The Right Stuff, movie and/or book

Discussion in 'TV & Media' started by J.T.B., Dec 15, 2016.

  1. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    This was brought up in the Misc. memorial thread for Sen. John Glenn.

    The 1983 movie is one of my favorites of the '80s, and probably the film from that decade I have seen the most. My friends and I went to see it several times, which was unusual for a three-hour movie. It has a really winning mix of drama and humor, and even satire. A lot of great performances, aside from the leads: Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer as an odd-couple astronaut recruiting team, Donald Moffat as LBJ, the great musician and singer Levon Helm as Yeager's flight test partner, good old Royal Dano as the "clergyman of death."

    There was some talk in the other thread about how accurate Tom Wolfe's book was. I think the book was aiming to tell an "overall true" story about the Space Race with the background of the Cold War. It was based on extensive interviews, but of course different individuals have different versions of events, and some didn't want to talk. In addition to the X-1 and the Mercury program, it covers other test pilots like Scott Crossfield and Neil Armstrong with the X-15, and even a little into the "New Nine" class of astronauts. Even though Wolfe was not a technical guy and didn't get deep into the details of the air- and space-craft, and even though it doesn't have footnotes and citations, it stands up pretty well overall for what it is, IMO.
     
  2. feek61

    feek61 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The Tom Wolfe book was significantly different from the movie and focused on different characters as I recall. I read the book many years before the movie came out and I was really surprised how different the movie was. Honestly; I love both!

    This makes me want to read the book again (I've seen the movie dozens of times).
     
  3. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    "Dear God, please don't let me fuck up." :lol:
     
  4. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I saw the movie first. I remember ABC showing it across two nights, and I videotaped it. I don't know how many times I watched it. I certainly could whistle the music. :)

    I read the book in junior high a few years later, and I reread it again six or seven years ago. (A nearby Waldenbooks closed up, and I bought it in their clearance sale.)

    Also in that vein, I recommend We Seven, the book written by the Mercury astronauts. Well, it's more of an anthology of pieces they wrote assembled into a single piece.
     
  5. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Right Stuff is my favourite movie about anything to do with outer space. The Chuck Yeager stuff is awesome and I really liked his portrayal a lot. It's a movie, not a documentary and it makes no apologies for it. But the more Historical accounts that are put in there, only magnifies all of the achievement this movie puts on display. And to witness Chuck outliving his 15 minutes of fame, thanks to the pace NASA was setting at the time, really gave his story so much depth to it. When his wife reminds him that there are still mountains for him to climb, even if they aren't in NASA ... and he goes and takes that unauthorised flight on an experimental jet on his own ... I just love that. It's so iconic. This movie makes me want to believe the world can have Real Life Heroes, again. It's the coolest show about NASA that I've ever seen. But mostly ... I really just watch it for ol' Yeager ...
     
  6. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    To me, this the best single film of the 1980s...and, yes, all the decades since. It's always been in my top seven since I saw it on video over a period of six glorious days, half-an-hour per day. You could say I treated like a fine miniseries. I finally saw it in a real theater at the AFI in Silver Spring recently. It never gets old. I've had the pleasure of meeting Veronica Cartwright, Lance Henriksen and Scott Wilson in the same place on separate occasions.

    Three days before John Glenn passed on, I wrapped up a ''Right Stuff'' DVD for my nephew's birthday.

    And I'm embarrassed to admit that I thought Glenn survived Chuck Yeager. Bless them all.
     
  7. Snaploud

    Snaploud Admiral Admiral

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    Any fan of The Right Suff should watch the HBO miniseries From The Earth to The Moon. I like to think of that series as the sequel.
     
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  8. Push The Button

    Push The Button Commodore Commodore

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    I can't forgive the hatchet job that was done to Gus Grissom. In addition to being a test pilot, Gus was a Korean War combat veteran and an engineer, not some knucklehead that had a panic attack after his flight was completed. Real Oliver Stone-level bullsh*t there.

    Other than that, it was an enjoyable movie, and Ed Harris was a great John Glenn.
     
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  9. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

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    ^Agreed on the Grissom point. That was damn near libelous, an in fairly poor taste considering he died doing his job.

