Friday, October 9, 2009

The Voice of NASA

Al Chop's government service continued long after the motion picture, "U.F.O." first saw the light of day. Magnetically recorded on an old reel-to-reel tape among my clutter were a few precious seconds of Al Chop speaking to the nation as NASA's voice of mission control during a sixties space launch, and those few seconds of audio history now reside somewhere among Wendy Connors' Faded Discs collection.

Chop served NASA well as its deputy public affairs spokesman back then, and his influence appears in numerous newspaper articles of the era. A few national headlines reflecting his work are shown here, covering the years 1962-1966.

From 1962 -- Questions had been raised about astronaut John Glenn's noticeable absence from space agency activities (due to moving his family, Chop explained) and NASA's failure to promptly inform an anxious public that astronaut Scott Carpenter landed safely after his 1962 orbital flight. (Side note: Carpenter, incidentally, said a few interesting words about the UFO issue, reflected in the book, We Seven.)

In 1965, Chop spoke at a well-attended San Antonio conference on NASA's behalf, announcing that astronauts' photos from space had profoundly opened up new frontiers of scientific research. Later, as Christmas season approached at the Houston Space Center, an Air Force officer dressed as Santa Claus appeared, and Chop quipped to an Associated Press reporter that Santa "complained about our spacecraft up there and said he has almost hit them a couple of times."

After two consecutive failures in launching the Gemini 9 spacecraft in 1966, Chop kept the press informed, though NASA seemed initially at a loss to offer details. Despite some disappointed astronauts and engineers, however, all was not doom and gloom. When Gemini 9 finally soared into space, famed NBC news commentator Chet Huntley reported humorously about Chop's announcement (a gaffe) to the world that the craft was "three minutes and 60 seconds into the flight." Simply stating four minutes, according to Huntley's often dry wit, wouldn't fit in with the newly-emerging semantics of astronautic jargon.

Years later, Herb Lawrence of the Copley News Service questioned Chop about the impressive UFO reports he encountered as chief of the Pentagon's Air Force's press desk in the fifties, long before his NASA involvement. "Chop wouldn't say whether the Air Force felt they (UFOs) were spaceships from another planet," Lawrence wrote in 1972. "But he hinted broadly that he believed this."

(Thanks to Barry Greenwood for the news clippings)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Francis Martin's Oshkosh Connection

We recently completed an informal analysis of writer Francis Martin's script for "U.F.O." in these pages. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate Mr. Martin back in the seventies, even after contacting a few (mostly) California resources available at that time. Had the Internet been commonplace back then, I dare say the lost would have been found and Martin may well have offered a wealth of information about his role in the production.

However, the June 12, 1956 edition of what appears to be the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern Reporter carried an article entitled, "Ex-Oshkosh Man is Movie Script Writer," and we learn that Martin was born in Ashland, Wisconsin in 1900. The occasion for this article was his visit to Oshkosh whilst preparing scripts for a couple of unspecified TV documentaries. Of course, the other big news, duly noted in the newspaper article, was Martin's accomplishment of the movie script.

A veteran of both World Wars I and II, Martin actually experienced a very interesting career. He started as a dancer in Los Angeles nightclubs and began appearing in movies as a dancer and actor in the 1920s. By his own estimate, he had "a couple of hundred screen credits" before he began directing and writing scripts in 1926, and had been under contract with major studios such as Universal and Paramount. Martin proudly admitted turning out movie scripts for the likes of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Rudy Vallee, George Burns & Gracie Allen and W.C. Fields.

Fields was a favorite, and the two were close friends. While Martin described Fields as "a delightful and generous person," and one of the greatest entertainers ever, admittedly Fields could be difficult, often rewriting portions of script at the list minute, or resorting to ad libs and scrapping his lines altogether when the cameras rolled -- still, according to Martin, resulting in brilliant results, even if such antics angered other actors and studio executives.

The article's remaining paragraphs summarize Martin's new UFO movie with words of encouragement, and I would suspect that, when the film came to town, loyal Oshkosh and area residents congregated in neighborhood theaters to view the work of a native son.

(Credit: Barry Greenwood. Note -- I put a link up to Mr. Greenwood's revised Web site in the link list on my adjoining blog, and his thoughtful analysis of UFO-related issues as a veteran researcher must not be missed.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Movie's New York Synopsis

In the earliest pages of this blog we posted a lengthy 1956 synopsis of "U.F.O." issued by a Greene-Rouse Productions representative in Los Angeles. Now, a shorter description of the movie has come to light, shown here, issued by United Artists' New York office. This appears to be the same synopsis whose words were chosen for printing in the British version of the motion picture pressbook, and this, therefore, was the source for my Argosy UFO magazine article (to read it, see link in margin re two magazine articles at the site) about the motion picture in which I quoted and commented upon the complete synopsis. The U.S. pressbook, for some reason, did not use this document, relying instead upon studio-prepared newspaper articles, all of which have been scanned and appear on this blog. (Credit: Barry Greenwood)

Movie Promotional Photos

While the movie, "U.F.O." enjoyed only a brief, but determined, moment of national publicity, its details peppering newspapers from coast to coast, various photographs emerged, not all from the standard press kit. These photos were obviously issued for newspaper publication by publicity departments, but I don't know the specifics. With thanks to Barry Greenwood for these, I've extracted three photos from various articles for display here. One is a routine picture of Tom Towers, two (one normal and the other enhanced by me) actually show Tom Towers, Al Chop and former USAF Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt together in an apparently very rare photo, and the third (two versions) shows Towers and actor William Solomon in a scene from the movie.

In general, it may be said that most of the motion picture reviews and editorials gracing the country's newspapers were kind, if not at least lukewarm, to Clarence Greene's film. R. H. Gardner's column entitled, "Of Stage and Screen," from the Baltimore, Maryland Sun of June 22, 1956, proved remarkably insightful about the movie's substance and things that should have been. Gardner, admitting a familiarity and respect for the UFO writings of Maj. Donald Keyhoe, confessed his belief that the movie was "repetitious" and "dull" at times. "But," he added, "due to the importance of the subject matter, the film -- which traces the investigations of Albert Chop, as Pentagon press chief -- may in time be regarded as the most dramatic ever produced." Yes, it should be.

Friday, August 28, 2009

NICAP's Statement About the Movie

Several years after "U.F.O." debuted in theaters, eventually relegated to TV late-late show environs, where it generally became an amusement for viewers who didn't know better and for television sales departments and sponsors merely on the hunt for films to cut-and-splice in order to sell a nebulous array of products, the private UFO organization NICAP (check out the archives) released a statement for the curious. Reproduced here, the information sheet accurately explains something of the motion picture's history. The only clarification I would make regards Maj. William Coleman's official statement in which he mentions "professional actors" involved in the film. While it is true that a handful of familiar actors were involved, either as narrators or on screen (veteran character actor Bert Freed may have portrayed an Air Force officer, for instance, as researcher Barry Greenwood reminded me), most "actors" were members of Los Angeles law enforcement.

