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The Flight of the Phoenix (1965) Poster

Trivia

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The Phoenix's take-off was considered too dangerous to stage at the sandy filming location (its actual take-off was from a smoothed, compacted-earth runway), so legendary stunt pilot Paul Mantz was asked to do a "touch-and-go" landing in which he came in low, skimmed his landing gear along the ground, then throttled up to gain altitude, merely simulating a take-off. On the second take, as the landing gear made contact with the ground, the plane's aft boom fractured, causing the aircraft to nose into the ground and cartwheel, killing Mantz. As the second take had merely been a "protection shot," with the necessary footage captured during the first attempt, a vintage North American O-47A observation plane from an air museum was substituted for the remaining necessary close-ups.
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According to director Robert Aldrich the cast went out at night in Yuma Arizona where the film sets were, driving around and causing mayhem. They used to drive around with prop dummies (used during the crash scene) and throw them out while the car was moving, so bystanders thought they were real people. Jimmy Stewart was the "outsider" wary of the European actors, but soon got in on the fun, taking a prop machine gun and jumping out to finish off the dummies gangland style. The police stopped them, but when they found it was Jimmy Stewart they let them go. It was also Aldrich's and Stewart's futile job to try to keep Peter Finch sober. (source book is "Jimmy Stewart the Truth Behind the Legend")
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The Phoenix was, in fact, a real cobbled-together plane that actually flew. The cockpit was very spartan, not fully functioning, was very shallow, and was located behind the radial engine, not inside it. There are many videos available that depict the structure and history of the Tallmantz P-1, as the plane was officially called, as well as videos that show the actual crash in which it was destroyed during a filming sequence for The Flight of the Phoenix. This resulted in the death of pilot Paul Mantz, who is eulogized at the end of the film. The aircraft had been built specifically for use in The Flight of the Phoenix.
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A surprise failure at the box office, despite its powerhouse cast.
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The Connie Francis song "Senza Fine" heard over a radio was not a hit on the charts. However, it remains a popular standard in Francis' back catalogue probably because it was used extensively by Billy Wilder in Avanti! (1972).
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With the death of Hardy Krüger on January 19, 2022, Barrie Chase (the belly dancer seen in Sgt. Watson's hallucination) is the last surviving member of the cast.
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Brief footage of the crash that killed Paul Mantz is shown near the end of the documentary Cinerama Adventure (2002).
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Producer and director Robert Aldrich wanted Barrie Chase to do her exotic dance topless, but she refused.
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The cast includes five Oscar winners: James Stewart, Ernest Borgnine, Peter Finch, George Kennedy, and Sir Richard Attenborough.
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The catalogue of the fictional company "Baecker Flugzeuge", for which Dorfmann works, is a real one by still-existing German model manufacturer Schuco. The shown model plane "Adler" (Eagle) had the order number Hegi 153 SB 7, and was part of their "Tiger" range of radio-controlled models at the time.
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In the Italian version, the song "Senza fine" ("without an end" or "never end") is the original one, sung by Ornella Vanoni.
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James Stewart, playing the pilot Frank Towns, was a highly experienced pilot in real life, having flown many missions in WWII, and was still officially in the United States Air Force Reserve when the film was made.
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Dummies on the wings were found to blank the control surfaces, so silhouettes of the wing-passengers were used instead.
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The Tallmantz Phoenix P-1 was designed by Otto Timm and built by Tallmantz Aviation, Incorporated for this movie. It had the following characteristics: Length: 45' Wingspan: 42' Engine: a like-new Pratt & Whitney R-1340 nine cylinder radial engine of 650 horsepower, taken from a T-6, as were the wheels and various other parts. Wings: wing panels taken from a T-11 (civilian conversion of an AT-11, which is a Beechcraft 18 type ) The apparent wing, tail, and undercarriage wire bracing was made out of clothesline, and was intentionally made to look flimsy. The fuselage and empennage were all hand-built from scratch, plywood over a wood frame. The cockpit was shallow and makeshift. The pilot sat down. Another person stood behind the pilot, and was strapped to a stringer.
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The magazine that Bill (William Aldrich) is reading at the beginning is the May 1965 issue of Playboy.
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Richard Attenborough (Lew Moran) later directed Hardy Krüger (Heinrich Dorfmann) in A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Ian Bannen (Crow) in Gandhi (1982).
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Features Ian Bannen's only Oscar nominated performance.
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Fourth and final film in which James Stewart and Dan Duryea appeared together, following Winchester '73 (1950), Thunder Bay (1953), and Night Passage (1957).
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While Heinrich Dorfmann (Hardy Krüger) is constructing the still, Ratbags Crow (Ian Bannen) taunts Dorfmann, sarcastically wondering why the Germans never won the war. Dorfmann stares down Ratbags, declaring he wasn't involved. In fact, Hardy Krüger joined the Hitler Youth at age 13 and was drafted into the German army at age 16.
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At least one of the aircraft used once flew for the U.S. Marine Corps. The passenger information board inside the fuselage shows VMR-253, a U.S.M.C. transport squadron, and R4Q-1, the military type designation, and the military serial number, BuNo, 126580.
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Hardy Krüger and Peter Finch appeared in The Red Tent (1969), a similar movie about an airship that crash-lands in the Arctic, this time co-starring Sir Sean Connery.
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Richard Attenborough spoke favorably of James Stewart in interviews, although he did not care for the American actor's views on civil rights and the Vietnam War.
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The plane type used in the crash was a modified C119 Boxcar from the Korean War era, thus used to make the P1 plane.
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The oil wells in Libya are run by European and American oil workers in this film. This was still possible in 1965, but not for much longer. Just four years after the film's release, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi led a military coup that deposed King Idris, who had been friendly to the West. Two years later, Gaddafi began nationalizing the Libyan operations of the foreign oil companies.
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Three Fairchild C-82 Packet cargo planes were required for filming and were located at Long Beach Airport, California. They were all operated by Steward-Davis, Incorporated, and were registered as N6887C, N4833V, and N53228.
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Opening credits: The characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or events, is purely coincidental.
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Italian censorship visa # 46606 delivered on 8 March 1966.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Director Robert Aldrich's son, William, and son-in-law, Peter Bravos are the first two casualties in this movie, killed by falling cargo during the opening credits, as the disabled plane is descending for its crash landing.
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Fifteen men crash land in the desert; seven escape.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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