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 »


Deep in the Heart of Texas
Lyrics by June Hershey
Music by Don Swander
Played when Steve tells Gramps he's going to be living right next door
Played often in the score
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.

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

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