(Thanks to Barry Greenwood for this submission.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tom Towers: Five Years After the Movie

On previous occasions, we noted Tom Towers' intense interest in diminishing the noise caused by sophisticated aircraft entering the "jet age," and at last we have further evidence via the 1961 letter scanned here. In fact, as director of the Los Angeles Sound Abatement Coordinating Committee at that time, Towers was actually responding to a letter and other documents regarding UFO sightings over Hollywood. Of even more historical interest, his reply was directed to the NICAP (see link in margin) Los Angeles Subcommittee, headed up by Idabel Epperson, a name well known to UFO research during its early years.

Unfortunately, standing out like a very, very sore thumb is Towers' typo about photography, where he actually meant to type how unfortunate it was that some "were not" able to obtain photographs.

Note, too, his postscript reference to the death of Edward J. Ruppelt, former Project Blue Book chief and off-screen advisor for the movie, "U.F.O." Not only does this indicate Towers was likely a regular reader of NICAP publications, but illustrates as well that he respected Ruppelt highly -- and he continued to do so while corresponding with me in the seventies.

Once again, I need to thank author and researcher Barry Greenwood for locating and sending along another piece of Tom Towers' legacy, shown here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fade to Black - UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 17)

The final script changes, usually designated informally in Tom Towers' copy, are noted to have been made on March 7, 1955. However, considering there are numerous changes whose origins I can't determine, it's a safe bet that little alterations continued throughout production time. "U.F.O." opened in theaters across the U.S. in May, 1956.

A word, please, to all the talented people who currently inhabit the motion picture industry, and I guess I'm also addressing those of you who aren't part of it yet, but perhaps expect to be in the future. You see, when Greene-Rouse productions took on "U.F.O." in the fifties, they were already successful, but this movie was low-budget and a little too strange for its time -- that is, the scary monsters leaping out of popular sci-fi and horror movies in that era simply weren't present in "U.F.O." No screams, no homicides, no blood, no sex, not even "saucers" attacking earth whilst stealing away with every buxom young woman within sight of a Cyclopean eyeball -- in other words, this was a celluloid anomaly of the fifties if ever there was one.

Knowing, as some of you probably realize, that the evidence for UFOs is abundant out there, maybe someday one of you will consider remaking this 1956 documentary. But this time you'll likely have a huge budget, a thorough knowledge of special effects (and, I beg of you, the wisdom not to overuse them), connections with the finest actors in the world and access to the latest updates on all the cases and information presented in the original movie (people and organizations exist with files stuffed full of pure UFO history, the "real deal" variety, and it's all out there, waiting to be incorporated into a documentary feature). I don't know, maybe somebody out there can do justice not only to Clarence Greene's dream of alerting and informing the public, but that person might also compassionately and respectfully inject the drama, the action, and a measured dose of the "Hollywood touch" that Al Chop and Tom Towers openly suggested would have pushed "U.F.O." into the range of high success. Some of the government's better UFO cases of the period could be substituted, too.

The thing is, "U.F.O." wasn't some cheesy alien movie. It was historical fact, destined to become a relic, yet also an artifact consistent with the UFO phenomenon's endurance, and was easily a tribute to the military and government personnel who did their level best to track and solve an enigma which continues to intrigue folks the world over to this very day. UFOs never went away, but "U.F.O." did. Its meaning and place in history and the cinema must not be forgotten.

Unfortunately, so many remakes of old motion pictures fall flat on their face, sometimes because the audience isn't there, and sometimes because the producers, directors, writers or others just don't know what the heck they're doing. But if the right cinematic wizard is out there reading this, I'd say go for it. Remake "U.F.O." Clarify history, remind people everywhere that the late forties and early fifties exposed us to scientific anomalies which persist. Relish the knowledge that this was the last time the U.S. government was so honest and open about UFO evidence. Photographically luxuriate in a presentation of old UFO films that certainly weren't faked during this age of government integrity. Show your generation through the magic of film that there was a moment in time when extraordinary things happened, and government didn't respond instantly with a reflexive cloak of secrecy.

Blast into the past, and maybe, to borrow words from General John A. Samford's famous 1952 press conference, you can do something great on behalf of all those "credible observers of relatively incredible things." -- Robert Barrow, August 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 16)

General Samford's press conference begins and, according to Francis Martin's script, in scenes not shown in the movie, a reporter asks, "Is it all right to ask if the Air Force thinks that these objects the other night were a result of temperature inversion?"

Chop would then narrate: "The General gave a brief outline of two opposing scientific theories on temperature inversion and its effect on radar, then answered:"

General Samford says, responding to the reporter's question: "It's supported by some people. Other people who have equal competence, it would appear, discredit it. So the gamble as to whether that is a cause or not is about a fifty-fifty proposition."

None of this is in the final production, nor is anything from the final two pages of script. What Martin next intended would be a news reel shot of General Twining, covered by two narrators, and occurring two years further in the future than events shown by the movie, which covered the situation only to the summer of 1952:

FIRST NARRATOR: On May 16th, 1954, General Nathan Twining, Air Force Chief of Staff, said:

SECOND NARRATOR: Today the Air Force is vitally interested in flying saucer reports. Flying saucer reports runs in cycles, but some very reliable people have made reports -- they aren't all screwball by any means.

Then, finally, after dissolving to a series of shots, including -- for reasons unknown -- a WAC (Woman's Air Corps) corporal, a final narrator checks in:

"We shall not attempt to sway you in your judgement. You, as separate individuals, will make your own interpretations of the Newhouse and Mariana films of the unknown objects, as well as the rest of the documented evidence presented in this motion picture. But, could we be on the threshold of a new era? Could we be entering wonderful vistas where problems and fears and prejudices fall into nothingness? Could we be entering a great era of enlightenment?" (FADE OUT)

Wow. Well, I would suggest that almost anybody who had an opportunity to see "U.F.O." would agree -- the movie's actual ending scenes were far better than this. What a great touch to have Towers complete the final scene as Chop, walking in contemplation through the streets of Washington, D.C., expressing his sentiments about UFOs, just before the Montana and Utah UFO films are presented for the last time. Martin's suggested fade-out narration in the previous paragraph was surprisingly "new age" for its time, and similarly as disappointing and presumptuous as it would have appeared to audiences then, as now. Far better it was, I think, to let Tom Towers as Al Chop wrap the movie up in an aura of mystery, with legitimate questions left unanswered. Chop, the former rock-solid skeptical Marine, had shifted his opinions 180 degrees based upon his relationship with the government. "To me," Towers' narration about UFOs concludes, leaving no doubts and surely approved by Chop himself, "the evidence indicated intelligence behind their control, and by now the belief that their source was interplanetary was no longer incredible."

