Lt. Col. Roy Alwood McCallum was a pilot with the United States military forces during the second World War. He was born on a Monday — it was the sixth day in October, back in 1919. He became a pilot at the age of 21, and was shot down in action when he was 23 years old. He spent nine months as an Axis prisoner of war.


produce /pr?'dus/ 1. to make things to be sold, especially in large quantities; 2. to grow or make something as part of a natural process; ... 4. to cause a particular result or effect; ... 6. if a town, country, etc. produces someone with a particular skill or quality, the person comes from that town, country, etc.; 7. to be in charge of preparing a movie, play, etc. for the public to see.

— The Oxford Advanced American Dictionary

 

“The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American pilots in U.S. military service,    and the only ones in World War II... [E]ach of [their] four P-51 fighter squadrons had distinctively painted red tails, to distinguish them from other groups during mass formation missions. [They] were sometimes called the “Red Tails” by the Airmen ... , bomber pilots, and other escorts...”                                 

— Encyclopedia of Alabama

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Lt. Col. Roy Alwood McCallum was a pilot with the United States military forces during the second World War. He was born on a Monday — it was the sixth day in October, back in 1919. He became a pilot at the age of 21, and was shot down in action when he was 23 years old. He spent nine months as an Axis prisoner of war.

Roy did return home, though. As a matter of fact, he lived in Sumner, Mo., for a time. He spent the last several years of his life owning farmland in the Brookfield area.

Roy traveled a lot, due to his military service. His son, Richard, was born in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1952, to he and Patricia McCallum.  They were never in one place for long back then. Roy’s re-assignment prevented that. He was stationed out of a base in Kansas City, Mo., starting in 1958.
Michigan was originally his home state — Roy’s, that is — but the veteran fought through his family’s poverty status via extensive service to his country in order to make a living, and to set up roots in the northwestern portion of the Show-Me State. He became ingrained in the local community, and was well-known at the Brookfield Senior Center.

At the age of 91, Roy died. It was November 2010.

But that is not the end of the story.

Richard — the aforementioned son — went on to produce the newest three Star Wars films with George Lucas (“The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith”), all before his father’s death. He also produced the award-winning “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” television series, and a special edition set of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. He goes by the name of “Rick.”

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“My dad was an Air Force pilot,”?Rick said. “He was stationed in Kansas City. Every single solitary day he had off, or on the weekends, he had a place in Sumner [where we’d go].

“Sumner’s a pretty small town.”

Rick calls two places home, now — steads in the San Francisco, Calif., area, as well as in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic.  

Rick McCallum’s wife, Sharka, is Czechoslovakian. They have five daughters. Four of them are between the ages of 18 and 25. Rick, himself, is going on 59 years of age. He also has a two and a half year old at home.

Roy would take him out of school, he said, to attend festivals in the area when he was but eight or nine.

“That represents all that was good in America,” Rick recalled, fondly. “Classic smalltown America — it was divine. I loved my childhood.”

His father discovered a plot of land in Brookfield — about 700 acres worth of farm land. Around a decade and a half ago, the veteran moved to that area.

“I have a lot of memories about Brookfield,” Rick said. “It’s pretty interesting. The first time I took my wife and kids there about 10 years ago, though, I couldn’t tell if they were shocked or not.”

Back when they were in their early teens, his girls weren’t really interested in his past, and in his hometown, small-town childhood life. They didn’t appreciate it, then. Perhaps, he said, they weren’t old enough to.

“They’re into it now,” he said.

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Rick left this place in 1973. He studied Comparative Literature at universities in Germany and France after graduating from Northgate, in Kansas City. He became a Hollywood movie producer.

“We have to raise the money [for the films we produce],” he said. “I have to find the cast. I have to find the writer.”

His first project — the 1981 musical “Pennies From Heaven,” starring Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, and Christopher Walken — showed poorly at the box office. While critics gave the film fair reviews, and Peters went on to win the Golden Globe that year for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Comedy or Musical for her role in the work, it grossed slightly more than $9 million, against a budget of $22 million.

Rick was devastated.

“It was such a big financial disaster that I didn’t think I’d ever get work again,” he said.

He moved to England, and, starting in 1984, was a part of 10 English films. He assumed his American film career was over.

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“If he heard a plane, he’d always stop and look up at the sky,” Rick said, of his father. “He talked about flying, but my dad never talked to me about the war. When I confronted him about it, he didn’t want to talk about it.”