    Pretty sure the NF-104 flight was every bit as authorized as any of Yeager's test flights. They didn't just keep fully fueled test rocket planes sitting around for anyone to borrow, and while Yeager may have done an occasional unauthorized barrel roll, he didn't go around stealing airplanes. But it made it more dramatic for the film.
     
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  10. J.T.B.

    J.T.B. Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    Yeah. Philip Kaufman has said he thinks Grissom was a true hero and personally thinks the loss of the capsule was probably not his fault. I think that the intention might have been for Yeager to have the final word on the subject: "Ol' Gus, he did all right." But the way it was presented, it seems like the technical evidence is the final word, with the engineers saying that never in their experience had something like that happened. Even though I like the movie, I do have a problem with it there. The book was more balanced, and contrasted how Grissom was given the benefit of the doubt and Scott Carpenter wasn't (Carpenter's and Wally Schirra's flights, of course, didn't make it into the movie).

    Still, I thought Yeager, as the purest embodiment of the right stuff, understanding and effectively absolving Grissom, was a wonderful moment. Even if he had popped the hatch, he was a pilot performing an inhumanly hard and dangerous job, and he made it home alive. I have been in a few situations in life where the phrase "Sometimes you get a pooch that can't be screwed" seems to fit.

    And I believe Yeager was the commanding officer of the test pilot school at the time, so, yeah, that's totally fictionalized.
     
  11. sbk1234

    sbk1234 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I met Wally Schirra once and asked him about how accurate The Right Stuff was. He said the book was much more accurate than the movie.

    In retrospect, I should have asked him if he REALLY had a cold while in space like on the cold medicine commercials.
     
  12. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    Perhaps, but those engineers weren't piloting the specific mission. The engineers are not portrayed as sympathetic to the astronauts. In the film, they actually have to request windows for their spacecrafts. The NASA higher-ups in the film are not sympathetic to Grissom, given his pittance of a ''celebration.'' The chief (John Ryan) barely musters a pitiful two-second clap in front of the Grissoms. The press are the backup villains, and the wonderful phone call scene between John and Annie Glenn is the payoff. The NASA higher-ups are the antagonists. But the seven are united when Glenn tells off the boss. It goes beyond Annie's reluctance, LBJ and the obnoxious press. This scene is retribution for NASA's horrid treatment of Grissom in this film.

    And Yeager's verbal support of Grissom is validated by the other members of the seven. Their bond is often unspoken. They don't need to. Not one negative word about Grissom is spoken by them. They just happen to express it most when backing Glenn after his phone call. And it goes without saying Gordo Cooper supports him throughout, with visual proof.

    We don't see Grissom's actual flight. (Nor Carpenter's or Schirra's. Henriksen gets shafted again.) We also don't see Grissom doing anything remotely wrong, which includes ''blowing the hatch.'' What we do see throughout the film are negative opinions or actions solely by the Seven's bosses.
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I thought the hatch on Gus' craft blew open by itself?

    At least that's how From the Earth to the Moon presented it. During the Apollo One episode, Frank Borman (played by the VERY excellent David Andrews) is talking to one of the engineers who was on the review board following Gus' flight. The engineer said he was the one who found out Gus was telling the truth and that the hatch COULD blow by itself.

    This was the reason why Apollo One didn't have explosive bolts that could have forced the hatch open (which would have saved the astronauts' lives). The engineer is very broken up over this, because if he hadn't proved Gus right, Apollo One would have had those explosive bolts - and thus Gus, Ed White and Roger Chaffee would still be alive...
     
  14. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The consensus belief now is that "the hatch just blew," as Gus Grissom repeats over and over in The Right Stuff. On his flight, Wally Schirra blew the hatch on his capsule -- once it was out of the water -- and received bruises on his hands from doing so from the explosive bolts. Grissom had no bruises. Even though the Liberty Bell 7 capsule was recovered in 1999, parts of it had degraded in the salt water and couldn't shed light on the incident.

