Original Gregory Peck Twelve O’clock High Wardrobe WWII USAAF Pilot Visor Crush Cap
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This Original WW2 U.S. Army officer visor cap dates from the 1941-45 and was one of multiple hats worn by the actor Gregory Peck who played Brigadier General Frank Savage while making the film Twelve O’clock High.
The hat is in used and worn condition, but quite solid with no major imperfections. There is an early Western Costume Company label stitched to the liner that reads:
No. 12 O’Clock High
Name Gregory Peck
Chest ___ Sleeve___
Accompanying the hat is an original paper flyer for a screening of the film at the Chucah theatre on Elmendorf Air Force Base on December 29th and 30th 1949 (2 months before the general release). The film was screened for U.S. airmen in Alaska as a tribute to General Frank Armstrong, who Gregory Peck’s character in the film was based on. We were told that this very hat was given to the general as a gift. However, aside from the accompanying flyer, we have no way to confirm this claim.
Twelve O'Clock High was a 1949 American war film about aircrews in the United States Army Eighth Air Force who flew daylight bombing missions against NSDAP Germany and occupied France during the early days of American involvement in World War II, including a thinly disguised version of the notorious Black Thursday strike against Schweinfurt. The film was adapted by Sy Bartlett, Henry King (uncredited) and Beirne Lay, Jr. from the 1948 novel 12 O'Clock High, also by Bartlett and Lay. It was directed by King and stars Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill, Millard Mitchell and Dean Jagger.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two: Dean Jagger for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Thomas T. Moulton for Best Sound Recording. In 1998, Twelve O'Clock High was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.
Brigadier General Frank Savage (played by Gregory Peck) was created as a composite of several group commanders but the primary inspiration was Colonel Frank A. Armstrong, who commanded the 306th Bomb Group on which the 918th was modeled. The name "Savage" was inspired by Armstrong's Cherokee heritage. With his work with the 306th, which lasted only six weeks and consisted primarily of rebuilding the chain of command within the group, Armstrong had earlier performed a similar task with the 97th Bomb Group and many of the training and disciplinary scenes in Twelve O'Clock High derive from that experience. Towards the end of the film, the near-catatonic battle fatigue that General Savage suffered and the harrowing missions that led up to it were inspired by the experiences of Brigadier General Newton Longfellow, although the symptoms of the breakdown were not based on any real-life event but were intended to portray the effects of intense stress experienced by many airmen.
Clark Gable was interested in the lead role of General Frank Savage. Gable, who had served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, played a similar role in the 1948 film Command Decision. John Wayne was offered the leading role as well, but turned it down as well. Burt Lancaster, James Cagney, Dana Andrews, Van Heflin, Edmond O'Brien, Ralph Bellamy, Robert Preston, Robert Young and Robert Montgomery were also considered as well for the role. Eventually, the role went to Gregory Peck, who initially turned down the role because the script was similar to Command Decision. The reason why Peck changed his mind was because he was impressed with director Henry King, finding his empathy with the material and the cast and crew appealing. The two would make five more films together: The Gunfighter (1950), David and Bathsheba (1952), The Bravados (1958) and Beloved Infidel (1959).
Veterans of the heavy bomber campaign frequently cite Twelve O'Clock High as the only Hollywood film that accurately captured their combat experiences. Along with the 1948 film Command Decision, it marked a turning away from the optimistic, morale-boosting style of wartime films and toward a grittier realism that deals more directly with the human costs of war. Both films deal with the realities of daylight precision bombing without fighter escort, the basic Army Air Forces doctrine at the start of World War II (prior to the arrival of long range Allied fighter aircraft like the P-51 Mustang). As producers, writers Lay and Bartlett re-used major plot elements of Twelve O'Clock High in later films featuring the U.S. Air Force, the 1950s-era Toward the Unknown and the early 1960s Cold War-era A Gathering of Eagles, respectively.
Paul Mantz, Hollywood's leading stunt pilot, was paid the then-unprecedented sum of $4,500 to crash-land a B-17 bomber for one early scene in the film. Frank Tallman, Mantz' partner in Tallmantz Aviation, wrote in his autobiography that, while many B-17s had been landed by one pilot, as far as he knew this flight was the first time that a B-17 ever took off with only one pilot and no other crew; nobody was sure that it could be done. The footage was used again in the 1962 film The War Lover.
Locations for creating the bomber airfield at RAF Archbury were scouted by director Henry King, flying his own private aircraft some 16,000 miles in February and March 1949. King visited Eglin AFB on March 8, 1949 and found an ideal location for principal photography several miles north of the main base at its Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field No. 3, better known as Duke Field, where the mock installation with 15 buildings (including a World War II control tower) were constructed to simulate RAF Archbury. The film's technical advisor, Colonel John deRussy, was stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama at the time, and suggested Ozark Army Air Field near Daleville, Alabama (now known as Cairns Army Airfield, adjacent to Fort Rucker). King chose Cairns as the location for filming B-17 takeoffs and landings, including the B-17 belly-landing sequence, since the light-colored runways at Eglin did not match wartime runways in England which had been black to make them less visible to enemy aircraft. When the crew arrived at Cairns, it was also considered as an "ideal for shots of Harvey Stovall reminiscing about his World War II service" since the field was somewhat overgrown.
Additional background photography was shot at RAF Barford St John, a satellite station of RAF Croughton in Oxfordshire, England. Officially the airfield is still under Ministry of Defence ownership following its closure in the late 1990s as a Communications Station linked to the since closed RAF Upper Heyford. Other locations around Eglin AFB and Fort Walton Beach also served as secondary locations for filming. The crew used 12 B-17s for filming which were pulled from QB-17 drones used at Eglin and other B-17s from depot locations in Alabama and New Mexico. Since some of the aircraft had been used in the 1946 Bikini atomic experiments and absorbed high levels of radioactivity, they could only be used for shooting for limited periods.
Twelve O'Clock High was in production from late April to early July 1949. Although originally planned to be shot in Technicolor, it was instead shot in black and white, allowing the inclusion of actual combat footage by Allied and Luftwaffe cameras.
Twelve O'Clock High premiered in Los Angeles on December 21, 1949, and opened in New York on January 26, 1950. It went into general release in February 1950. An influential review by Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was indicative of many contemporary reviews. He noted that the film focused more on the human element than the aircraft or machinery of war. The Times picked Twelve O'Clock High as one of the 10 Best Films of 1949 and, in later years, it rated the film as one of the "Best 1000" of all time.
After attending the premiere, the Commander of the Strategic Air Command, General Curtis LeMay, told the authors that he "couldn't find anything wrong with it." It was required viewing at all the U.S. service academies, college/university Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachments, Air Force Officer Training School, the U.S. Navy's former Aviation Officer Candidate School, and the Coast Guard Officer Candidate School, where it was used as a teaching example for the Situational leadership theory, although not currently used by the USAF. The film is also widely used in both the military and civilian worlds to teach the principles of leadership. In its initial release, the film took in $3,225,000 in rentals in the U.S. alone.
Twelve O'Clock High won Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Dean Jagger and Best Sound Recording. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Gregory Peck and Best Picture. In addition, Peck received the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor, and the film was nominated for Best Picture by the National Board of Review.
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