The Right Stuff (film)

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The Right Stuff is a 1983 American film adapted from Tom Wolfe's 1979 book The Right Stuff about the test pilots who were involved in high-speed aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base as well as those selected to be astronauts for Project Mercury, the United States' first attempt at manned spaceflight. The story contrasts the "Mercury Seven" and their families with pilots like Chuck Yeager, who was considered by many test pilots to be the best of them all, but was never selected as an astronaut. The Mercury Seven were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. In some aspects of the film its makers undertook great efforts to make it historically accurate. In others, they took some artistic license, downplaying and sometimes even ridiculing the collective scientific and technical effort of the Mercury program, emphasizing instead the individual adventure and heroism of the test pilots and astronauts.



The movie starts in Muroc Army Air Field in 1947, a dusty, arid Air Force base where high-speed aircraft are secretly tested including the rocket-powered X-1, poised to fly at supersonic speeds. When a number of test pilots have died in the attempt to break the so-called "sound barrier", war hero Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) is offered the chance to fly the X-1. Soon thereafter, while on a horseback romp with his wife Glennis (Barbara Hershey) through the underbrush surrounding the base, Yeager collides with a tree branch and suffers a couple of broken ribs which inhibits him from leaning over and locking the door to the X-1 (an automatic disqualifier in the run-up to the test flight). Refusing to admit defeat, Yeager fashions a sawed-off broom handle to help seal the door to the X-1 and then goes on to fly faster than the speed of sound, beating the "demon in the sky."

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