Film: The Right Stuff

Cover image
Film:

The Right Stuff

Director: Philip Kaufman
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Warner Home Video

Philip Kaufman’s intimate epic about the Mercury astronauts (based on Tom Wolfe’s book) was one of the most ambitious and spectacularly exciting movies of the 1980s. It surprised almost everybody by not becoming a smash hit. By all rights, the film should have been every bit the success that Apollo 13 would later become; The Right Stuff is not only just as thrilling, but it is also a bigger and better movie. Combining history (both established and revisionist), grand mythmaking (and myth puncturing), adventure, melodrama, behind-the-scenes…

Reviews

Amazon.com

Philip Kaufman’s intimate epic about the Mercury astronauts (based on Tom Wolfe’s book) was one of the most ambitious and spectacularly exciting movies of the 1980s. It surprised almost everybody by not becoming a smash hit. By all rights, the film should have been every bit the success that Apollo 13 would later become; The Right Stuff is not only just as thrilling, but it is also a bigger and better movie. Combining history (both established and revisionist), grand mythmaking (and myth puncturing), adventure, melodrama, behind-the-scenes dish, spectacular visuals, and a down-to-earth sense of humor, The Right Stuff chronicles NASA’s efforts to put a man in orbit. Such an achievement would be the first step toward President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon, and, perhaps most important of all, would win a crucial public relations/morale victory over the Soviets, who had delivered a stunning blow to American pride by launching Sputnik, the first satellite. The movie contrasts the daring feats of the unsung test pilots—one of whom, Chuck Yeager, embodied more than anyone else the skill and spirit of Wolfe’s title—against the heavily publicized (and sanitized) accomplishments of the Mercury astronauts. Through no fault of their own, the spacemen became prisoners of the heroic images the government created for them in order to capture the public’s imagination. The casting is inspired; the film features Sam Shepard as the legendary Yeager, Ed Harris as John Glenn, Dennis Quaid as “Gordo” Cooper, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, Fred Ward as Gus Grissom, Scott Wilson as Scott Crossfield, and Pamela Reed and Veronica Cartwright are superb in their thankless roles as astronauts’ wives. —Jim Emerson

Barnes and Noble

Space-age flyboys with nerves of steel and swagger to spare are the subjects of Philip Kaufman’s larger-than-life adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction classic. Opening at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert in the late 1940s, The Right Stuff follows a fraternity of the world’s greatest test pilots as they break through the sound barrier on their way to becoming America’s first astronauts. All of them possess the requisite test-pilot mystique, that elusive combination of confidence, fearlessness, and talent that constitutes “the right stuff.” Their story is brought to life on the screen by a great cast that includes Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, and Fred Ward as Mercury astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Gordon Cooper, and Gus Grissom. The Right Stuff brilliantly portrays those heady early days of the space race, humorously shattering the astronaut’s Life magazine profile as clean-cut, all-American types to reveal the irreverent individuals underneath (with the exception of John Glenn, who turns out to be a Boy Scout through and through). Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard), the greatest test pilot of them all, stands at the heart of the story—a brooding, enigmatic, unsung hero who never joined the space program nor enjoyed the recognition and ticker-tape parades afforded the astronauts. The result is a thrilling saga of a group of American icons who boldly went where no man had gone before. Ed Hulse

Related Works

Book:The Right Stuff

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

When the future began…

The men had it. Yeager. Conrad. Grissom. Glenn. Heroes. The first Americans in space… battling the Russians for control of the heavens… putting their lives on the line.

The women had it. While Mr. Wonderful was aloft, it tore your heart out that the Hero’s Wife, down on the ground, had to perform with the whole world watching the TV Press Conference: “What’s in your heart? Do you feel with him while he’s in orbit?”

The Right Stuff. It’s the quality beyond bravery, beyond courage. It’s men like Chuck Yeager, the greatest test pilot of all and the fastest man on earth. Pete Conrad, who almost laughed himself out of the running. Gus Grissom, who almost lost it when his capsule sank. John Glenn, the only space traveler whose apple-pie image wasn’t a lie.

Views: 522 • Modified: • Elapsed: 0.018 sec