Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air (1942)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance, War  |  19 October 1942 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 259 users  
Reviews: 11 user | 3 critic

A veteran American flyer trains new recruits, including the acrophobic son of his dead war buddy. Complications arise when the younger man falls in love with his mentor's girl.



(screenplay), (original story) (as Melville Crossman) , 1 more credit »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Britt
John Sutton ...
Peter Stackhouse
Colonel MacDonald
Lady Jane Stackhouse
George Barbier ...
Col. Cyrus P. 'Gramps' Saunders
George Lockwood
Ted North ...
Cadet Hackzell
Janis Carter ...
Blonde Red Cross Nurse Trainee
C. Montague Shaw ...
Viola Moore ...
Nana Bryant ...
Mrs. Blake
Bess Flowers ...


Technicolor tale of honor and romance. This drama from 1942 was directed by Oscar-winner William A. Wellman, and features stunning aerial photography, that was highly advanced for the time. John Sutton stars as Peter Stackhouse, a British aviophobe who is nonetheless determined to become a pilot. Stackhouse's resolution comes from his desire to serve his country, and his strength is recognized by Steve Britt (Preston Foster), who becomes his patient teacher. The two men's bond is tested, however, when they both fall for the same girl (Gene Tierney). Written by R. Alberts

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance | War


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Release Date:

19 October 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Thunder Birds  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Lady Jane sends Churchill a cheque for £25,000 as a reply to the loss of her grandson, she is referencing Lady MacRobert who lost three sons. In their memory she donated £25,000 to buy a Short Stirling which was called MacRobert's Reply. The RAF continued to use the name, most recently on a Panavia Tornado. See more »


Peter Stackhouse: I hope you're not angry?
Kay Saunders: That you were interested in my legs? Why not at all. That's what they're there for.
See more »


Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me
Played at the Fourth of July celebration
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Gene Tierney as a symbol of "what we fight for"
16 June 2010 | by (Padova, Italy) – See all my reviews

"Thunder Birds" is an innocuous movie of war propaganda, made by W.A. Wellmann, a first- rate director, with his usual professionalism. The locations are beautiful, the Technicolor is outstanding, and the flying scenes are accurately shot. The story is standard, a nice blend of adventure-action and comedy, with some good emotional scenes in the part placed in England, dominated by Dame May Witty.

What makes "Thunder Birds" special, and its message stronger, is the use of Gene Tierney as a symbol. Yes, she is called to represent exactly "what we fight for". We (the young men from America, Great Britain, China) fight for that dream of a girl, for her smile, for the hot dogs we devour with her, for her nylon stockings, for our freedom and prosperity that she embodies. And she doesn't leave us alone, like a damned arrogant European princess. She helps and supports us, with a merry smile and without any conceit. Here, among us, there's no room for the gruesome death-rhetoric of the barbarian killers we fight.

To be honest, I admit that anyone out of the mass of splendid American actresses of the 1940s could play the role of Gene Tierney in "Thunder Birds", with excellent results. But only with the Goddess of Beauty, shining on the screen, all the parameters go to infinity.

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