The Kid Who Couldn't Miss

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The Kid Who Couldn't Miss
Directed by Paul Cowan
Produced by Adam Symansky
Written by John Gray
Eric Peterson
Starring William Hutt
Eric Peterson
Music by Ben Low
Cinematography Paul Cowan
Edited by Paul Cowan
Sidonie Kerr
Release dates
  • 3 March 1983 (1983-03-03) (Canada)
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $CAD514,000

The Kid Who Couldn't Miss is a 1982 docudrama directed by Paul Cowan. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, it combines fact and fiction to question fighter pilot Billy Bishop's accomplishments during World War I, featuring excerpts from John MacLachlan Gray's play Billy Bishop Goes to War.[1]

The film specifically questions accounts of Bishop's solo mission to attack a German aerodrome on June 2, 1917, for which he was awarded a Victoria Cross, and suggests the event was imaginary and that Bishop exaggerated his own accomplishments.

In one particularly contentious scene, his mechanic claims that the damage to his fighter was confined to a small circle in a non-critical area, implying that Bishop had landed his aircraft off-field, shot the holes in it, and then flown home with claims of combat damage. In reality, his mechanic was his biggest supporter in this issue and the scene was entirely fictitious. The mechanic insisted that Bishop had not fabricated the damage.[citation needed]


After years of controversy over Bishop's record, mainly because very few of his claimed victories were witnessed by anyone else or could be confirmed from surviving German records, the show led to an inquiry by the Canadian government in 1985. The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology discredited the documentary, saying it was an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of Bishop. The NFB's Commissioner, François N. Macerola, was called before the committee, but refused to accede to their demands that he withdraw the film from circulation.[2]

Canadian veterans' groups were outraged by the insinuation, and Cowan received many irate letters, "He got inundated by thousands of furious letters, rumblings in the Senate subcommittee on Veterans' Affairs, and demands that the government cut off funding to the NFB."[3]

H. Clifford Chadderton, Chief Executive Officer of The War Amps, created the film The Billy Bishop Controversy to counter the bias he and other veterans perceived in the NFB film. Released in 1986, it attempts to demonstrate that Cowan and the NFB did not properly research the historical records, and reached faulty conclusions about Bishop. The Kid Who Couldn't Miss also led Chicago native, and Bishop fan, Albert Lowe to create a website ( devoted to the fighter pilot.[4] Lowe complained about the characterization of Bishop in the film, and commented that "That year Mr. Paul Cowan, with $514,007.00 of Canadian Taxpayer's money, did one of the foulest deeds possible without committing some form of violence."[5]

A Hero to Me: The Billy Bishop Story - WW1 Canadian flying Ace , a documentary depicting the story of "Billy" Bishop from the perspective of his granddaughter, Diana, was also produced for Global Television and TVO in 2003.


  1. ^ "The Kid Who Couldn't Miss". NFB Collections page. Retrieved 2009-05-12. 
  2. ^ "1985". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  3. ^ Alioff, Maurie (2002). "Paul Cowan's inquisitive eye: war games porn stars and the Ghosts of Westray". TAKE ONE. Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  4. ^ Lowe, Albert (1999-05-26). "Defender of home town hero on the net". Retrieved 2006-08-30. 
  5. ^ Lowe, Albert (1998-08-20). "Air Marshal William Avery Bishop". Retrieved 2006-08-30. 

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