Sunday, September 29, 2013
When real men made movies
In his heyday, Frank Tallman did stuff like fly this real Beechcraft D-18 through a billboard (made of styrofoam).
Some of the styrofoam and balsa wood wound up lodging in the aircraft engines and Tallman barely made it back to the airport. Shortly afterward, he told a reporter for the Sarasota Journal that that was the most dangerous flying stunt ever done for any movie and no one, not even him, would ever try anything like it again.
He was also an amputee. Frank Tallman lost his left leg in 1965 in a go-cart accident. But like Sir Douglas Bader and *cough* someone else that you might know, he got a new leg and returned to flying. In no time at all, he'd gotten the FAA to give him his pilot's licenses back and he was flying P-51 Mustangs and F8F Bearcats for the filming of the movie Cloudbusters.
OK, yeah. I'm jealous of that.
In 1961, Tallman went into business with famed air racer and stunt pilot Paul Mantz, forming Tallmantz Aviation. It was in this capacity that the two men established themselves as aviation experts.
Paul Mantz died in 1965 while flying this custom-built plane for the James Stewart movie Flight of the Phoenix.
Had Tallman not lost his leg when he did, he might well have been flying that plane on that day. But he wasn't able to fly at that time, so Mantz flew and Mantz died when the aircraft that the two men designed together came apart in flight.
Frank Tallman died thirteen years later, also flying an aircraft. He was ferrying a Piper Aztec from Santa Monica, California to Phoenix Arizona when he encountered bad weather in the form of a lowering ceiling and rain. Flying on through the Santa Ana mountains in poor visibilty, he struck Santiago Peak and was killed.
He was one hell of a pilot, though. He had over 21,000 flying hours in over 500 different aircraft, everything from balloons to helicopters, bi-planes to jets. He flew in over 200 movies and his work can still be seen in dozens of classic movies and TV shows. If there was a spectacular flying scene in any movie or show made in the 1960's and 70's, odds are pretty good that Frank Tallman was either at the controls or had something else to do with it. For decades, he lived his life actually doing what all of those actors pretended to do back in the pre-CGI days.