‘The Tuskegee Airmen’ vs. ‘Red Tails’

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I finally got to see the movie “Red Tails” as it’s now available on cable, for rent and purchase. Much like so many others I compared it to “The Tuskegee Airmen” an exclusive HBO movie released in 1995 with an all-star cast headed by Laurence Fishburne.

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When “Red Tails” was first released by George Lucas last year many complained it didn’t go into enough detail about the struggle of the Black pilots to get the opportunity to fight and die for their country.

Lucas’ decision not to simply duplicate “The Tuskegee Airmen” movie was a great decision. He decided to start his movie pretty much where the first left off.

Whereas the first concentrated on the selections of the airmen, and the actual training, with very little of it dealing with the actual dog fights in the air once they got the opportunity to fight. The Lucas version started with the pilots in Europe and their plight in trying to get meaningful assignments. But once they did they were probably some of the most active pilots in the war.

One thing he did deal with was the fight in Washington to save the program in which many high ranking military officials and politicians were trying to get rid of because they didn’t think Blacks were intelligent enough or brave enough to be pilots. But when they were proven wrong they still continued to fight to eliminate the program. It took some very strong men, Black and White, to block this effort.

However, Lucas didn’t dwell on it, because “The Tuskegee Airmen” spent a large portion of the film on it. Lucas was more concerned with showing the accomplishments of these great men, and made them into people with strengths and weaknesses just like the rest of us. I enjoyed the dogfights in the sky even though many criticized it as not being real enough. Whatever that means.

The first film mostly attracted Blacks so Lucas knew if he was to make money or at least break even he had to have a product that White people all over the country would watch. He had to make his point without being too preachy. And he did.

I’m a movie buff and “Red Tails” was one of the best movies I’ve seen, not as good as “The Tuskegee Airmen” but good.

Cuba Gooding Jr., and Terrence Howard were the only two noted stars in “Red Tails” whereas “The Tuskegee Airmen” was loaded. Laurence Fishburne was the star, but he had plenty support in Cuba Gooding Jr., Andre Braugher, Allen Payne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Mekhi Phifer and Courtney Vance.

The young guys, headed by Nate Parker and David Oyelowo, did very well in the new movie, and hopefully this is just the beginning of great careers for them all. Just like the pilots in World War II proved their skills, these young actors did an excellent job of showing why they deserve more roles in Hollywood.

Congratulations go out to Regis Bobonis for his and others work on getting a Tuskegee Airmen Memorial in Sewickley. They have raised half the money, and will actually start the work this year.

We all should support this effort, because it will show our younger generation what Blacks had to go through to represent this country and that there were Black heroes during every war this country has been in. And it demonstrates that there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we set our minds to it.

(Ulish Carter is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)

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