Oh, I do have one peculiar little observation to make before we depart the movie vs. script issue. The next time you see "U.F.O." (if ever?), watch carefully as Tom Towers strolls the avenues of Washington toward the end. I've long found intriguing those little white things on different sidewalks or streets as his walking scenes change. Each stands alone and would seem intended to either mark the spot from which he begins walking, or to indicate in what direction he should go. They appear to be little pieces of paper, or maybe tissues. The entire paved areas seem clear, except for one -- just one -- of these little things per scene. Even in a scene with his car, there's a little white something to mark the spot for Towers. Wrong or right, that's my impression. Show biz sure is a strange critter, what?

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 15)

In the radar room, as up to 14 unknown objects seem to maneuver above Washington, D.C., all personnel are engaged in conversation among themselves and with various pilot and technician voices transmitted via radio. A considerable amount of communication within the radar room seems to have been added later, because it isn't in Tom Towers' copy of the script. I suspect it is, however, available in copies used by other actors.

Without checking line by line through the next several pages of script, but rather by making a general overview, I believe script and movie pretty much connect, perhaps with minor word changes. The only thing causing me to perk up a bit occurs the morning after the pilot of "Red Dog One" (the voice of veteran actor Harry Morgan, best know as Col. Potter on TV's "M*A*S*H"), Lt. William Patterson, visualizes and is surrounded by unknown objects over D.C. The script, unlike the movie, tells us that Chop spoke with Patterson at 6:00 a.m., thus continuing the previous night's drama at a very early hour. The script also notes that by morning, in addition to relentless phone calls, thousands of telegrams had been received at the Pentagon from an anxious and curious public.

Progressing, the script lists the names of various national newspapers whose real headlines about the second wave of Washington UFO encounters will appear to enhance the segment, and the movie includes a montage of front pages.

As Chop (Towers) narrates and informs viewers that a press conference was set up because of intense public interest in the latest UFO story, the script tells us something the movie did not -- that the conference was organized by General Nathan Twining.

The camera dissolves to the press conference, conducted by General John A. Samford, and at this point movie and script take a differing course. While the movie shows only a brief news reel snippet of Samford speaking, the script originally featured questions by reporters, presumably at the actual press conference. "It was the biggest press conference the Air Force had held since the end of World War Two," explains unused narration by Towers, "and the press hammered relentlessly for a clarification of the temperature inversion theory." Capt. Ruppelt offered this explanation personally in a morning phone call to President Truman -- shortly before Ruppelt himself was informed that Lt. William Patterson had actually achieved visual contact with the UFOs, thus throwing the temperature inversion theory seriously into question.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 14)

UFOs move into Washington's summer skies for the first time . The script sets the stage for Al Chop's most hectic moments with the press so far, but he's fast asleep at home. The scene: "Chop, breathing deeply, is sound asleep. There are twin beds; one is nearly made up. In the other, with the bedclothes twisted around him and the pillow rolled into a small ball, is Chop." As this sight hits the movie screen, narration by Chop (Towers) explains that the Newhouse film was only the "overture," and that a few minutes before 1:00 a.m. on July 20, 1952, unknowns moved in for the first time over the nation's capitol. Unlike the movie, the script depicts Chop's wife bringing a UFO-headlined newspaper to her sleeping husband in the company of their son and daughter, who are noticeably absent as this brief dramatic scene plays out.

Once Chop leaps out of bed, dresses and reaches his office in the public information area, Francis Martin's script conveys a far more chaotic scene than the audience observes. Indeed, as a mob of inquisitive reporters begs for answers, a throng of military officers shuffle in and out of Maj. Fournet's office in the back. Telephones ring non-stop, mailbags are brought in and piled behind Chop's desk, and all of this happens as he attempts to deal with an untidy stack of telegrams, made even more unmanageable as Western Union messengers arrive intermittently with more telegrams demanding answers.

Sometime after the script's initial draft, reference to the Washington Daily News interview with the Civil Aeronautics Administration 's senior air traffic controller, Harry G. Barnes, was included with a fascinating quote from Barnes himself regarding ten objects moving above Washington that "were not ordinary aircraft."

A week later, UFOs return to D.C., and Chop frantically races to his office again on the evening of July 26. Since the previous week's excitement, script and movie generally agree, but one significant change occurs during Chop's encounter with a LIFE Magazine reporter and photographer. When one announces in the movie that they're going over his head, Chop tells them to call Col. Searles at "Metropolitan eight, nine-eight, nine-eight." However, the script, perhaps allowing us a genuine phone number, depicts Chop responding, "Colonel Dick Searles. You can reach him at Plaza five-two-seven-oh-two."

Chop reaches the radar room and joins a half dozen other officials. The radar scope appears a little different in the script, where 14 plastic markers with question marks on them are placed behind each "blip," and when a blip moves the marker is likewise placed in a new position. An aircraft designated Flight 316 has its own marker, and it's obvious that markers identifying unknown blips are being moved around much faster than the marker for Flight 316. In the movie, there are no question marks, nor references to them.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 13)

Newhouse's film of multiple UFOs is shown to a room filled with high-ranking military officers accompanied by Al Chop. The script calls for Chop (Towers) to narrate extensively about technical details, but most of this, wisely, was put into words on the screen toward the end of "U.F.O." for the audience to read before viewing the Utah and Montana films for the last time.

Of special interest to UFO researchers: This wasn't at all made clear in the movie, but there were two generals portrayed, each sitting in during the Newhouse film's airing, and though neither was identified, the actors were playing the roles of Generals John Samford and Roger Ramey. That, above all, indicates how important official Washington believed the Newhouse film might be to national security. Samford and Ramey, almost certainly, served among other architects (leading to 1953's "Robertson Panel" report) regarding the government's future clamp-down on UFO publicity passing through official channels. 1952 was the last year when the U.S. government openly kept the public informed about substantial UFO activity and sightings of impressive integrity. In fact, after the film's final airing in the room, the only words spoken ("How about that?") were spoken by General Samford, soon to officiate at an energized press conference following the later-depicted Washington UFO chase.

The script and movie progress to a brief but chilling meeting between Chop and Maj. Fournet, where the latter informs public information officer Chop that the Newhouse film's final analysis is in, and the official conclusion is "unknowns."

