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The Right Stuff 1983
Description: A chronicle of the original Mercury astronauts in the formation of America's zone program: Alan Shepherd, the first American in space; Gus Grissom, the benighted astronaut for whom nothing works out as planned; John Glenn, the straight-arrow 'boy scout' of the bunch who was the first American to orbit the earth; and the remaining pilots: Deke Slayton, Scott Carpenter and Wally Schirra.
Released: 17 Feb 1984 Director: Philip Kaufman Writers: Philip Kaufman (written for the screen by), Tom Wolfe (based on the book by) Actors: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid Genres: Adventure, Biography, Drama, History
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The Right Stuff Reviews:

'The Right Stuff' is one of the most glorious journey movies ever made, a storyline of wonderful heroism, poignant romance, gripping drama, and broad humor...and amazingly, it has now happened within our lifetimes!This is a tale of use pilots, 'pushing the envelope', proving the sound barrier couldn't constrain mankind's reach for space. Leading the method is plain-speaking Chuck Yeager (portrayed by Sam Shepard with Gary Cooper-like charm), a Beeman's gum-chewing cowboy with a passion for his feisty wife (the pretty Barbara Hershey), and hot planes. Not even a broken rib should keep him back when an occasion to fly the X-1 was offered. His record-breaking flight should fill a film by itself...and this is just the BEGINNING of the story!Jumping ahead a several years, Yeager is joined by a fresh breed of use pilots, whose total love of flight challenges their relationships, and is the real measure of how they define themselves. Among them are 'Gordo' Cooper (Dennis Quaid), a hot dog jet jockey with an unhappy wife (Pamela Reed, giving an exceptional performance); and Gus Grissom (Fred Ward, in his breakthrough role), coarse and direct, and anxious for his shot at the fastest jets.The whole globe changes when the Russians open Sputnik, in 1957. As the American zone tool struggles to 'catch up', the government realizes that American boys will have to go into space, and President Eisenhower wants 'educated' use pilots to fill this role. Yeager is out (he never finished college), but Cooper and Grissom, and many others, compete for spots in the Fresh Frontier.These pilots, from all services, are weeded down to seven men, dubbed 'Astronauts', and the Mercury Zone Tool is born! Along with Cooper and Grissom, the storyline focuses on Navy pilot Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), laconic and prone to ethnic humor; and Marine John Glenn (perfectly cast Ed Harris), a 'boy scout' of unimpeachable morals, who loyally helps an impaired wife (sensitively portrayed by Mary Jo Deschanel). Working under the glare of the globe press, the seven gradually come to respect one another, and embark on an epic adventure, full of triumph and tragedy!Meanwhile, Chuck Yeager, snubbed by NASA, continues to use fresh generations of jets, pushing the 'envelope', until, in a climactic scene, he achieves the threshold of space, himself. The flight is a near disaster, resulting in a horrendous crash, but the photo of the burned but undefeated pilot, walking proudly away from the wreckage, is an unforgettable photo of courage, and truly defines 'The Right Stuff'!This is a REMARKABLE movie in each way, and is director Philip Kaufman's masterpiece. Lushly scored by Tom Conti (who won an Oscar for the Tchaikovsky-inspired music), the movie soars, both on world and in space!If you trust the Age of Heroes is past, watch 'The Right Stuff', and you might change your mind! This is a movie to treasure!