    In retrospect, it's clear that NASA administrators didn't believe that Grissom blew his hatch. Scott Carpenter never flew again, and he had the bad luck of flying a capsule that was leaking attitude propellant (for which he was blamed), while Grissom flew on Gemini and would have flown on Apollo had it not been for the fire despite his Mercury capsule sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic.
     
  15. sbk1234

    sbk1234 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I'm no engineer. And I don't know much about much. But it seems to me that you don't become a test pilot by panicking.
     
  16. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Chuck Yeager's quoted as saying that as a test pilot, "you don't focus on risks - you focus on results."
     
  17. N-121973

    N-121973 Captain Captain

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    Every Christmas for some reason (probably linked to the fact that for a number of Christmases and birthdays which also falls in December, I had space-themed presents - books, films, documentary videos) I get an urge to watch documentaries and films of the space programme. The must sees are 'Marooned' & a documentary called 'Moonshot' that was made by Turner TV many years ago based on a book of the same name by Alan Shepard & Deke Slayton. There's also 'Space Race' which was a 4-part drama documentary made by the BBC about a dozen years ago about the moon race, 'NASA's Greatest Missions', 'Apollo 13' and 'The Right Stuff'. I don't always get to watch them all because of competing demands apart from the first two which as I said are must sees, but for the first time in a couple of years I managed to watch the special edition DVD of 'The Right Stuff' and several of its extras. I've also listened to some of Tom Conti's brilliant score. It's a brilliant (if in place inaccurate) film which probably camps some of it up and gives dialogue to different characters from the book, but I still like it. On the basis of this film the VFX team of Gary Guttierez went on to do 'Top Gun's' VFX.
    According to the extras, at one point the film was 5 hours long (I wouldn't mind seeing that cut, maybe it includes footage of Carpenter & Schirra's flights) and on another extra, Wally Schirra does indeed talk about the treatment of Grissom by the film in less than glowing terms. The funny thing is from what I've seen and read, had he lived it's very likely Gus Grissom, not Neil Armstrong would have been the first person to walk on the Moon and I might be called Virgil or even 'Gus' instead. I also own the book itself. I tried in vain for many years to get it from my local library before getting my hands on a second-hand paperback copy with a film tie-in cover many moons ago. I've since given that away to a jumble sale and about fifteen years ago bought a large format hard cover copy that is fully illustrated and which I heartily recommend chasing down.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Right-Stuf...id=1483370181&sr=1-9&keywords=the+right+stuff
    Another book of the same type as 'The Right Stuff' is 'A Fire on the Moon' by Norman Mailer. I have an illustrated coffee-table version of that entitled 'Moonfire' which I'm eager to re-read when I get the chance.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Norman-Mai...370230&sr=1-1&keywords=moonfire+norman+mailer
     
  18. Allyn Gibson

    Allyn Gibson Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Two years ago BBC Radio 4 broadcast a radio drama, Mercury 13, about a group of women pilots who were put through the Mercury physical and medical tests. It was never an official NASA program, so the term "Mercury 13" is really something of a misnomer. Right before Christmas, the drama was broadcast again, and it makes an interesting companion to The Right Stuff if you have an hour to spare.
     
  19. N-121973

    N-121973 Captain Captain

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    I remember listening to that one when it was first on. It was really sad what happened to those women. Interestingly enough I recently read a book that's part of a series collectively referred to as 'outward Odyssey', described as a 'People's History of Spaceflight' by the University of Nebraska Press. I have the first three volumes, with volume three which I had for Christmas covering the Gemini & Apollo programmes. In volume two which deals with Mercury and all the pre-Soyuz Soviet flights there's a chapter devoted to the saga of the 'Mercury 13' that sheds very different light on it. The book is written by Francis French & Colin Burgess and is entitled 'Into That Silent Sea'. Its in both paper & hardback (I got the former) and as you point out argues that women were never officially tested or trained by NASA to fly on Mercury nor were they ever promised a ride. If my memory is correct, the radio drama implied otherwise and that the women were excluded because this aviatrix with influence on Capitol Hill was medically excluded from taking part for the same reason as Deke Slayton and rather pettily decided to put the kaibosh on the other women. Apologies if I've remembered that wrongly.