Before further exploration of the script, I should mention a couple of names I've really not paid any attention to at all. One is movie director Winston Jones and the other is Clarence Greene's partner, Russell Rouse. Not to be unkind, but director Jones, formerly a Hollywood movie prop manager, likely did exactly what Greene wanted him to do, and Rouse seems to have been totally hands-off. From everything I've seen, I believe this was strictly Greene's "baby," and after writer Martin and others did the research and whipped a reasonable portrayal of official UFO history together they were off and running -- under Greene's thumb. This is not a criticism of Greene, for I think he did a superb job with a low budget spread among a few highly dedicated people -- and to have gained the trust and cooperation of Chop, Ruppelt, Fournet, Swanson, Mariana, Newhouse, Sperry and others who truly "lived the story of the UFO" is simply phenomenal.

We'll get back to the movie next time, but for now I wanted to make these things clear, and to express how saddened and disappointed I remain that no movie industry or government officials ever gave "U.F.O." the profound historical tribute it richly deserves. Yes, I truly believe that Greene's production is the most important motion picture ever made.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 12)

If some major participants, Chop and Towers high among them, were disappointed that the movie spent too much time on details, it's good that the Utah UFO film concerned only Newhouse's personal account and airing of the footage. Just prior to the first Utah film showing, Francis Martin's script goes off on a tangent, depicting a military film analysis lab featuring white-gowned technical analysts equipped with microscopes and checklists. As extreme close-up shots and panning of the Newhouse film's individual frames are accomplished, with highly magnified still images of objects in the film, Chop's (Towers') narration is heard -- again, none of this is in the movie, nor was it scratched out in Towers' copy of the script:

"Ruppelt's organization was staffed by good men," Martin wrote. "Every detail that might be a clue to the solution of the baffling saucer problem was put through Project Bluebook's analysis and investigative staff. Step by step, the Newhouse film moved through the minds and machines of the photo analysis lab, until the final report was ready. Then the film was taken by an Air Force courier and hand-carried to Washington to be viewed by the Director General of Air Force Intelligence."

This segment also shows film images of the UFOs being transferred to paper enlargements and another scene exhibits two men putting a new slide of the Newhouse UFOs into a slide projector and then using a special grid to make chalk outlines of "saucer" positions on the screen.

Elsewhere, according to the script, an Air Force pilot wearing a flight suit is given a metal can containing the important Newhouse film by Capt. Ruppelt himself, and the pilot signs a receipt indicating responsibility and acceptance. As this elaborate scene continues, the pilot, having apparently flown from Dayton to Washington, D.C., departs a plane and meets Major Fournet nearby. Fournet then signs a receipt for the canned film, gets into an official staff car with an enlisted man waiting behind the wheel, and the car "rapidly" drives off. Officials are anxiously waiting to see the Newhouse UFO film. In the motion picture, we only see military officers and Chop waiting in a room as the film is about to role, with no hint whatsoever of all the behind-the-scenes efforts written into the script.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 11)

Radar becomes an issue with Chop (Towers), who, until now, erroneously thought radar returns provided solid evidence of UFO contact. As the Ruppelt character begins dialing a phone to connect with a radar expert, he states in the film that Air Phenomenon Branch relies upon three radar analysts, whereas the script states there are four. The real Ed Ruppelt probably corrected this small error, though, again, Chop and Fournet -- and perhaps radar expert Wendell Swanson, who plays his own role -- all had input as they reviewed the script.

Chop visits Swanson as air traffic controllers guide a plane from sky to runway amidst rain and a heavy fog. The script vs. movie dialogue is difficult to follow with some people talking over others, but at any rate this is another too-lengthy scene, intended here to demonstrate that radar is a useful tool in the hands of experienced personnel. The script contains written notations here and there where Chop's and Swanson's dialogue changes a little to clarify details.

But the script does alter a significant scene here. On paper Ruppelt, Swanson and Chop exit the radar room together, and once outside they stand near the building, protected from the weather as a light drizzle and fog cover persist:

"They all stand silently for a moment under cover, looking out. Ruppelt lights a cigarette and offers the pack to Chop and Swanson; Swanson takes one. As he searches for a match. . ." At this point, where Chop begins asking questions, the script is crossed out and a penciled notation scribbled in the margin reads, "See new scene 153." The new scene 153 appears on a revised page, this one dated 3-30-55.

Of course, per the movie, this new scene deletes Ruppelt's presence entirely outside the radar room, leaving Chop and Swanson to converse with one another, leading Chop to learn from the rather evasive radar expert Swanson of his personal familiarity with UFO blips moving at thousands of miles an hour -- punctuated by Swanson's chilling response, "I have an open mind, period," to Chop's question, "What are the chances of these objects (UFOs) having intelligence behind their control?"

It appears that part of deleted scene 153 remains in Towers' copy of the script and, while not crossed out, nor was it shown in "U.F.O." It progressed as follows:

SWANSON: "We have many unsolved cases where good solid blips appeared and no known objects (sic) in the area -- cases where speed was fantastic."

CHOP: "Swanson, what's your personal opinion of these sightings?"

SWANSON: "I believe there's something to them."

One obviously wonders whether Swanson himself, Chop or producer Greene decided to go with the "I have an open mind" ending in way of delineating Swanson 's personal attitude about UFOs. We should keep in mind, too, that Wendell Swanson, far from being merely a "radar expert," was instrumental previously in building an important U.S. radar defense installation in Okinawa. He knew the UFO issue was important, and his credentials and experience happened to be stone-solid long before Clarence Greene wisely included him in the motion picture to demonstrate a particularly essential meeting with both Chop and Ruppelt.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 10)

Chop enters Capt. Ruppelt's office at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton. In the movie we see only a rather routine office with desks and filing cabinets, but writer Francis Martin's script had originally envisioned a large room with one entire wall lined with file cabinets secured with combination locks similar to those "used on safes." All open wall space was consumed with maps of the United States and the rest of the world. Among the desks is Ruppelt's, with a "quite large" globe of the world standing beside it. Upon the desk, "edges lined in neat, geometrical precision, are several bound stacks of material relevant to UFOs."

Also native to the script, Chop hands Ruppelt an envelope, Ruppelt extracts an enclosure and scans it before smiling and shaking hands with Chop.

As Chop (Towers) narrates over the scene, I find one script sentence crossed out: "In many cases the speed of these UFOs had been clocked at over two thousand miles an hour." At this point, the movie appears to carry additional narration which, for a change, isn't present on paper.
One obvious error in the movie which I never detected for years occurs as Ruppelt's character begins to fill Chop in on an ultimately explainable UFO report. Ruppelt mentions the incident's date as December first, 1952, but by this time in the movie's progression the action actually takes place several months prior to December.

