Over the years the F-86 Sabre has starred, co-starred, and played bits part in many a motion picture. Hollywood films included Howard Hawks' Sabre Jet, which starred Robert Stack. In that movie, Sabres both played themselves and were the "MiGs". The film was shot at Nellis AFB in the early 1950s. It documented the story of both the fighter pilots in Korea and the wives they left behind. I was a little puzzled about the unit that flew F-80 Shooting Stars one day and F-86 Sabres the next, with a few RF-80s thrown in.
And who can forget Jet Pilot, which starred John Wayne and a very luscious Janet Leight, who even made a flight suit look sexy. Oh yes, and the men and aircraft of the 1st Fighter Group at March AFB. Janet Leigh could ALMOST make you forget about flying and the Sabres. I sure would like to know how the Russkies got a T-33 to fly all the way from Siberia to March AFB, California, non-stop!
The Hunters, starring Robert Mitchum as Cleve `Iceman' Saville, and Robert Wagner as Ed Pell, with an assortment of Orientals flying F-84F 'MiGs'. The Hunters was also shot at Nellis in 1957. Loosely based on the novel written by James Salter, who actually did fly with the 4th FIG in Korea. The movie had some incredible aerial scenes. My favorite is when Saville is about ten feet behind Monkey Moncavage in a mock dogfight - "Major Saville, this is Colonel Moncavage! Now Break Off!"
And of course, we had The McConnell Story, which starred Alan Ladd as Joe McConnell, and June Allyson as his wife "Butch" McConnell. In this movie, the Sabres came from Nellis, while the "MiGs" were 366th FBW F-84Fs out of Alexandria AFB.
The star of Bombers B-52 was the big BUFF of course. But Efrem Zimbalist Jr. flew an F-86 named "Lucky Lady" at the beginning of the film. The film also starred Karl Malden as his mechanic and Line Chief; and Natalie Wood, who was stunning as Malden's daughter and Zimbalist's girl friend.
Air Force pilots and crews flew all the airplanes in these movies. Does anyone have any photos of the Sabres or "MiGs", or any of the stars from these movies that they'd like to share with our readers. Contact the editor to make arrangements. There will be a feature article on the filing of The Hunters in a future issue.
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