Captains of the Clouds

Air Marshall Billy Bishop and actor Jimmy Cagney on location, July 21, 1941, RCAF Uplands

Maj. Glenn Miller disappeared December 15, 1944 while traveling as a passenger aboard an AAF Eighth Air Force Service Command (VIII AFSC) Noorduyn C-64 “Norseman” aircraft.

VIII AFSC C-64 aircraft moved people, mail, packages, and small parts between air depots and airfields. Noor­duyn Aviation of Montreal (pronounced Nor-Deen) designed the ten-seat, single-engine utility transport for the Canadian bush, and it could be equipped with wheels, floats, or skis. Beginning in 1937, Noorduyn built Norseman aircraft for commercial and private oper­ators and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).

 

The Prototype Noorduyn Norseman featured in “Captains of the Clouds”

 

Norwegian-American explorer and aviator Col. Bernt Balchen accepted the first AAF Norseman, designated YC-64 (y meaning service test status) at Cartierville, Quebec (near Montreal) on November 3, 1941. Bal­chen flew the aircraft to Greenland, where he was supervising the con­struction of the Bluie West 8 airfield. While Balchen was evaluating the Norseman, the RCAF was collaborating with Warner Brothers in the production of a major motion picture. Captains of the Clouds pro­moted the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, and Air Mar­shal Billy Bishop appeared in the film. The expensive and expansive Technicolor film was the largest on-location production attempted to date. The principal cast, production crew, and equipment traveled from California to Canada. Warner Brothers filmed scenes directed by Michael Curtiz and veteran pilot Paul Mantz during the summer of 1941 on location at Trout Lake, North Bay, Ontario, and Jumping Caribou Lake, Marten River, Ontario, in and around Ottawa and at RCAF Dartmouth, Jarvis, Mountain View, Trenton, and Uplands. During production, stunt pilot Frank Clarke flew the prototype Norse­man to spectacular effect in landing, takeoff, and airborne scenes. The cast included James Cagney, Dennis Morgan, Brenda Marshall and Alan Hale.

Captains of the Clouds is a major historic document that has a connection with the story of Major Glenn Miller, which is told in detail by Glenn Miller Declassified by Dennis M. Spragg, coming September 1, 2017 from Potomac Books and the University of Nebraska Press.

 

Director Michael Curtiz