"U.F.O." eventually shifts to the film of numerous unknown objects taken by Navy chief warrant officer Delbert Newhouse in July, 1952 (another time shift presents itself here). Newhouse, like Nicholas Mariana, plays himself as he recounts the story of multiple UFOs filmed as he and his vacationing family passed through Tremonton, Utah.

The scene shifts back to Chop and Ruppelt, and in the script the actor playing Ruppelt starts to recount the story of Lt. Gorman's UFO encounter. However, as the Gorman case is depicted on screen, further narration intended in the script for Ruppelt instead is given to Chop (Towers). As years passed, speculation centered upon not a UFO, but rather a possible balloon as the source of Gorman's sighting. Whether this is true cannot be confirmed, but, of course, the movie was made long before this theory emerged. In any case, though not mentioned in the movie, the script describes L.D. Jenson as the air traffic controller with whom Gorman communicated during his experience.

Frankly, the sprinkling of names throughout the script, never mentioned in the movie, is of some interest, and we assume names were often left out simply because permission to include them could not be obtained or certain people wished not to have their names used. Based entirely upon my own speculation, I tend to believe such exclusions lend credence to these being real names and not merely script constructs.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 9)

After the actor portraying Major Fournet runs the Montana UFO film the second time, there's banter between he and Chop (Towers) about arranging a meeting with Capt. Ruppelt in Dayton at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Just before showing the film a third time, however, the script features almost a half page of crossed-out dialogue. The omission begins right after Chop asks, "Okay. Once again, what's your opinion of this film?" and reads as follows:

FOURNET: (evading) "Some of the personnel think it might be reflections from jet planes or reflections from the water tower."

CHOP: "All right. Let's analyze reflections from jet planes. There were no tails on any of the objects I saw."

FOURNET: "True."

CHOP: "Water tower. A lot of people have sat in that ball park. How come no one has ever seen these reflections before?"

FOURNET: "I'm not arguing the point."

After a cross-out of that line, the script continues per the film and Fournet replies only, "As far as I'm concerned, I'd have to classify them as unknowns. I'll run the film again -- this time in slow motion." Chop's narration varies only slightly from the script at this point, changing a few words.

Of some interest, at the spot where Chop says, "There was something up there in that sky, and if they were not balloons, I don't know what to think," Fournet replies only, smiling, "You better get going to Dayton." In the script, his additional (crossed-out) comment is, "You've forgotten -- I'm in Intelligence." Had that snippet remained, Chop would then be seen looking at his keys, grinning. No, the deleted addition doesn't make much sense, at least on the surface, so its absence in the movie is not surprising. Certainly, it would be helpful to know the who and why behind each pre-production change, but at this late date we can only speculate.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 8)

The scene where Chop discovers from Maj. Fournet that actual motion pictures of UFOs exist matches script to movie almost word for word. However, as Fournet describes the Montana film to Chop, the scene shifts to an interview with the real Nick Mariana, who filmed two bright objects methodically traversing the skies during daylight, and this portion of "U.F.O." is worthy of comment.

"They appeared to be a bright, shiny metal, like polished silver," Mariana states during the interview, but excluded is the next sentence in the script: "There were two of them and they appeared to be about fifty yards apart."

As Mariana literally runs toward his car to unlock the glove compartment and grab his movie camera, the script informs us that his secretary runs with him.

In "U.F.O." Fournet shows Chop the Montana film right after the Mariana interview. Yet, according to the script, there would be something extra first. The film projector sits on a small table and Fournet "occupies himself nervously, chain-lighting a cigarette." Then he speaks:

"Mariana then took the investigator up to the grandstand at the ball park." The park is empty, except for Mariana and the Air Force investigator, his back to the camera. The camera swings around to gain a proper and complete orientation of important features such as smokestacks, the water tower and General Mills grain storage facilities. Fournet, continuing his narration over this segment, speaks: "He showed the investigator precisely where he stood when he photographed the saucers and pointed out the smokestacks, water tower and the General Mills grain buildings, indicating their relationship to the UFOs from the camera angle."

The scene then dissolves to the familiar segment where Fournet shows Chop Mariana's UFO film. But even this scene has notable exclusions, once production and script encounter one another.

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 7)

Still fielding questions about UFO sightings at Air Materiel Command, Chop is surprised to learn that Col. Searles at the Pentagon has requested that he join his staff in Washington. Anticipating a normal life on the Air Force press desk, Chop, to his chagrin, is assigned to unidentified flying objects because of his experience in dealing -- skeptically -- with the matter ("I was back in the flying saucer business").

In the script and movie, there's a brief segment where Chop (Towers) plays with his little son on a lawn outside their house near Washington, and the two are throwing a ball back and forth. Nothing remarkable occurs here, but of passing interest is the narration where Towers mentions his son's deafness since infancy. Penciled in is the phrase, "in one ear," and obviously Chop himself had asked for the correction, which made it to final production.

It is also apparent that extensive changes occurred on pages 42, 43 and 44 of the script because new pages were substituted, and just at the point where Chop is confronted with an issue of LIFE Magazine boasting the explosive headline, "THERE IS A CASE FOR INTERPLANETARY SAUCERS," the word OMIT is typed repeatedly after what would have been scenes 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97 and 98. I doubt -- but wonder anyway -- whether any of this had to do with a possible conflict over the original (real) cover of LIFE which showed Marilyn Monroe on the cover, because in the movie a cover photo of President Harry Truman was substituted. Whether this was done to give the scene more of an official and important flavor, or whether there existed competing movie studio conflicts over publicizing Monroe in a United Artists (with whom she was not under contract) motion picture , we will probably never know. I opt for the latter explanation.

With both LIFE and LOOK hitting newsstands from coast to coast, featuring everything from high-ranking witness interviews to a map of UFO sightings, the public becomes very anxious about "saucers," and a statement by U.S. Air Force General Hoyt Vandenberg is recounted in the film. However, the original script included an extra statement by Vandenberg, excluded from the movie. The narrator, quoting Vandenberg, is heard to say: "The Air Force is interested in anything that takes place in the air. This includes the aerial phenomenon commonly known as flying saucers. Many of these incidents have been satisfactorily explained. Others have not." Missing from the filmed narration were the intended words, "With the present world unrest, we cannot afford to be complacent."

Project Grudge is expanded and its name changed to Blue Book, and we are shown a chart designating the involvement of such principals as Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt (project chief) and Maj. Dewey J. Fournet (project monitor).

