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"Right Stuff" Movie & Book - Inaccuracies?  
User currently offlineSCEagle From United States of America, joined Oct 2005, 136 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 12935 times:

I've always been a bit of a space history nut, and the beginnings of the US programs are truly fascinating. I read books on that like a sponge.

Often, I hear that the "Right Stuff" has a lot of inaccuracies, but few people detail them.

So, my question is this: What's inaccurate?

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineLMP737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 1, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 12955 times:

Off the top of my head the movie shows Chuck Yeager getting the job of flying the X-1 and the next day breaking the sound barrier. As we all know it was a bit more involved than that.

User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 12928 times:

Quoting SCEagle (Thread starter):
What's inaccurate?

The worst example is the "guilty" conviction of Gus Grissom for the loss of Liberty Bell 7.


User currently offlineCentrair From Japan, joined Jan 2005, 3598 posts, RR: 21
Reply 3, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 12917 times:

Quoting Thorny (Reply 2):
The worst example is the "guilty" conviction of Gus Grissom for the loss of Liberty Bell 7.

He was really never let off the hook on that till after a panel discovered it was possible. Then again when it was recovered from the ocean. One of the investigators of Liberty Bell 7 was fearful of it happening again and voted for the hatch on Apollo 1. He had determined that the hatch could blown on its own.

Another inaccuracy was the glorification of Carpenter. The guy was a screw-up, almost ran out of maneuvering fuel and didn't execute his re-entry on time. Landed 200nm off course. He was suppose to stay in his capsule till rescued. He didn't. He was a man of great physical specimen but was not actually qualified for being an Astronaut (political maneuvering by wife and father-in-law). He never flew again. (see Chris Kraft's remarks about him in his Autobiography)

In the movie they never show how the "first to fly" was chosen. They make it look like NASA brass chose Shepard, but in reality the choice was a vote by peer. Everyone voted on who they thought would be best. They couldn't vote for themselves.

One of the biggest examples of innaccuracy has to deal with Von Braun and the "German Scientists". They make it seem like Von Braun was in charge of the space program (fat chance..Gilruth was the head of the Task Force and later MSC). The Germans were all working on the rockets (They came from the V2 project). The capsule was designed and tested by NACA and Douglas Aircraft under direction of Max Faget (from Louisiana). During the launch (movie) they show tons of Germans running the show. Their job was the rocket only. The Mercury spacecraft and the mission was monitored by Chris Kraft's team originally from NACA (under Gilruth) not the Germans. Faget was also the brain behind using a 747 to test the landing system of Shuttle.



Yes...I am not a KIX fan. Let's Japanese Aviation!
User currently offlineFVTu134 From Russia, joined Aug 2005, 172 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 12 hours ago) and read 12884 times:

One other small inacuracy us that they show the D558-2 in a B/W movie clip and later also sitting in a cockpit among press but actually on both occasions the aircraft is a British Hawker Hunter.  Smile Look closely and you will see


who decided that a Horizon should be HORIZONtal???
User currently offlineNorthStarDC4M From Canada, joined Apr 2000, 2951 posts, RR: 37
Reply 5, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 12823 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

Also, about the movie, wasnt there a big deal about Gordo? Didn't he at one point try to take the producer to court for defemation?

Anyways, i found the Right Stuff to be a little too over the top.

From the Earth to the Moon did a much better job of covering Mercury in about 20 mins than the movie did in 2 hours. The movie spent waaaaaay too much time on the "war at home" for the astronauts.

Also am i the only one that got sick of the guy running down the "white house hall" every so often in the movie? "It's Called Sputnik" "They got a man up, it's Gagarin"... argh...

Quoting Centrair (Reply 3):
Another inaccuracy was the glorification of Carpenter. The guy was a screw-up, almost ran out of maneuvering fuel and didn't execute his re-entry on time. Landed 200nm off course. He was suppose to stay in his capsule till rescued. He didn't. He was a man of great physical specimen but was not actually qualified for being an Astronaut (political maneuvering by wife and father-in-law). He never flew again. (see Chris Kraft's remarks about him in his Autobiography)

Agreed 100%, his flight was a near disaster due to pilot error. He got way to carried away with non-mission operations (like trying to proove Glen's fireflies were real) and missed at least 2 orbital fixes. If he had waited any longer to retrofire he might of missed the re-entry angle and burned up.

The only other mission Kraft went up the wall about was Apollo 7, and alot of that, as later admitted by the crew, was "Jolly Wally" acting up... and we won't go there.



Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 6, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 12794 times:

Many of the inaccuracies were merely suggested by the way things were portrayed.