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In 1984, George Lucas was overseeing the multimillion-dollar film project “Return to Oz” — the unofficial sequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Production of the film hit several snags, including the firing of first-time director Walter Murch by Walt Disney Pictures. His version of the L. Frank Baum stories was too dark, they said.

Lucas — who had, by that time, been part of blockbuster and critical hits “American Graffiti,” “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (the first of the Indiana Jones series) — had to convince the studio to keep Murch on. The project had an expansive crew of hundreds of persons.

In the same studio at that time, McCallum was helping produce dailies for the “Alice in Wonderland” take, “Dreamchild.” The film cost less than $1 million to make. The crew was made up of about 20 people.

“[George] really is a small filmmaker at heart. He wanted to be on our set more than anything,” Rick said. He added with a laugh: “He didn’t realize that, more than anything, what we wanted was to be on his!”

Rick and George met during this period of time, and formed a working relationship, discussing movies and the like. Lucas returned to the United States. Rick McCallum stayed in England.

“We kept in touch every time that he came back to England,” Rick said. “We’ve been together for about 23 years.”

The pair first collaborated in 1992, on the award-winning television series “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” — a tale of the childhood adventures of the blockbuster film franchise’s titular character. McCallum produced episodes up until 1993. He produced “Young Indiana Jones” television movies until 1996. Straight-to-video releases of the series’ movies were produced until 2008.

In 1999, McCallum produced Lucas’ first movie in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, entitled “The Phantom Menace.” The two worked together on “episodes” two and three of the trilogy throughout the early- and mid-2000s (“Attack of the Clone,” 2002; “Revenge of the Sith,” 2005).

“We had to finance ‘Star Wars’ on our own,”?Rick said. “The only way you can do that is by financial success.”

The “Star Wars” prequel films together garnered $2.42 billion, worldwide.

McCallum also produced a special edition re-release of the original “Star Wars” trilogy in 1997.

“We do everything to keep out of the Hollywood circle,” he said. “Lucas, Pixar, Francis Coppola — we don’t need Hollywood for anything, except for distributing.”

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“[Chillicothe is] where we would go to buy stuff,” Rick remembered. “It was twice the size of Brookfield, in my mind. It was always an amazing area to be in.”

He struggles with the idea of nation-wide unemployment rates. He calls it a “tragedy.” They are a “silent majority.”

Rick does not understand the deterioration of the smalltown life — the moving of children to the big city from the small and rural. But, then again, he says, he understands that perfectly. In a way, it is what he experienced.

He does see light at the end of the tunnel, though. Rick speaks highly of a young worker on his father’s farm named Matthew Anderson. The boy is 16, and worked for his father for eight years, until the veteran’s death.

Most remarkable kid. Top of his class. So focused. Incredible understanding of the farm. Hunter. Environmentalist. Those are all examples of the glowing praises the movie producer heaped upon the high school student.

“He’s got a well-roundedness you wouldn’t be able to find in the city,” Rick said. “One of the big things in ‘Star Wars’ is the balance between the Force and the Dark Side.

“There has to be a balance.”

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In 2009, LucasFilms (George Lucas’ production company) began work on Red Tails, a film centered around the Tuskegee Airmen — the first all-African-American fighter pilot unit in the United States military. The group fought in World War II.

Lucas had previously failed in attempts to get the idea off the ground, ever since 1988.

Rick McCallum produced the project.

Said he: “It’s such a great story of America.”

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The Tuskegee Airmen made up the first all-African-American fighter pilot unit in United States military history. They were the only black U.S. pilots in World?War II. At that time, racial discrimination still ran rampant throughout the country.

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife to President Franklin Delano, championed the program that provided said men the ability to pilot military aircrafts in wartime. Despite multiple attempts to disband and discredit the group per racist means, several young men were able to complete training at Tuskegee University, and on the Tuskegee Air Force Base in Alabama, and to earn their military “wings.”

Despite being given mediocre airplanes and equipment with which to complete their missions, and being set up to fail multiple times by racist ranking officers, these men of the 332nd Army Air Corp fighter group became renowned for their ability to guide and protect bomb-dropping aircrafts (bombers) over high-risk target areas. Their key attributes were attention paid to mission orders and continuity. Their direct orders were to not seek individual ace status via excess and unnecessary kills of Axis fighter pilots. They followed those orders to a T.