Friday, July 24, 2009

UFO: The Movie Script (Part 6)

The dissolution of Project Sign has been duly noted, and now the scene shifts to the introduction of Tom Towers in his role as Al Chop. In the script, Chop enters his old newspaper office and is mobbed by reporters and others apparently intent upon greeting him after a long absence. But in the movie Chop merely acknowledges a person here and there as he enters, then progresses directly to the chief editor's office, and post-production narration by Towers indicates that he (Chop) was discharged from the Marine Corps and had returned to the newspaper where he previously worked for five years. Only the script notes the editor's name as Carl Roberts, and once he begins dialing a phone call to Air Materiel Command on Chop's behalf, regarding a potential job interview, he informs Chop that the "big wheel" out there is a Major Krough. How much these names are based on reality I don't know, but one suspects they might be genuine, given the concern for accuracy in the motion picture project.

As Chop offers personal information during questioning by a personnel officer, his children's ages are requested. The script originally states "Girl, age two, boy, three," but these numbers are scratched out and replaced with 11 and 5, respectively, and these errors were almost certainly corrected by Chop himself during a script review. This page also notes at the top, as the occasional previous page and numerous succeeding pages have: "UFO" FINAL CHANGES (1) - 3-7-55.

National media excitement over the Sioux City UFO incident is then explored, as Chop is besieged by newspaper inquiries from coast to coast, and the script and movie are faithful to one another with minor word changes. Many portions where Towers narrates, incidentally, are circled throughout his copy of the script.

There is an interesting scripted paragraph deleted from final production, right after Chop asks a couple of reporters at his desk, "Don't tell me you guys believe this saucer bunk?" In turn, one replies, " Those pilots are qualified observers -- men with over ten thousand hours in the air. That doesn't sound like bunk to me, Chop." Affirming his belief that saucers are "bunk," Chop watches the reporters storm off, and as the camera focuses upon him with several telephones ringing incessantly, his office door is heard to slam shut, a message of disgust left by departing members of the press..

Chop conducts an eye-opening interview with an important former German scientist, named in the script (not named in the movie) as Dr. Reiskaywitz. Here, too, is an interesting alteration in the finished product. For instance, when Chop says, "It must be amusing to a man in your line of work to hear about all of these screwball reports," the script has the scientist responding: "For such an open-faced young man, you certainly have a closed mind." The movie omits this comment and goes directly to Dr. Reiskaywitz's assertion that, "It is my firm opinion that these sightings should be investigated most meticulously."

Omitted from an on-screen statement where Reiskaywitz admonishes the skeptical Chop with the words, "Wrong conclusions are usually the result of lack of comprehensive analysis," is this segment: "A man cannot scratch the surface and say 'this vein has no gold.' He must dig deep before he can be sure." Priceless! How excellent, had the producer left this in the movie -- much in line with a brilliant statement Dr. J. Allen Hynek would make years later about the "pay dirt" potential of a UFO investigation.

The script and movie continue to where Chop discovers Project Grudge was secretly initiated as UFO reports continued, and his promotion to chief of the Air Force press section at the Pentagon is touched upon. Highly intriguing is the segment where Chop listens in on a conversation regarding three men flying a B-29 over Georgia who watched a mysterious object make a pass at a weather balloon, which was later found to have a six-foot tear in its fabric.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 5)

Following the dramatization of Mantell's plane crash, both the script and movie remain mostly faithful to one another as the story of the Air Force's "Project Sign" implementation is narrated. The major difference comes about when a brief interview with American Airlines pilot Capt. Willis T. Sperry appears in the film. The script itself carries no mention of Sperry whatsoever at this point, so we may assume that negotiations for Sperry's participation were finalized closer to the time of actual production.

Though Sperry later claimed there were no problems in getting permission from American Airlines to recount his UFO encounter on camera, one wonders if, at least, second thoughts made the corporate rounds when word that a commercial pilot was actually going to "tell all" about a highly intriguing UFO event became obvious. From the way Sperry posed in full pilot attire near a runway with an aircraft as a backdrop, we might almost think that American Airlines looked forward to publicity on the big screen -- and surely that would be an anomaly, considering the tight-lipped manner in which the major airlines generally reacted to UFO encounters in the fifties (particularly when close approaches resulting in evasive action and passenger panic or injuries occurred), fearful that "saucers" could scare away the flying public.

Nevertheless, acquiring Sperry for a segment in "U.F.O." was a definite bonus and helped tremendously to infuse the authenticity necessary for a documentary approach. Unlike the labored Mantell scenes, Captain Sperry's story was laid out in about 90 seconds, and this segment, filmed in an airport environment, must have looked spectacular to the curious on a 1956 theater screen.

The scenes move swiftly at this point, and as quickly as the audience is told of Project Sign's origin, a narrator states the agency was soon terminated. Of some interest, in the movie we are told, "On January 9, 1950, the press reported that Project Sign was closed. From now on, the Air Force stated, its only similar activity would be the routine, conventional watch for unidentified flying objects."

However, the script varies here, informing us in these words: "On January 9, 1950, the press reported that the Air Force announced that Project Sign, including pictures of flying saucers, none of them genuine, will be placed on public exhibition in the Pentagon."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 4)

Clearly, writer Francis Martin intended to invoke something resembling a "panic in the streets" atmosphere -- or make that a panic of curiosity -- during the early minutes of the movie. Instead, a dramatic non-dramatic change ensued during production when Clarence Greene and director Winston Jones played the scenes softly, low-key and ultimately comedic with televised banter involving a character boasting of a "man from the saucer" contact vs. his inability to describe the color of an interviewer's tie. Why? By now, knowing why specific things were done is probably impossible. We must keep in mind, though, that the final script was reviewed and approved by principals such as Al Chop, Dewey Fournet and former Project Blue Book chief Edward Ruppelt, so perhaps there was a consensus dictating something light in format. More likely, however, is the fact that producer Greene remained far more concerned with accuracy than dramatic effect -- a critical observation noted by both Chop and Tom Towers, who recognized that a little of the "Hollywood touch" might have helped out tremendously at the box office without sacrificing the facts.

For me, as much as I cherish the movie's very existence, the segment about the death of pilot Thomas Mantell while chasing a possible UFO was simply agonizing for its length and preoccupation with who said what, what whomever said to whom, and at what time of day it was said. It's a shame, but perhaps inevitable, that even the motion picture's publicity campaign was highly dependent upon the Mantell incident, whose precipitant was as controversial then as it is today.

The script doesn't vary in significant depth from the production, but there is an excluded scene where military guards and state police at the airplane wreckage site are holding back a collection of "morbidly curious civilians." Ambulance attendants are observed closing doors on their vehicle and driving away. Meanwhile, three or four Air Force officers comb through the wreckage inside a roped-off area, and one picks up a piece of tail structure containing, in aviation terms, the "trim tab." As the officer shows this fragment to the others, who are busily inspecting, making notes and photographing the area, the narrator's voice speaks the following words, which are not in the final film cut:

"The inspectors were able to determine conclusively from the wreckage that Mantell's plane was trimmed to climb when he crashed -- that he had blacked out from lack of oxygen at extreme altitude. With Mantell unconscious, the propeller torque pulled the plane into a slow left turn, which developed into a shallow dive. The dive rapidly became steeper and faster. At some point, the terrific speed tore off a wing of the plane."

