Thunderbolt! is a 1947 film documenting the American aerial operations of Operation Strangle in early 1944, when American flyers based on Corsica successfully impeded Axis supply lines to the Gustav Line and Anzio beachhead.
The film begins with an introduction by James Stewart, who notes that the footage was shot in 1944, “ancient history”, and reads a message from the commander that, even though the units in the picture happen to be American, it could easily have been an RAF mission, and indeed belongs to all people who desire freedom.
The narrative begins by showing desolate areas of Italy, noting that this was the fulfilment of the promise of Fascism, an idea dedicated to the proposition that some men are meant to be the slaves of others. The film next brings the audience to Corsica, introducing us to members of the squadron in question and then tells us the objectives of the mission by way of an after-breakfast briefing that merges into an animated map of Italy showing the allies stuck at the Gustav line, and the mission to cut of the supply lines by destroying bridges and roads in northern Italy.
Next the film follows the airmen through the tense moments before the flight, and the long journey to the mainland while flying in formation. The pilots are shown finding their target, a bridge, and successfully taking it out; then they go on independent “strafing” activities, finding trains, lighthouses, anything that could be used by the enemy and destroying it.
When the pilots return, the film shows how the airmen try to relax in the makeshift community in Corsica; but it also takes a melancholy look into how some of them are getting along emotionally, thinking of what else they could be doing with “the best years of their lives”.
Thunderbolt! ends when the Allies set free Rome in May 1944. The narrators note that it is the “evening” of the mission in Corsica, but not the end of the war. At the end the words “THE END” appear… behind a superimposed red question mark. —Wikipedia
One of Hollywood’s top action directors of the late 1950s and 1960s, John Sturges, for a time, was a name associated almost exclusively with large-scale action-adventure films. A one-time assistant in RKO’s blueprint department, Sturges spent most of his early career in the studio’s art department and editing room (an especially productive department, where directors Robert Wise and Mark Robson also got their starts), before joining David O. Selznick as a production assistant and later as an editor. He became a director in the U.S. Army Air Force, making documentary and training films, including Thunderbolt, in collaboration with veteran director William Wyler. He returned to Hollywood as a director and, for a time, made successful if fairly undistinguished films (mostly action or suspense) until 1954, when he took on Bad Day at Black Rock. Sturges, who had shown a knack for working with the increasingly difficult Spencer Tracy (in The People Against O’Hara), coaxed a great performance… read more
Wyler was born Wilhelm Weiller to a Jewish family, a Swiss father and a German mother, in Mulhouse in the French region of Alsace (then part of the German Empire). His mother was a cousin of Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures. His father, Leopold, started as a traveling salesman which he later turned into a thriving haberdashery business.
During his childhood Wyler attended a number of schools and developed a reputation as “something of a hellraiser,” being expelled more than once for misbehavior. His mother often took him and his older brother Robert, to concerts, opera, and the theatre, as well as the early cinema. Sometimes at home his family and their friends would stage amateur theatricals for personal enjoyment.
After realizing that William was not interested in the family business, and having suffered through a terrible year financially after World War I, his mother, Melanie, contacted her distant cousin about opportunities for him. Laemmle was in the habit… read more