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An FMPU camera crew, 1944. Photo: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

“Keep ’em Flying!”: Films of the U.S. Army Air Forces First Motion Picture Unit

Friday, November 9, 2007
7:30 p.m. Hollywood Commandos
Gregory Orr (U.S., 1997)

Gregory Orr and Eugene Marks in Person


Gregory Orr is an Emmy Award–nominated filmmaker whose documentaries have appeared on The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, A&E Television, Turner Network Television, and American Movie Classics. He is currently producing a feature film about national security. Eugene Marks is a veteran of the FMPU.

Director Gregory Orr’s father, actor William T. Orr (later head of Warner Bros. Television), served as an officer in the FMPU between 1942 and 1945. Abounding with unique insights and anecdotes about the largely unknown story of the wartime production of over 300 films, Orr’s essential overview of the FMPU’s history and oeuvre features archival footage of James Stewart, Clark Gable, and Alan Ladd, as well as interviews with FMPU veterans such as William T. Orr, Malvin Wald (screenwriter, The Naked City), DeForest Kelley (actor, Star Trek), Stanley Rubin (producer, White Hunter, Black Heart), Frank Thomas (prolific Walt Disney animator), Owen Crump (writer and director of several Warner Bros. short subjects), and others. Ron Reagan, Jr., is an appropriate host and narrator: his father served in the FMPU for three years.

—Doug Cunningham

• Written by Orr. (58 mins, Color/B&W, DigiBeta)

Preceded by shorts:
Cadet Classification (FMPU, U.S., 1943). Ronald Reagan narrates this orientation film about the rigorous selection process for pilots, navigators, and bombardiers. (15 mins, B&W, 16mm, PFA Collection)

Learn and Live (FMPU, U.S., 1943) New Print! An instructor pilot (John Seay) recounts the fatal mistakes of his trainees to Saint Peter (Guy Kibbee) during a humorous sojourn in Pilot’s Heaven. (47 mins, B&W, 35mm, From NARA)

• (Total running time: 120 mins)