The sad-faced preacher at all the funerals was sort of a composite character created by Tom Wolfe.

When Yeager had to eject from the NF-104 at the end of the movie they had Jack Ridley pick him up. In fact Ridley had been dead for several years by that time. By the way, the "altimeter" in the movie NF-104 was a clock. An altimeter would have 10 at the top of the dial. This had 12. It was a clock, made to look like an altimeter dial - else the long hand would have to go 1200 feet every time the short hand gained a thousand. Also it made it possible for the average movie viewer to read the altitude.

The way the sky went dark and the stars came out at high altitude was really hokey and not at all up to the movies standards for visual effects. It made it look like you had to rise above a cloud layer or something for the sky to go dark, when, in fact, it is just a progressive darkening from the ground up.

As was already mentioned, Yeager wasn't hired in the bar at Pancho's, only to go out and break his ribs, then bust mach one on his first flight. Composite action there. Bell factory pilots Jack Woolams, Slick Goodlin and Alvin Johnston had flown the two X-1 aircraft a total of 37 times before Yeager ever flew it.

Yeager was one of three USAF pilots selected, the others being Jack Ridley and Bob Hoover, who was injured in another aircraft and never flew the X-1. Yeager was first of the three and took it supersonic on his 13th flight over about three months.

So much of the dialogue was phony that I could not possibly remember it all.

We meet commander Shephard as he is landing his A-4 on an aircraft carrier. Voice over: "Cleared to land at one-eight-zero degrees." Now what the hell is that supposed to mean? If the carrier flight deck was actually oriented 185 degrees at the moment was he under orders to run his plane over the edge into the ocean? Dumb words to put in the mouth of the speaker.

Ridley on the radio: "Say again Chuck. Over! Over! You don't ever say "over" twice. Over means I am finished talking and awaiting a reply from you.

On and on that goes, the radio chatter was mostly terribly hokey, like maybe the script writer had a friend with a private license and he became the dialogue coach.

All those criticisms aside, I think it is a great movie. The book was simply superlative, but the movie was good too. It was nice to have the story of the test pilots told. The NASA seven got all the glory but there were guys flying actual airplanes to the edge of space already. They did a great job of recreating the look of the time. The movie is a visual feast.

One last inaccuracy: Levon Helm's voice over at the beginning says: "...and nobody knew their names." Wrong. Young Slammy Click knew their names. Scott Crossfield was already my hero by the time the NASA program started.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineGman94 From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 1239 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 12787 times:

It's also missing the part where the British programs were some two years ahead of the Americans but mysteriously the British companies working on the project were ordered to stop by the British government and all documentation sent to Bell in the US.

Can't have us little old Brits beating the Americans to the punch.  Sad



British Airways - The Way To Fly
User currently offlineGDB From United Kingdom, joined May 2001, 13046 posts, RR: 78
Reply 8, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 12757 times:

That's the Miles M.52 Guam.
Fact is, we will never know, it looked, being a jet rather than a rocket, a better bet.
The UK post war was a run down, bankrupt nation, still under rationing.
Not to defend cancelling M.52, but to provide context.

As it was, Chuck Yeager made history, not Eric Brown RN.

The Right Stuff is a great film, but as pointed out, don't use it as a reference!


User currently offlineGhostbase From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2004, 354 posts, RR: 3
Reply 9, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 12730 times:

A major issue for me is the sequence near the end of the film with Chuck Yeager walking into a hangar, seeing an NF-104A, saying "I see a plane here with my name on it" to Ridley, and then casually taking it up for an attempt on the world height record without any official permission or sanction. Great for the grizzled old test pilot image but I suspect that the attempt upon the record was in reality much more planned and supported. Also, after he crashed, striding across the desert like a superman. IIRC his autobiography gives a much more basic description of what really happened after he landed with severe burns to his face.

Kudos to the film makers though, their obtaining an F-104G Starfighter literally right at the end of the type's service in the USA and filming the incredible sequence that they did is, for me, still one of the most stirring pieces of cinematic aviation film.

 ghost 



"I chase my dreams but I never seem to arrive"
User currently offlineCTR From United States of America, joined Jul 2005, 303 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 12703 times:

Quoting Centrair (Reply 3):
The capsule was designed and tested by NACA and Douglas Aircraft

Inaccuracies? Centair it was McDonnell Aircraft, not Douglas.

It could be worse however. You could have said Boeing!

Have fun,

CTR



Aircraft design is just one big compromise,,,
User currently offlineCentrair From Japan, joined Jan 2005, 3598 posts, RR: 21
Reply 11, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 12641 times:

Quoting CTR (Reply 10):
Inaccuracies? Centair it was McDonnell Aircraft, not Douglas.

