Archive of Reader Reactions & Anecdotes

A comment by Jim M.:
The Blue Max and the Rhinebeck Aerodrome

I have just taken receipt of a CD recording of Jerry Goldsmith's musical soundtrack for The Blue Max, and am so pleased with it I just had to write and tell you about it.

I saw the film in 1966 when it was released, and I was ten years old then, and already a confirmed WW1 aviation fanatic! I had purchased Quentin Reynolds' book, They Fought For The Sky at a school book fair a year or so before, and had learned all about Guynemer and Fonck, Lufberry, Rickenbacker & Luke, Voss and Mannock, etc, and when the film came out I was as excited to see it as could be imagined. I suppose that the sexual element portrayed by the affair between Kaeti & Stachel was a bit over my head, but I'm sure it helped to quicken my development! I remember my best friend was forbidden to see the film by his mother on this account.

Back in those days a major motion picture release was accompanied by a printed program that you took home from the theater, and I remember that we had the programs from both The Blue Max and The Longest Day.

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I would like to add a vigniette to your blog regarding a visit I made to Cole Palen's Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome sometime in the early 80s. I visited there (certainly not for the first time!) to gather information for a newspaper article I was writing, and had a photographer, Ken, with me to take pictures. After meeting Cole Palen and the staff, Ken was invited to go up in a two seater deHavilland Tiger Moth to take in-flight photos of the mock dogfight that was about to take place as part of their air show.

After Ken had taken off I was requested by a pilot to help move a second Tiger Moth to the take off position. I asked him if another person was going up with him, and he said that there wasn't, and invited me to go along. I could actually assist him, as it was his role to "bomb" the airfield with a black powder bomb, and I could be his bombardier! Of course I accepted, and in no time I was sitting in the front seat, watching the stick & rudder movements happening apparently by themselves, as the pilot sitting behind me tested them out; I remember making a quick note of those motions in case I had to fly the plane myself!

I was handed the black powder bomb, about the size of a large loaf of bread, and was told to heave it over the side when the pilot instructed me to do so. Soon we were flying over the aerodrome in the midst of the mock dogfight. We were supposed to communicate with rubber voice-tubes that simply carried the speaker's voice, there was no electric amplification involved. After making several circuits of the field I began to wonder just when I was going to be told to drop them bomb; I looked over at my voice-tube connection, and realized that it had come loose, and I wouldn't be able to hear him when he spoke. I turned to look at him, and he motioned for me to throw the thing over the side!

I leaned out over the side into the slipstrem of the aircraft, and the force of it tore the bomb out of my hands and it went flying away behind us.

On the ground was a mock battle involving a WW1 armored car and some infantry; these were the "targets" for the bomb, and as soon as they saw from the ground that the bomb was going to hit some distance from them, they started running towards it, so as to be in the vicinity of the explosion, and so subsequently "killed".

Obviously this occasion is clearly and deeply impressed in my memory, and I remember still more details from this flight, such as pulling the safety harness as tight as I could just before take-off, and then after take-off, when we performed our first banking manuever, and I was pressed against the low sides of the cockpit, I reached over and was able to cinch it up several more inches! There was no way I was going to let myself fall out of this plane!

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Jack, some British cousins have sent me an aviation related joke by email, so I've included it here for you:

Morris and his wife Esther went to the Yorkshire show every year, and every year Morris would say, "Esther, I'd like to ride in that helicopter."

Esther always replied, "I know Morris, but that helicopter ride is fifty quid, and fifty quid is fifty quid."

One year Esther and Morris went to the fair, and Morris said, "Esther, I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter, I might never get another chance."

To this, Esther replied, "Morris, that helicopter ride is fifty quid, and fifty quid is fifty quid."

The pilot overheard the couple and said, "Folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word, I won't charge you! But if you say one word, it's fifty quid."

Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy manoeuvres, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. When they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said, "By golly, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I'm Impressed!"

Morris replied, "Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out, but, you know, fifty quid is fifty quid."

It's been nice recalling these memories, and sharing them with you.

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Reply from Jack Hunter: Hey, Jim! Great to make your acquaintance. I used to drive through your town many years ago while en route to our place in Vermont. Nice country. And I, too, have fond memories of Cole Palen and his Old Rhinebeck Airdrome because he helped me with a lot of the technical research needed in my writing of The Blue Max. I never had the thrill of riding in one of his planes because he had only a Spad and a Nieuport 28 operating in those days and no two-seaters. I envy you!

Jerry Goldsmith's music for the film haunts me to this very day. Incredibly beautiful — symphonic. (You ought to hear Jonni, my web designer and supervisor, on Goldsmith. She's been madly in love with him ever since she first heard that sound track!)

It's a real treat to get your comment, and I hope we hear from you again.

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Comment from Jonni: Actually, I was in love with Goldsmith and his work long before I heard the music from The Blue Max, but that clinched it! Goldsmith never got the recognition he deserved.