Good to know they are all safe and being looked after.
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#11 Markshaw

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 01:19 AM

So the movie was made with Lindberg's supervision?
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#12 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 13 June 2012 - 08:20 PM

Apparently he was pretty involved. Whether the picture was made under his supervision or he was just the technical adviser, I don't know. I do know, Stewart wanted him around and the picture is probably as accurate as it is because he was. I would imagine in this particular case with two great airmen like these on board, one of which was the real life hero the character was written from and the other a megastar who was a hero pilot in his own Wright ( :D ), the director and producers paid a lot of attention to what these two guys had to say. They'd be fools not too. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 13 June 2012 - 08:21 PM.

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