Friday, February 10, 2006

Klaatu lands in Dothan

The late British actor Michael Rennie is best remembered today as the dignified alien Klaatu in Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). As a result, the first words of The Rocky Horror Picture Show are: “Michael Rennie was ill / The day the Earth stood still …”

Without citing any source whatsoever, the Internet Movie Database tells an interesting Rennie anecdote set in, of all places, Dothan, Ala.

Rennie already had played small roles in a number of movies when he joined the Royal Air Force. With other RAF pilots he was sent to the United States for flight training and wound up at Napier Field in Dothan.

When his fellow pilots in Dothan asked him what he did for a living, he replied, truthfully enough, that he was a movie actor, and they all burst into disbelieving laughter.

A few nights later, they all went into town to take in a movie. It turned out to be Ships With Wings, a British war movie that starred John Clements, Leslie Banks … and, in a small role as Lt. Maxwell, none other than Michael Rennie, who presumably got the last laugh. (One wonders how Rennie steered his friends to that particular movie theater!)

This certainly could have happened, as thousands of military personnel, including once and future celebrities, trained in Alabama during the war, and Ships With Wings was released in the United States in 1942 by United Artists.

I’d like to see some independent confirmation of the tale, though, that isn’t just parroting the IMDB.


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