And the Oscar Goes to… the Airplane!

Some of the airplanes that loom largest in our collective memory have flown only in the movies

(Courtesy Warner Communications / Your Trailers)

Drake Bullet in Test Pilot (1938)

Test Pilot
(Cal Pierce)

When the Twin Wasp engine of his so-called Drake Bullet develops an oil leak while chasing a cross-country speed record, Clark Gable lands on a Kansas farm and falls in love with the farmer’s daughter, played by Myrna Loy. Aviation buffs would have recognized the Drake Bullet as a dead ringer for the Seversky SEV-S2, which is exactly what it was. The streamlined S2 was a race version of the Seversky P-35 fighter, with the canopy cut down for greater speed. In 1937, shortly before filming began, Frank Fuller had flown the S2 to victory at the Bendix Air Races at a record 258.2 mph. The airplane (shown here in a Burbank, California hangar) was rented by MGM and flown in the movie by Ray Moore, who finished sixth in the Thompson Trophy Air Races, at which plenty of footage was shot; the race footage was later inserted in the film. (Fuller finished second in the Bendix Air Races the next year and won again in 1939.) In addition, a full-size wooden mockup was built to use on a sound stage. Later, the mockup appeared in the movies Too Hot to Handle, Flight Command, and Pilot #5. And 21 years after Test Pilot was in the can, the mockup was emblazoned with a rising sun and cast as a Japanese fighter in Never So Few.


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