The original script devotes 13 pages to the 1948 Mantell case, and 13 pages can seem like a lifetime once translated to the silver screen.

(To be continued. . .)

Friday, July 10, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 3)

In retrospect, introducing "U.F.O." with scenes of clouds interspersed with the credits and less exciting footage than Francis Martin originally scripted was probably a wise choice, because it set the theme for something intangible, yet vitally important.

After leading with the Kenneth Arnold story and showing how teletype machines across the country raged about Arnold and a succession of new saucer reports, the movie delves briefly into public reactions, both sober and comedic. However, the initial script calls for the camera to linger upon specific witnesses and events. For instance, though we see about one second of a man in a hard hat, apparently a saucer witness, his role would have been expanded per Martin's intentions. The scene called for an upward camera shot of a power pole carrying high-voltage wires, showing a HIGH VOLTAGE sign on a cross-arm. Two linemen, suspended by safety belts and anchored via climbing spurs on their work shoes, wear heavy rubber gloves as they work on a wire adjacent to an insulator. "One of them pushes his hat up and wipes perspiration from his brow -- starts to pull his hat down again -- when his attention is suddenly frozen by something up and out of scene," the script states.

As this prolonged scene continues, the lineman follows the audience-unseen object with his eyes, then alerts his fellow worker who sees the object. "They exchange a brief, apprehensive glance, then look off again. Their heads move in unison as they watch the object, which is OUT OF SCENE."

Then attention is diverted to a ship at sea, where the first mate scans the sky with binoculars and is startled to encounter "an object sweeping in, up and over the ship." An accompanying signal man on the deck sees the odd binocular movements, looks up and "suddenly stiffens, and his eyes move in unison with the arc of the binoculars."

Arguably, producer Clarence Greene might have been better off leaving such scenes in, rather than whittling the early aura of mystery aspect down to quick shots of folks looking up in the sky. Indeed, writer Martin wasn't finished after the ship at sea event. He next paints the chaos on two busy city streets somewhere in America. As "pedestrians scramble for something," two cars crash into one another, the drivers jump out and, ignoring the damage to their vehicles, "start scrambling." Some members of the city crowd stare skyward, shielding their eyes from the sun as they watch something strange. Simultaneously, a man in the crowd is holding an "aluminum-like" paper saucer with the words, "EAT AT JOE'S -- THIRD AND PINE STREET."
The movie glossed over the majority of bedlam intended for these early scenes.

While traffic is blocked in one area of a city, two teenage boys hiding on a rooftop mischievously insert pinwheel fireworks into a half dozen old chrome auto hub caps, then light and hurl a spinning hub cap toward the street below. This unrealized scripted segment then concludes with two young men staging a fake UFO photo using garbage can lids on invisible threads and a Leica camera. At this point, the intended narration would have been: "The situation at this time was in a sort of half world -- an Alice in Wonderland aura overlaid hundreds of reports." Huh? Wow.

The script, like the movie, then slips into the Mantell incident, focusing too long on the case of a pilot who died while chasing a UFO-balloon-UFO-balloon-etc., etc., and the debate rages on even today about the object's true identity, though the movie, unaware at the time that other possibilities would come to light in future years, postulated that a true UFO was responsible. One interesting variation between the script and movie is that the script used several last names for the military personnel involved, but the final cut refers to most by only their positions or rank. Maybe Greene found the names unnecessary or too confusing to add to the eventful Mantell mix. At any rate, while filmed dialogue varies frequently from the script, the content remains essentially the same -- that is, until the wreckage of Mantell's plane is found. (To be continued. . .)

Monday, July 6, 2009

UFO: The Motion Picture Script (Part 2)

It's the month of May, 1956, and the lights of a sparsely lighted theater somewhere in the U.S. begin to dim as the projectionist lets a reel of film role, most likely containing previews of coming attractions or a brief review of current news stories. Following these celluloid teasers, the moment every audience member waits for arrives at last: The main attraction begins.

The movie's full title fills the screen: "Unidentified Flying Objects - The True Story of Flying Saucers." The credits begin to flash by, and in the background we view ever-changing scenes, including a stock shot of the Wright Brothers' famous flight, breathtaking film captures of jets flying head-on toward the camera, astronomers utilizing their giant telescope and, finally, exciting footage of earth as seen from a camera attached to a flaming rocket as it ascends high into the atmosphere. . .

But wait, wait, what's going on here? If you ever saw "U.F.O." you instantly realize there were no such scenes behind the opening credits. In fact, the background throughout the first couple of minutes consists only of still shots depicting gray, billowing, pillow-like clouds filling the sky with a sense of mystery, generating thoughts of enigmas unknown. What happened?

The script is what happened -- or, rather, script changes, and I suspect they were numerous in the interim before theater audiences around the world had an opportunity to judge the final contents.

Writer Francis Martin (whom I never had a chance to interview) originally envisioned running credits over that famous footage of the Wright Brothers' virgin airplane flight, joined by scenes of three jet aircraft -- one at a time -- flying at supersonic speed toward the camera, the sounds of their roar delayed until each had passed out of the picture. Next, the intent was to show astronomers engaged with the two-hundred inch telescope at Mount Palomar, followed by a voice-over countdown to the launch of a rocket. As a ground-based camera tracks the rocket's disappearance toward the stratosphere, a camera attached to the rocket "gradually begins to show the contour and curvature of the earth."

All of these would have been "stock shots," essentially making use of film footage that already existed in various files, freely available for film producers and journalists. While none of this footage made its way into Clarence Greene's proposed epic, a long (distant) stock shot of the Pentagon was used quite effectively to herald a theme of official proceedings as the story begins.

Just as scenes were shifted at the beginning, a change of opening narration also occurred. Anybody who viewed "U.F.O." multiple times easily recognizes this introduction: "Many times in the history of our civilization, the introduction of a new thought has brought skepticism, even ridicule. Despite this, there has always been the duty and inalienable right to tell the people the truth. The motion picture you are about to see is true, it is not fiction. Much of the information in it has never been told. You will see it here for the first time."

However, Martin's original passage for this section reads: "In any free democracy, the free dissemination of news is the very keystone of the republic. A motion picture accurately presenting facts to the people is an important, vital source of public information. The picture you are about to see is not fiction. Much of this material has never been presented to the public in any form of news medium. You will see it here for the first time."

