Thunderbirds Are Go: Big-screen Birds
Over the years, Thunderbirds have appeared in dozens of movies and TV series — and here are a few of our favourite big-screen Birds
In Americangraffiti (1973), although the white ‘baby’ Bird only makes a brief appearance, driven by Suzanne Somers, the car (and the girl) provide the impetus for all that happens to the movie’s main character, as portrayed by Richard Dreyfus. Patrick Swayze may have wowed the girls with his Dirtydancing (1987), but the boys were probably more interested in Jennifer Grey — and the bright-red ’56 T-bird that appeared in the first part of the film. If the actors were the stars in the two films noted above, then the cars were most definitely the stars in the 1959 movie T-birdgang — a lowbudget black-and-white thriller that involves murder and gang of juvenile delinquents. However, the only reason to watch this film would be to see the featured ’56 Thunderbird. Pneumatic horror host, Elvira, ended up driving a ’58 Thunderbird convertible in her movie, Elvira,mistressofthedark (1988). Appropriately, her car was ‘tastefully’ customized by George Barris to include a spiderweb front grille plus skull-and-crossbone wheel inserts. Disney got around to featuring a Thunderbird in its 1961 film Theparent Trap, with one of the main characters driving around in a light-blue 1960 model, while fans of Perrymason will probably remember Paul Drake’s black 1960 convertible. Less seriously, there was the flying 1963 convertible in the Robin Williams comedy, Flubber, although the best
‘flying’ Thunderbird has to be the 1966 convertible that came to a sticky end in Thelma&louise. Then there was the ’64 convertible that played a small role in the 1964 Bond blockbuster, Goldfinger. Interestingly, Thunderbirds appeared a few more times in 007 films — next in 1965’s Thunderball, as driven by the villainous Spectre No. 2, Emilio Largo, and then again in 1971 for Diamondsareforever. Finally, the all-new Thunderbird, as resurrected in 2002, appeared in Dieanother Day driven by Halle Berry. We couldn’t find any motor sport–type films involving the Thunderbird, although if you check out the 1969 Paul Newman racing title, Winning, you’ll get to see a Thunderbird cutting a lap at the brickyard. TV series which feature cameo appearances from a Thunderbird include Thelucy-desicomedyhour, 77Sunsetstrip, Therockfordfiles, Crime Story, Thetwilightzone, Thefugitive, Bewitched, CHIPS, Hawaiifive-o and Charlie’sangels, amongst many others.