DOH! I was trying to trust myself and got the best of me. Knew it was the other half (after merger). Next time I will check myself.  embarrassed 



Yes...I am not a KIX fan. Let's Japanese Aviation!
User currently offlineAreopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1368 posts, RR: 1
Reply 12, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 12627 times:

It's been a long time since I saw the movie, and even longer since I read the book. But...

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 6):
composite character

Yup. You have to expect that in such a boil-down. The book got a lot of Holloman medical chicanery from Pete Conrad, but the moviemakers left him out, letting the Original Seven carry the scene.

I don't believe that the Specimen - Space Man - Specimen conversation occurred. But it was funny.

For me, the biggest groan was the X-1 ground engine runup, with flames licking out at such low speed as to generate no noticeable thrust. Then there was the tracking radar zooming around to indicate speed. And the hole opening up in the sky.

Quoting NorthStarDC4M (Reply 5):
If he had waited any longer to retrofire he might of missed the re-entry angle and burned up.

He did miss the reentry angle. I find it hard to believe that being off would have burned him up, but it's easy to imagine that a wrong angle could have caused him to go long (as happened), or put him into a higher orbit. But having read Carpenter's book, "For Spacious Skies", I actually rather sympathize with him. His mission was packed with scientific experiments like the trailing balloon, and he spent too much time on that stuff. Not that it excuses his misses on fuel, navigation, and reentry timing. I think his selection was the triumph of the faction that wanted superb physical specimens foremost.

This brings up what nervous Nellies, and even screwups I think the doctors were. As a boy, I read about how the doctors didn't know whether people could actually function in space -- in particular, they thought it might be impossible to eat without gravitation to force the food down. I thought that was so absurd, since I was perfectly capable of eating a snack while hanging upside down from a trapeze.

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 6):
One last inaccuracy: Levon Helm's voice over at the beginning says: "...and nobody knew their names." Wrong. Young Slammy Click knew their names. Scott Crossfield was already my hero by the time the NASA program started.

 checkmark You're not the only one.


User currently offlineTexfly101 From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 351 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 12536 times:

Quoting Areopagus (Reply 12):
Quoting SlamClick (Reply 6):
One last inaccuracy: Levon Helm's voice over at the beginning says: "...and nobody knew their names." Wrong. Young Slammy Click knew their names. Scott Crossfield was already my hero by the time the NASA program started.

checkmark You're not the only one.

add me to that list too...good call...Scott was a true test pilot who had all the right stuff. My uncle, a former test pilot of that era, who's on first name basis with all of them, has Scott as the best of the best. Scott Crossfield RIP

Quoting NorthStarDC4M (Reply 5):
From the Earth to the Moon did a much better job of covering Mercury

I have to agree on this one too


User currently offlineMissedApproach From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 713 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12510 times:

Quoting Areopagus (Reply 12):
Pete Conrad,

Didn't he die just a few years ago, in a motorcycle accident of all things?

Quoting Ghostbase (Reply 9):
casually taking it up for an attempt on the world height record without any official permission or sanction

Agreed, BS.
Grissom was always a bit maligned over his capsule sinking. Nobody said "screw-up" in so many words, but it was implied, & after the Apollo1 accident he couldn't defend his name.



Can you hear me now?
User currently offlineMoose135 From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 2245 posts, RR: 11
Reply 15, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 12506 times:

Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 14):
Quoting Areopagus (Reply 12):
Pete Conrad,

Didn't he die just a few years ago, in a motorcycle accident of all things?

From the NASA astronaut biography page:

Quote:
Died July 8, 1999, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident in Ojai, California.



KC-135 - Passing gas and taking names!
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 16, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 12502 times:

Quoting MissedApproach (Reply 14):
Nobody said "screw-up" in so many words, but it was implied, & after the Apollo1 accident he couldn't defend his name.

Recovery of the capsule a few years ago DID verify his story and clear his name. Or it would have if anyone had been paying attention anymore. If there is one thing that seems certain about Gus it is that he would not have claimed credit for anything he didn't actually do, or could not actually back up. I don't think there was an ounce of BS in the guy.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineBobster2 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 12457 times:

Making Grissom look like an idiot was the worst thing the movie did.

Another big mistake was implying that Glenn's flight was supposed to be 7 orbits and they brought him home early after only 3, but it was actually scheduled for 3 all along. They misunderstood the meaning of "go for 7 orbits"; that didn't mean the mission was scheduled for 7 orbits, it only meant they had a mission rule for a stable orbit that could last a minimum of 7 orbits in case of emergency.

