Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Right Stuff (1983)

Release Date:
21 Oct 1983 (USA)

Philip Kaufman

Tom Wolfe (book)
Philip Kaufman (screenplay)

Sam Shepard (Chuck Yeager)
Scott Glenn (Alan Shepard)
Ed Harris (John Glenn)
Dennis Quaid (Gordon Cooper)
Fred Ward (Gus Grissom)
Barbara Hershey (Glennis Yeager)
Veronica Cartright (Betty Grissom)
Scott Paulin (Deke Slayton)
Charles Frank (Scott Carpenter)
Donald Moffat (Lyndon B. Johnson)
Mary Jo Deschanel (Annie Glenn)

IMDb link and rating:

(viewed SU 17 Feb 2008)
Combine a terrific cast with awesome aircraft and it is hard to go wrong. This is a wonderful film with true heroes.

One of my favorite moments of the film was when Vice President Johnson was refused entry into the Mrs. Glenn’s house, in which all the wives were gathering as John Glenn made the first human orbits around the earth. Johnson was livid because he so desperately wanted the photo-op. Perhaps the most heroic moment of the film – interesting, considering that this is a movie about astronauts and test pilots! – was when Glenn listened to his wife explain the situation over the telephone. Instead of trying to placate her and convince her to give in to the Vice President’s demands, he completely backed her up and angrily shouted down the men who were bullying his wife. More than in any other moment in the film, you realize: this is a real man.

If I may register a minor complaint about the movie, it is the introduction of the Aborigines in the scene located at the Australian outpost, and the preposterous suggestion that a tribal fire ritual could account for Glenn’s observation of “fireflies” while he was in orbit. (Can’t a film be made without introducing some form of mysticism?) But this did not interfere significantly with the rest of the film.

One more thing I’ll mention: it is an interesting – and effective – plot decision for Tom Wolfe to run the story of Chuck Yeager in parallel with the story of the astronauts. It presented a wider context to the film. Thus, The Right Stuff is not merely a story about the first astronauts, but the tales of heroes of a certain type – the men who fearlessly “pushed the outside of the envelope” during a critical time in American history.

(viewed TU 1 Jan 2008)
I love stories about real men. Okay, in this movie, John Glenn and Chuck Yeager, and not because they were bold – for Glenn is was because he was principled, for Yeager, the cowboy thing (I’m a simple girl). Both fiercely loved their wives (or at least were portrayed as such by the smart director who probably wanted to give the ladies something to like about the movie). I also really did like the history surrounding the development of the space program as a back drop (and was confused by the addition of mysticism in a film otherwise devoted to the heroic efforts of man).

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