The 477th Bombardment Group is also associated as a branch of the Tuskegee Airmen, but this group never saw combat in World War II.

To their credit, the group compiled a total of 311 team missions (15,533 “sorties,” or individual mission vessels) in WWII, losing just 66 of their 450 pilots sent overseas in action. Eighty-four more were killed in training and non-combat missions. Ninety-five Distinguished Flying Crosses have been awarded to the group.

Even after returning home from a surplus of successful overseas missions serving their country, the group faced constant racial discrimination on airfields, and in their daily lives. Several of the airmen were participants in civil rights movement-related efforts back in the States, and were instrumental in improving race relations in the United States military.

The Tuskegee Airmen became well-known for their aircraft decor. The tails of their North American P-51 Mustang fighter planes were painted a bright red in color, to distinguish their unit from others. They became known as the “Red Tails.”

Many of their fellow Air Corp pilots did not know that the members of the skilled protection unit were black until their planes hit the tarmac.

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“All they wanted to do was fight for their country,” Rick said, of the Airmen. “Once they got their shot, the myth came around about them.”

LucasFilms’ Red Tails hit pre-production in January 2009. Between August and December of that year, principal photography took place in the Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, and England. Lucas took over direction of reshoots in March 2010.

Award-winning actors Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard were pegged for prominent roles in the film, with Anthony Hemingway directing his first feature, in the John Ridley and Aaron McGruder screenplay.  

“The minute I heard it, it was a no-brainer,” Rick said, of producing the Red Tails project. “It’s the beginning of the civil rights movement. It’s that story. It’s not an African-American story, but an American story.”

Lucas revealed in a January 2012 interview with John Stewart that the long delay in production was due to major film studios showing reluctance to finance and market a film with an “all-black” cast, and “no major white roles,” due to anticipated non-existant overseas box office expectations for such a project.

On top of historical relevance, the film’s major selling-point was realistic computer-generated (CGI) aerial dogfighting scenes, pictured prominently in the movie’s trailers. Lucas turned out the project on a $58 million budget.

The film was released on Jan. 20, 2012. It was the first LucasFilm production since 1994 to not be associated with the Indiana Jones or “Star Wars franchises, and opened second at the box office to the Underworld saga’s fourth film (Underworld Awakening), raking in $19.1 million.

As of this date, “Red Tails” has made $41.5 million.

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“It’s getting terrible reviews,” Rick said, with a little chuckle. And that is true. The film currently holds a 36 percent approval rating on the movie review website rottentomatoes.com, where the nation’s top movie critics post their scores for a variety of films.

“But people love it,” he added. “It’s been a really amazing type of experience. People like Oprah have championed the film.”

“They never left their bombers,” he said. “They were not after any glory. Their strict orders were to protect the bombers. They have an excellent record.

“That’s why it was so important to me,” Rick said. “My dad was a B-17 pilot who was shot down one month before [the Tuskegee Airmen] came in. He was a POW for nine months. He didn’t hear about the Red Tails until he got back.”

Rick says the film is for his father. He admits that he did not have to worry about serving in Vietnam, so he has not felt the test of life that was never really told to him by his father. Instead, Rick says he would like to celebrate it, and what all of the said sacrifices mean in the building of small-town dreams, and the possibility for future childhood memories like his own.

“Anything to prop up the military,” he said. “That sacrifice is so extraordinary.

“[My dad] got to see the trailer [for ‘Red Tails’]. It was the only movie I’d ever done that he really wanted to see.”

Roy McCallum’s death in November 2010, however, prevented that from ever coming to fruition.

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“You get on a level — flying around to two or three of them a day — where they all start looking the same,” Rick said, of cities in the United States. The movie producer returned to his San Francisco home on Feb. 2. He has been on a 45-city promotional tour for Red Tails, making appearances at showings and premieres and parties across the nation.

“The character has changed. It’s just not the same if you’re not able to experience what is outside. You’re in a concrete jungle.”

In his downtime, Rick has produced a documentary on the effects of racism on the Tuskegee pilots and their families, entitled Double Victory.

He hopes to return to Missouri soon, with his family. Their time away has been just about long enough, he said. That boy — Matthew Anderson, on his father’s farm? Rick’s daughters really like him. They want to go back, now. They want to learn from him.

It seems the city takes its toll in time for all, especially when the country is but only waiting.

“Sometimes,” Rick said, “you’ve got to get out to realize just what you’re leaving behind.”