Remember that Tom Wolfe didn't have access to the astronauts, most of them refused to talk to him. So he took the available information and used his imagination to fill in some of the gaps. I think he did a great job under the circumstances.

It's interesting that John Glenn claims the book is inaccurate, but Glenn's book is amazingly similar to what Wolfe wrote.  Smile


User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 29705 posts, RR: 59
Reply 18, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 12444 times:

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 16):
Recovery of the capsule a few years ago DID verify his story and clear his name

Did it or was it inconclusive? Your are right though, once it had reached the surface everbody forgot about it. Grissoms widow was dead against the recovery.

But I think everybody needs to keep this movie in the realm of "historical fiction" and not really based on what happens. Some of the "liberties" Yeager was taking with the NF-104 being a good example.

He crashed on an approved mission.



OBAMA-WORST PRESIDENT EVER....Even SKOORB would be better.
User currently offlineAreopagus From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 1368 posts, RR: 1
Reply 19, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 12438 times:

If NASA management had felt Grissom was a screw-up, they would not have assigned him the first flight of both Gemini and Apollo.

User currently offlineThorny From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 20, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 12409 times:

Quoting L-188 (Reply 18):
Did it or was it inconclusive?

Inconclusive and always will be. The strongest argument in Grissom's favor is that every time an astronaut used the manual handle to jettison the hatch in ground tests, their hand got badly bruised by the spring-back action of the handle.

Grissom's hand was not bruised.


User currently offlineUSAFHummer From United States of America, joined May 2000, 10685 posts, RR: 53
Reply 21, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 12400 times:

Quoting NorthStarDC4M (Reply 5):
Also am i the only one that got sick of the guy running down the "white house hall" every so often in the movie? "It's Called Sputnik" "They got a man up, it's Gagarin"... argh...

Oh man, I love those scenes!

Those were the only two full times that happened, plus kind of a third scene later where you see the running down the hall and then Glenn wakes up, like its a nightmare or something...



Chief A.net college football stadium self-pic guru
User currently offlineCentrair From Japan, joined Jan 2005, 3598 posts, RR: 21
Reply 22, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 12337 times:

Quoting USAFHummer (Reply 21):
Oh man, I love those scenes!

Especially when you think of the actors who performed the "comic relief". Jeff Goldblum & Harry Shearer.



Yes...I am not a KIX fan. Let's Japanese Aviation!
User currently offlineF4wso From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 974 posts, RR: 12
Reply 23, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 12324 times:

I went to the theatre expecting it to be more theatrical than documentary. I enjoyed it for it's entertainment value. It did regenerate enthusiasm about aviation and space. It prompted me to read Michael Collins' book, Carrying the Fire. It is a nice sequel to The Right Stuff.

Topgun is a similar movie. It is filled with exaggerations and hokey dialogue. But, it got the crowd excited. I just graduated the USAF Fighter Weapons School in May of 1986 coincident with the movie's release. It was a great summer to go to airshows and wear a flight suit.

Gary
Cottage Grove, MN, USA



Seeking an honest week's pay for an honest day's work
User currently offlineSlamClick From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 10062 posts, RR: 68
Reply 24, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 12319 times:

Quoting F4wso (Reply 23):
Topgun is a similar movie. It is filled with exaggerations and hokey dialogue. But, it got the crowd excited.

Roger the hokey dialogue for sure, but it did indeed have some exciting stuff. Visual candy; the great carrier ops footage cut to rock music - it was a ballet as good as the similar scenes in Grand Prix, which kind of set the standard for that kind of film.

Quoting F4wso (Reply 23):
It was a great summer to go to airshows and wear a flight suit.

Nothing so strokes the ego as standing around in nomex at an airshow. I have a really good picture of two of my best friends just before an Armed Forces Day show. One of these guys was killed in Vietnam within six months, but the other and I later flew for the same airline and retired together. We are friends to this day. So cool, so studly, flight suit and issue sunglasses. I kept one flight suit - a USMC nomex, and I still fit in it. Mostly.



Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
User currently offlineTeamAmerica From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 1761 posts, RR: 23
Reply 25, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 12243 times:

Quoting Gman94 (Reply 7):
It's also missing the part where the British programs were some two years ahead of the Americans but mysteriously the British companies working on the project were ordered to stop by the British government and all documentation sent to Bell in the US.

 no  That part's missing because no such thing happened. I've heard similar conspiracy theories from Canadians regarding the Avro Arrow. Somehow cooperation in aviation gets warped into accusations of coercion or espionage. A total crock. Britain would never roll over on its own industry like that; have a little faith and trust in your people.



Failure is not an option; it's an outcome.
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