The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress is a 1944 documentary film which ostensibly provides an account of the final mission of the crew of the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
Find out more in the docuseries “Five Came Back“.
In May 1943, the Memphis Bell became the third US Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe, but the first to return to the United States.
The first Heavy Bomber to complete 25 missions was a B-24 (41-23728 “Hot Stuff”). The B-24 “Hot Stuff” crashed in Iceland on 09 May 1943 on its return flight to the Zone of the Interior. The second heavy bomber to complete 25 missions was a B-17 (41-24577 “Hell’s Angels”).
- The dramatic 16 mm colour film of actual battles was made by three cinematographers, including First Lieutenant Harold J. Tannenbaum.
- Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on 16 April 1943.
- The film was directed by Major William Wyler, narrated by Eugene Kern, and had scenes at its station, RAF Bassingbourn, photographed by Hollywood cinematographer Captain William H. Clothier.
- It was made under the auspices of the First Motion Picture Unit, part of the United States Army Air Forces.
- The film actually depicted the next to last mission of the crew on 15 May 1943, and was made as a morale-building inspiration for the Home Front by showing the everyday courage of the men who manned these bombers.
Production & Filming Details
- Narrator(s): Eugene Kim.
- Director(s): William Wyler.
- Writer(s): Jerome Chodorov, Lester Koenig, and William Wyler.
- Music: Gail Kubik.
- Cinematography: William H. Clothier, William V. Skall, Harold J. Tannenbaum, and William Wyler.
- Editor(s): Lynn Harrison.
- Production: US War Department and First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Forces.
- Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
- Release Date: 04 April 1944 (Memphis) and 13 April 1944.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.