Minor changes continue as the 1952 press conference held by General John Samford is highlighted, and then the viewer's attention is directed to the Kenneth Arnold sighting of multiple objects, at that time considered (though wrongly) the start of the UFO era in the U.S.
(To be continued. . .)

Behind the Sofa - UFO:The Motion Picture Script (Part 1)

Reposing comfortably, for years, somewhere behind Tom Towers' sofa in his southern California living room was his personal copy of the 116-page script for the movie, "U.F.O." Dated October 21, 1954, this likely was the very first screenplay draft for the film turned out by writer Francis Martin, and I say that simply because the eventual production varied significantly from the original typewritten document. Indeed, Towers' copy contained occasional handwritten notations and circled passages, probably scribbled by Tom himself during the days when he prepared for or was required on the movie "set" as lead actor.

To my surprise, Towers offered and mailed his treasured script to me in the seventies as I researched the movie. Though his small KRIM Theater photo (see earlier references to this snapshot taken by Towers' friends) was undoubtedly his most cherished movie souvenir, the script was unquestionably next in line, and the loan of each to me was profoundly appreciated.
As years passed, I remembered reading the script, and vaguely recalled photocopying some pages, but because I found no script among other "U.F.O." memorabilia, I assumed those pages had been destroyed or misplaced. As fate would have it, however, the photocopied script -- all of it -- eventually turned up in a box of things unrelated to the movie. Strangely, I had forgotten copying a complete script.

Of course, I wish I could reproduce the document in this blog, page by page, but there may still be ownership and copyright issues involved, so I'll opt for quoting passages where necessary. We'll begin when I post part two.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Script Nip

My consistently hollow promise to elaborate on the script for the 1956 movie, "U.F.O." should soon become a promise fulfilled. We'll explore the script's original words and the changes made when production began. Keep watching.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tom Towers as. . .Tom Towers

(Photo from special collection at USC as noted)

When he wasn't relaxing on the tennis court or taking a few weeks off from work to play the role of Al Chop in "U.F.O." the late Tom Towers assumed the role he liked best -- as aviation editor for the old Los Angeles Examiner. You may have noticed in previous entries regarding Towers that he played a long and significant role in aviation out in sunny California, and following his years with the L.A. Examiner he served as executive assistant for the L.A. Dept. of Airports and also took a serious interest in jet aircraft noise abatement proceedings as they applied to several airports under state jurisdiction.

UFO researcher and writer Barry Greenwood, co-author of the book, Clear Intent, kindly contributes information about the movie and its participants now and then, and discovered additional information about Towers and the newspaper via an L.A. Examiner photo collection at USC. The photo probably depicts a typical day for Tom, interviewing somebody for a story. In this case, the date is April 25, 1951 (five years before "U.F.O." hit national theaters), and here former WW II Army Air Force intelligence officer-turned-columnist Towers speaks with plane crash survivor Mary Ann Shelly, age 26, at Queen of Angels Hospital.

As Greenwood suggests, the full collection of Towers' newspaper articles would be of high interest, and we already know that he approached the UFO subject numerous times in his columns. In fact, Greenwood also accessed a Towers "Aviation News" column from December 10, 1958 entitled "Experts Put Spotlight on 'Saucers,'" in which Towers describes a meeting of more than 30 engineers and businessmen at the home of Walt Disney artist Robert Karp to discuss UFOs. Also in attendance was Ward Kimball, head of Disney's advanced scientific project section (Grant Cameron -- see link to Presidential UFO -- has written extensively about Kimball and Disney's role in UFO history). There appears to have been a consensus that UFOs were real, under intelligent control and desperately in need of investigation. Additionally, the point that the Air Force was covering up UFO information seemed a hot topic of conversation.

Though his film career did not progress beyond the 1956 UFO documentary released through United Artists, Tom Towers seems never to have pulled any punches in his reporting about the world of aviation and an occasional intrusion of UFOs within its realms.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More From Towers and Sperry in 1976

Belatedly consumed with weeding out the irrelevant from more than 45 years of files this month, darned if I didn't find three more postcards from movie principals. The year was 1976, and both Willis "Doc" Sperry and Tom Towers had volunteered a few moments in December to acknowledge receiving their copies of Official UFO with the movie article. Tom managed on more than one occasion to wish me season's greetings, and I've little doubt his Christmas holiday included at least one visit to the tennis court, one of his favorite places. I think I was more relieved than he when the publisher returned Tom's KRIM Theater photo -- the only copy he owned -- to me after its long absence. Retired American Airlines pilot and UFO witness Doc Sperry was still devoted to his partnership in Orion Aircraft Sales at that time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UFO: Your Guide to the 1956 Movie

These old TV Guide listings for the 1956 documentary motion picture (with Tom Towers' name eventually corrected from the erroneous "Powers") only hint at the movie's contents and historical importance. If you're new to this site, please know that this is the place for the truth about the background and production of "U.F.O." No, we aren't perfect, but with no budget and the necessity to rely mainly upon old letters and files, I believe we've accomplished a lot. Be sure to explore blog entries way back from the beginning and work forward as you read so you'll learn all about this remarkable (and almost forgotten) major motion picture in a coherent sequence. I still hope to add more about the script and its changes in the months ahead. And thanks for stopping by. -- Robert Barrow

Monday, January 12, 2009

Major Dewey J. Fournet - A Footnote for the Movie

A brief and illuminating e-mail about the late Dewey J. Fournet, Jr., arrived a few days ago. In the early 1950s Air Force intelligence officer Major Fournet monitored the government's UFO investigation and became convinced of the UFO issue's importance to science and national security. His letters to me from the 1970s are posted in my blog concerning the 1956 movie, "U.F.O." and I've mentioned him on occasion in my regular UFO-related blog, and of course his name is legend concurrently with Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt and Albert M. Chop in UFO research history.

With Ms. Bergeron's permission, I have excerpted the significant portions of her note below. I'm pleased to add this important little anecdote to UFO research history, and we should all hope that one day soon our current government officials will honor and heed the words of those preceding them who realized that discovering more about UFOs may be vital:

"My name is Kim Bergeron, and I’m the godchild/niece of Dewey Fournet, Jr. (my mother’s brother). I’ve recently purchased the UFO movie in which, I understand, my uncle was portrayed. . .

"One of my fondest memories of my uncle was a conversation we had when he knew he had precious little time left on this earth — for the first time ever, I asked him point blank if he believed that U.F.O.’s may really exist.

"He looked me right in the eyes, smiled coyly, and responded, 'I have no doubt.'

"I only wish now I’d asked him that question many years earlier, so he could have shared more stories from his many years of investigating such."