The McConnell Story
|The McConnell Story|
|Directed by||Gordon Douglas|
|Produced by||Henry Blanke|
|Written by||Ted Sherdeman
|Based on||a story by Ted Sherdeman|
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||John F. Seitz|
|Edited by||Owen Marks|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$3.5 million (US)|
The McConnell Story is a 1955 dramatization of the life and career of U.S. Air Force pilot Joseph C. McConnell (1922–1954), who served as a navigator in World War II before becoming the top American ace during the Korean War. He was killed while serving as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert of California. The Warner Brothers production, filmed in CinemaScope and Warner Color, starred Alan Ladd as McConnell and June Allyson as his wife. Longtime Warners staff composer Max Steiner wrote the musical score for the film.
- Alan Ladd as Joseph "Mac" McConnell, Jr.
- June Allyson as Pearl "Butch" Brown McConnell
- James Whitmore as Ty Whitman
- Frank Faylen as Sgt. Sykes
- Robert Ellis as Bob Brown
- Willis Bouchey as Newton Bass
- Sarah Selby as Mom Brown
- Gregory Walcott as Military policeman
- Frank Ferguson as Mechanic
- Perry Lopez as Red
- John Pickard as Military policeman
- Dabbs Greer as Pilot instructor
The movie was announced in May 1954, with Alan Ladd and June Allyson attached from the beginning. It was Alan Ladd's second consecutive film for Warner Bros following Drum Beat. However unlike that film, it was made for Warner Bros, not Ladd's own production company.
A number of months after the film was announced, McConnell died in a crash. This required the script to be rewritten.
For the Korean air war sequences, eight Republic F-84s of the 614th Fighter-Bomber Squadron donned dark blue paint with red stars to portray MiG-15s doing mock battle for the cameras with F-86 Sabres of the 366th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, both units based at Alexandria AFB, Louisiana. Air Defense Command headquarters notified its pilots in January 1955 that the mock MiGs would be operating over portions of the southwestern United States.
For a sequence depicting the rescue of a downed B-29 Superfortress crew that McConnell was trying to protect, a Sikorsky H-19 of the 48th Air Rescue Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida, was deployed to Alexandria AFB, Louisiana, for seven days in February 1955. Captain E. R. Thone and Airman First Class Ronald K. Opitz, of the 48th ARS, were the crew for the helicopter, TDY to shoot the rescue sequence.
Shown on American Movie Classics, host Bob Dorian said that Ladd, who hated flying, filmed his scenes in mockups in front of blue screens. He also noted that Ladd and Allyson fell in love during filming; Ladd reportedly called Allyson's husband, actor/director Dick Powell, and told him, "I'm in love with your wife," to which Powell replied, "Everyone is in love with my wife."
This film helped establish the Missing Man Formation as part of military aviation culture.
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1955', Variety Weekly, January 25, 1956.
- WYLER WILL FILM NOVEL BY HAYES: Paramount Producer Lists 'Desperate Hours,' Suspense Drama Set in Midwest By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 May 1954: 20.
- ALAN LADD STARS IN 'DARKEST HOUR': Warner Film, a Melodrama, Will Be Made by Actor's Own Producing Company By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to The New York Times.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 18 Nov 1954: 40.
- BY THE WAY with BILL HENRY: Rites for Jet Ace Scheduled for Tomorrow Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 27 Aug 1954: A1.
- Associated Press, "Don't Shoot At Those MiGs! - They're Disguised F84s Flying for Movie", The Sun-Telegram, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 9 January 1955, Volume VIII, Number 40, page 1.
- Fort Walton Beach, Florida, "Eglin Group Aiding In Film Story", Playground News, Thursday 3 March 1955, Volume 9, Number 57, page 3.
- American Movie Classics