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Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air (1942)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 19 October 1942 (USA)
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)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Britt
Peter Stackhouse
Colonel MacDonald
Lady Jane Stackhouse
Col. Cyrus P. 'Gramps' Saunders
George Lockwood
Ted North ...
Cadet Hackzell
Blonde Red Cross Nurse Trainee
Viola Moore ...
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


For two pilots, one woman became a conflict of interest.


Drama | Romance | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 October 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Tommy in the U.S.A.  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie is set and second unit filming takes place at Thunderbird Field, later renamed Thunderbird Field No. 1 after completion of a second field with the same name. It was located on Greenway Road and 59th Avenue in Glendale, Arizona and is today home for the Thunderbird Global School of Management.

The field was built by Del Webb in 1939 and was a business investment for several actors and producers including Jimmy Stewart. 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.
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There Will Never Be Another You
Music by Harry Warren
Played during the lingerie store scene and often in the score
Also played by the band at the USO dance
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Good aviation scenes, the usual romantic plot triangle...
2 June 2009 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

THUNDER BIRDS only gets a "6" from me because of its brilliant Technicolor photography, which looks marvelous on the print TCM is showing. Otherwise, I'd rank it much lower, even though it stars GENE TIERNEY, PRESTON FOSTER and JOHN SUTTON.

Ironically, as long as it stays in the air, it's on firm ground. The minute the planes land, the routine story does nothing but get nowhere for seventy-eight minutes.

There are a few compensations. One of them is Tierney looking stunning in all of her Technicolor close-ups. The other is the pleasure of seeing PRESTON FOSTER and JOHN SUTTON get more screen time than usual as the men she has to choose between. Unfortunately, all three of them have one-dimensional roles that any routine actor could play and none of them deliver anything special in the acting department.

Under William A. Wellman's direction, it's the spectacular aerial photography that stands out. He's unable to do anything with the trite happenings on the ground, given the poor quality of the script.

Trivia notes: When Sutton talks about his grandfather, he pulls out an old photo of director William Wellman wearing pilot gear.

The background score depends heavily on "There Will Never Be Another You" from the Sonja Henie/John Payne film ICELAND produced by Fox the same year, this time used only as orchestral music.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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