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The Right Stuff (1983)

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The story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho, seat-of-the-pants approach to the space program.

Director:

Philip Kaufman

Writers:

Philip Kaufman (written for the screen by), Tom Wolfe (based on the book by)
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Popularity
3,130 ( 18)
Won 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam Shepard ... Chuck Yeager
Scott Glenn ... Alan Shepard
Ed Harris ... John Glenn
Dennis Quaid ... Gordon Cooper
Fred Ward ... Gus Grissom
Barbara Hershey ... Glennis Yeager
Kim Stanley ... Pancho Barnes
Veronica Cartwright ... Betty Grissom
Pamela Reed ... Trudy Cooper
Scott Paulin ... Deke Slayton
Charles Frank ... Scott Carpenter
Lance Henriksen ... Wally Schirra
Donald Moffat ... Lyndon B. Johnson
Levon Helm ... Jack Ridley / Narrator
Mary Jo Deschanel ... Annie Glenn
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Storyline

Tom Wolfe's book on the history of the U.S. Space program reads like a novel, and the film has that same fictional quality. It covers the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager to the Mercury 7 astronauts, showing that no one had a clue how to run a space program or how to select people to be in it. Thrilling, funny, charming and electrifying all at once. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

How the future began. See more »


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Russian

Release Date:

17 February 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Stoff aus dem die Helden sind See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$1,601,167, 23 October 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$21,500,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Ladd Company See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It is generally believed that Gus Grissom was not at-fault in the real-life hatch-blowing incident on the Liberty Bell 7 capsule. Kickback from the manual activation switch caused a tell-tale bruise to form on the hand activating it, and Grissom never developed the bruise. Wally Schirra, at the end of his Mercury 8 space flight, deliberately activated his own hatch to demonstrate how the bruise formed and exonerate his comrade. The most likely explanation for Grissom's hatch blowing is that the external release lanyard came loose as it was only held in place with a single screw - a design that was changed to be more secure for subsequent flights. N.A.S.A. apparently believed in Grissom's innocence as well, as he remained in a prime rotation spot for subsequent Gemini and Apollo flights. There is also significant belief among astronauts of the time that, had he not been killed in the Apollo 1 fire, Grissom would have been the first man to walk on the moon. See more »

Goofs

At Johnson's party in Texas a reporter calls Gordo the "Last of the Original 7". In fact the last of the Original 7 to fly was Deke Slayton, who did not get his first space flight until 1975 as part of the Apollo Soyuz test flight. By this time Slayton had been grounded due to issues with his heart that were not seen as a threat until after he was selected for the Mercury Program. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.
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Alternate Versions

The Australian theatrical release omitted the short section of dialogue where Nurse Murch describes to the astronauts how to produce the sperm sample. However, it was included in the video and television versions. The Australian television premiere edited out the stronger profanities and the close up of Chuck Yeager's burnt face. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Head of the Class: The Bright Stuff: Part 1 (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Southwestern Waltz
Written by Vaughn Horton (uncredited)
Performed by Bob Wills
Courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.
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User Reviews

Kaufman's Crowning Achievement
17 November 2004 | by jay4stein79-1See all my reviews

An incredibly under-rated director, Philip Kaufman adapted Tom Wolfe's best-selling tale of the Mercury astronauts in 1983 and, since that time, he has been unable to top himself (he came very very close with Unbearable... and Quills, but The Right Stuff is very much out of their league).

Why? The Right Stuff is a perfect blend of intelligence and wit and action. At just three hours long, it occasionally feels too short. The audience comes to know the characters through terrific performances by Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Sam Shepard, and Fred Willard and Kaufman's deft pen (which, no doubt, Wolfe's novel helped guide). We are sad when the story ends; we want more. It's rare that a movie creates such an inviting and intriguing world that, after three hours, we still do not want to leave.

This movie is absolutely one of a kind. Its critical patriotism shows that films can show their love of country without wandering into nationalistic or jingoistic propaganda. It is very rare that a film this indebted to America and American history can be so ambivalent.

That, in my mind, is a positive rather than a negative. The filmmaker and actors understand that the Space Race was not a simple process; they understand that heroes have a dark side.

They all refuse to let the heroism cover the unsavory aspects of a person's life and, simultaneously, they do not let those aspects darken their contribution to mankind.

The Right Stuff is really an amazing filmic experience. It's an expert adaptation, an expert recreation of the early US Space Program, and an expert entertainment. Apollo 13 wanted so very much to be the Right Stuff. It's not; nothing will ever beat the Right Stuff.


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