The Memphis Belle: The Dramatic, Fictionalized 1990 Film

The Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress by Hollywood director William Wyler was a 1944 released documentary film which followed a B-17 Flying Fortress named the Memphis Belle on its 25th and final mission.

memphis belle

In 1990, a British produced dramatic movie of the Memphis Belle’s final mission was filmed in England and distributed by Warner Bros. The film, entitled “Memphis Belle”, does a good job recreating the feeling of the 8th Air Force’s time in England and of the dangerous bombing missions they flew over Nazi occupied Europe.memphis belle

The production gathered five surviving B-17 Flying Fortresses from collections in America, France and England. Most of the surviving B-17’s were the later G models and had to be modified for the film to accurately portray the F models of the Memphis Belle’s time period. To make it seem like there were more than 5 B-17’s in the movie; the film crew alternated the painted nose art on each plane.  P-51 Mustangs and Ha-1112s, a Spanish built version of the Messerschmitt Bf-109, also took part in the production. A B-25 Mitchell and a TBM Avenger were used by the camera crew to film the B-17’s in flight.

Take-off and landing scenes were filmed at Binbrook Royal Air Force Base in Lincolnshire, using a proper period control tower. Flying scenes took off from the Royal Air Force Museum in Duxford, while other indoor scenes and aerial scenes using models were filmed at Pinewood Studios. During filming, a French owned B-17 crashed during take-off. Fortunately nobody was killed but the B-17 was destroyed.memphis belle

Besides sharing the same name, the 1990 film “Memphis Belle” has little in common with the actual B-17 which finished its tour of 25 missions in May 1943.  Although the 1990 movie was co-produced by Catherine Wyler, daughter of William Wyler, the events in the movie and the crew members are fictionalized.

While the 1990 movie is not a historic representation of the real Memphis Belle, it offers entertainment, action and great aerial cinematography that still excite audiences twenty six years after its release.

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Memphis Belle


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