I have to correct "mrbsico" for not paying attention to the very things he comments on. It's not that he turned down the occasion to apply to be an astronaut, it's that Chuck Yeager wasn't allowed to apply. When seraching for astronauts Harry Shearer's hero praises Yeager as the ace of aces, but goes on to tell that he "doesn't fit the profile" of the kind of boy Washington is looking for because he never went to college. This was a real pre-requisite which the Mercury Tool had. Also, the stage at the end where Yeager crashes his NF-104 doesn't bring him down, it glorifies him. Gordo Cooper even comments that he gets on the cover of magazines, gets a gratis car, gratis lunches all across America, a gratis home with all the furnishings and loads of cash and "I ain't even been up there yet". He's popular because he's an astronaut alone - not because of anything he's done. Kaufman cuts back and forth between the stage where Cooper is with Yeager's flight in the desert for reason. Yeager's almost alone with no media around, out in the desert attempting a record which won't place him on Life Magazine's cover. He's trying to set a record because that's what he's made of. He has The Right Stuff; which is something Cooper reazlies as we slash back to the reception and Gordo is asked by the reporters who the greatest pilot he ever saw was. Yeager may have ruined his plane in his last flight of the movie, but he emerges as a fearless boy ever up for the challenge. And that he's not doing any of it for fame or fortune (although in true life the true Yeager cashed in with TV adverts and a best-selling autobiography after both the ebook and the film were released!!). That's what's rare about this film for Hollywood to have made. Movies are almost never about measuring a man's inner desires, but rather his being able to victory the war at the end. Yeager in contrast doesn't victory the flight record at the film's end, but he is still the hero. This is because he dares to do what we never would. And even after his plane crashes he walks out of the gulf of fire and smoke with a severely burned face as if he will be back; you can't hold him down. This is why as the rescuer driving the ambulance as he sees Yeager's figure walking out of the fire in the distance asks, "Is that a man?", Jack Ridley replies, "You're damn right it is!". Ridley isn't merely remarking that it's a boy over there, he is commenting that in our globe Yeager is one of the several real "men". This movie is not about the zone program. That is merely a pretext to discover the kind of boys who have what it takes to volunteer for risky missions - even in times of peace. It's about boys who have The Right Items - and of all those boys whom we see in the film it is Yeager who shines about all others.


The Right Items is terrific: exciting, complex, funny, crammed with memorable scenes, unforgettable lines, and unbelievable actors (many of whom went on to become large stars).A classic shot shows a use pilot on horseback coming over a ridge stopping to look at a fresh rocket-plane, steadying his nervous horse as it edges past the flames coming out the back. The use pilot is the twentieth century's cowboy: tough, laconic, independent, fearless.The Right Items says two parallel stories: the (often fatal) exploits of the early use pilots and Mercury astronauts, with intersecting storylines. The film never takes itself too seriously. Witness general crawling on the floor to plug in the projector, the sounds of the locusts when the press surrounds the astronauts (Yeager named them locusts initially), the Halleluiah Chorus during the press conference, the enema scene, Sheppard needing to take a leak in the suit, Johnson trying to deal with a housewife. Yet underneath all the fun that is poked at the astronauts we see respect for true boys doing a scary, necessary job.This movie has all the excitement of Top Gun, but is longer, better, just as high-tech exciting, and much funnier. (A washroom stage rivals Meg Ryan's popular restaurant scene...the audience laughed so difficult we all missed Cooper's next line!).And some unbelievable lines: Cooper's response to "Who's the greatest pilot you ever saw?", "O.K. You can be Gus", "The Military owes me", "Read'em and weep", "Hey Ridley, you got any Beemans?", "I go to church too.", "Everything is A-OK", "Our Germans are better than their Germans", "What are you two pudknockers going to have?", and, told with regret and frustration "test pilots!"To those who have seen it, here's a challenge that will enable you to appreciate the perfect writing, the workmanship and planning that went into the script. View the film again and see how many times the screenwriter and director took the problem to set up a soon happening or comment with an earlier reference. Here are three examples: Cooper dropping a small toy zone capsule into Grissum's drink (foreshadowing), Copper reading Life magazine before the publisher enters the film (to create sure we viewers know that Life magazine exits), Yeager bumping his elbow on a limb of a cactus tree as he walks into Pancho's at the beginning of the film (I never noticed this the first several times I watched the movie, but surely this small action was deliberate.) I count a dozen more examples. Send me ones you find.If you haven't seen The Right Stuff, I strongly suggest you rent the DVD. -RS



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