Every Rocketeer character is based on a real person
from Disney The Rocketeer includes numerous characters based on real people. Based on the graphic novel of the same name by Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer takes place in 1938 with pilot Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) who discovers a package of rockets hidden in the hangar of his plane. After Cliff uses the rocket to save a pilot’s life at an air show, he earns the superhero nickname The Rocketeer, and Cliff also soon discovers that the Nazis are after the rocket to use as a weapon to conquer the world.
Despite its poor performance in 1991, The Rocketeer has become a cult classic, and even led to director Joe Johnston being brought on board to helm Steve Rogers’ MCU debut. Captain America: The First Avenger. Set during the early days of World War II, The Rocketeer it includes quite a few real-life figures from that period, as well as a number of fictional characters who are also analogues of real people. Here are all the characters The Rocketeer based on a real person and the story of their real-world counterparts.
Legendary businessman Howard Hughes left a legacy as a film producer, entrepreneur and aviator, and has been the subject of numerous depictions in various works of fiction and biographies. Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Hughes in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator is one of the best known, while Stan Lee modeled Tony Stark on Howard Hughes. In The RocketeerHughes is played by Terry O’Quinn.
The Rocketeer reimagines Hughes’ aeronautical career by making him the inventor of the X-3 rocket pack that falls into the hands of Cliff and his pilot mentor Peevy (Alan Arkin). Hughes also reveals the Nazi plot to steal the rocket pack to copy the design. After the destruction of the X-3 at the film’s climax, Howard Hughes praises Cliff for his heroism and gives him a new plane, parting with the words “See you, Rocketeer!“
Neville Sinclair – Errol Flynn
Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly) thinks she’s landed her big break in the film industry when she catches the eye of seemingly charming movie star Neville Sinclair, played by ex-James Bond star Timothy Dalton . However, it’s clear from the start that all is not as it seems with Mr. Sinclair, and Jenny discovers that he is actually a Nazi spy on a mission to steal the rocket pack. With Timothy Dalton’s looks and cheeky personality as Neville, the character is a very clear analogue for Errol Flynn.
The Rocketeer emphasizes Neville’s Errol Flynn influence by showing him as the recreation hero Sir Reginald on the film set. The laughing bandit, a nod to Flynn’s close association with Robin Hood. Flynn himself was also accused of being a Nazi spy in Charles Hingham’s 1980 biography Errol Flynn: The Untold Storyalthough numerous other biographers and relatives of Flynn have since refuted this portrayal of him. The Rocketeer also rewrites the history of the Hollywoodland poster through Neville’s disappearance, Neville crashing into the poster with the rocket and destroying the “land” section of it.
Eddie Valentine – Al Capone
In his search for the X-3, Neville Sinclair hires a gang from Los Angeles led by Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino), with Eddie only learning at the end of the film that Neville is a Nazi. Upon this discovery, Eddie immediately turns against Neville, fighting the Nazis alongside Cliff and the FBI. Although not confirmed, it seems very likely that Eddie Valentine is based on the most famous American crime boss in history, Al Capone.
Also known by the nicknames Scarface and Fonzo, Al Capone rose to the top of Chicago’s criminal underworld during the Prohibition era and amassed millions from the bootlegging operation of his criminal empire. Capone was eventually convicted of 22 counts of tax fraud, serving eight years in prison and later dying in Miami Beach, Florida, which forms the story of Josh Trank’s 2020 biopic. Capone. Neville’s parting words to Eddie from “Happy Valentine’s Day” also coyly references Capone’s involvement in the infamous 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The RocketeerThe 1938 setting is just one year before the release of The wind has taken it away, the film for which Clark Gable is best remembered for his portrayal of Rhett Butler. Gable began his career during the silent film era in the 1920s, and gradually became a leading man. Gable also served in the Army for two years during World War II, and has become known as the King of Hollywood.
Clark Gable makes a minor appearance The Rocketeer, played by Gene Daily. Gable’s very minor appearance occurs when Timothy Dalton’s dark antagonist Neville takes Jenny to Eddie Valentine’s South Seas Club. With Neville as a regular and Jenny as a newcomer enjoying the majestic splendor of the South Seas Club, Clark Gable greets Neville with “Hi Neville“, to which Neville replies “Hi Clark“.
During Neville and Jenny’s trip to the South Seas Club, Jenny meets another Hollywood star who happens to be a friend of Neville’s, William Claude Dunkenfield, better known as WC Fields. A comedian and vaudeville juggler, WC Fields, later established himself on Broadway and began his career in the motion picture industry during the silent film era. Throughout his career, Fields cultivated an image of portraying weary, belligerent characters with a penchant for drinking.
In The Rocketeer, WC Fields is played by Bob Leeman. Although his appearance isn’t much longer than Clark Gable’s, Fields strikes up a one-sided flirtatious conversation with Jennifer Connelly’s Jenny as she and Neville sit down to dinner, Fields telling Jenny that he is “totally ready to hear your life story” while Neville goes to talk to Eddie Valentine. In general, the fantasy of being able to take to the sky with a rocket pack like Cliff The Rocketeer its enduring magic. However, the film’s historical references and numerous real-life figures wrapped up in its story have played an equally important role in allowing it to stand the test of time. If it weren’t for the inclusion of The RocketeerThe multiple characters of ‘s based on and representative of a real person, it is unlikely that it would have effectively provided a winning combination of whimsy and realism.
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