Saturday, January 21, 2012

Red Tails: The Tuskegee Airmen Become Action Figures for a New Generation

Posted By on Sat, Jan 21, 2012 at 5:21 AM

I had three sets of childhood heroes. They were cowboys, baseball players and the Tuskegee Airmen. The first two were courtesy of film/TV westerns and (mostly) radio broadcasts. My father, a proud Tuskegee alum and World War II veteran wounded in combat, was responsible for the third. He constantly talked about these famed pilots' exploits. Before turning 10 I could rattle off such stats as 996 pilots, 15,000 ground personnel, 1,578 missions flown, 95 distinguished flying crosses awards, even their operational aircraft (P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacroba, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft). My dad was greatly offended such '60s network fare as Combat and 12 O'Clock High totally ignored not only the Airmen, but all black units in the European and Pacific campaigns.

He didn't live to see either HBO's 1995 The Tuskegee Airmen or the far superior Red Tails, which opened Friday at more than 2,500 theaters nationwide. But he definitely would have applauded the latter, and be especially glad someone in Hollywood finally thought their story worth telling in an expansive manner. He also would not have would not have been the least bit surprised it took 23 years, and someone with producer George Lucas' clout and finances ($58 million of his own money) to get it made. Indeed, one weakness of Red Tails is that it was initially envisioned as a three-part epic. Instead, the tale has been condensed into one often inspiring but cramped two-hour-plus spectacle blending politics, suspense and a love story with remarkable aerial photography.

See the full review here. Below, an interview excerpt with Tuskegee Airman Capt. Roscoe C. Brown Jr.

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