War Eagles Memorabilia

An Undead Backbrain article on the never-made Willis O’Brien project War Eagles remains one of this site’s most read entries, one which continues to generate interest.

Now correspondent Richfrog has drawn my attention to the fact that pictures and other material relating to the abandoned film production went up for auction on eBay back in 2007 — a fact talked about on the Classic Horror Film Messageboard at the time.

Thanks to Richfrog and Board correspondent HalLane — and two others, SAM33 and JimPV — we now have some more images from the project and more information on it. The picture below accompanied the auction details. Note that the three top drawings visible were apparently (and recognisably) done by O’Brien apprentice Ray Harryhausen for his One Million Years BC film:

wareaglesep1Click to enlarge

eBay auction notes from July 2007:

Lot 298. Archive of original scripts and production material from the un-produced Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien prehistoric fantasy, War Eagles. In 1938-39, legendary filmmakers Merian C. Cooper and Willis O’Brien (King Kong) teamed with screenwriter Cyril Hume (Forbidden Planet), and under the production banner of MGM Studios, came up with a film project they hoped would rival RKO’s wondrous Kong, produced six years earlier. War Eagles (originally titled White Eagle), an adventure fantasy, was to be a visual rollercoaster of thrills and chills. The screenplay is filled with the daring exploits of a stalwart American aviator and hero, a lost volcanic world, Viking warriors astride giant prehistoric eagles, menacing dinosaurs, blood-thirsty ape-men, a beautiful damsel in distress and a breathtaking finale — a mighty aerial battle between these winged giants and their Viking riders versus a fleet of deadly enemy bombers from somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and set against, over and through the skyline of New York City. Unfortunately, a lofty budget, war clouds breaking over Europe, front-office fears and fate all conspired to shelve this most ambitious fantasy. Only the legend remained and for more than sixty years, that’s all it has been.

The legend now takes on reality in the form of this collection of scripts and production notes — filled with all the action, thrills, monsters, danger and excitement — that remain to tell us what might have been. This unique collection contains the original Merian C. Cooper outline of the story dated September 20, 1938; two original mimeographed and compete screenplays by Cyril Hume, dated July 31, 1939 and September 28, 1939; nine original 8 in. x 10 in. black and white vintage photographs of production design sketches by O’Brien and others; two vintage “location” photographs of the lost valley; two original stills from O’Brien’s first masterpiece of special effects, The Lost World; twelve reference production design photos from War Eagles (including those from the vast archives of the legendary Forrest J. Ackerman!); a complete photocopied reference final shooting script by Hume dated October 10, 1939; and over one hundred photocopied file pages of research notes from the MGM vaults. The original outline and two scripts are bound in official MGM covers with all authentic markings. A unique collection of materials from a unique and much lamented unrealized motion picture.

The proposed cost range was given as $3,000-$5,000.

The following is an article on War Eagles from the magazine Modern Monsters, issue 4, published in 1966 (via SAM33):

wareaglesyz9Click to enlarge

Below are two on-set War Eagles production shots, as published in “the terrific Cinefex issue on Obie” (JimPV):



Unfortunately the auction site is long gone, but perhaps one day whoever bought the lot will allow the various War Eagles prints and images to be more widely seen. In fact, it sounds as though there might be enough material in the collection to produce a book on the legendary “lost” production.

Thanks, Richfrog.

This entry was posted in Archival, Dinosaurs, Giant Monsters, Where's the Film?. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to War Eagles Memorabilia

  1. Avery says:

    WOW!! This is fantastic! It’s very sad that the original version was never made. Atleast we are getting the new film version which I’m sure will be a blast, and I’m so looking forward to it, but certainly not as good as what could have been.

  2. Tim says:

    I’m confused now. I thought War Eagles was cancelled, but now that I check IMDB the status has been updated to a supposed 2012 release, and the company label of “Ray Harryhausen Presents” has been dropped. Does anyone know if the eagles will fly?

  3. Avery says:

    Hi Tim. Yes, it’s now in the hands of ‘Sprit Ent.Group’ who are also handling the film adaption of “Kong: King Of Skull Island”.

  4. Avery says:

    Sorry, that would be “Spirit Ent. Group”.

  5. Richfrog says:

    Man lets hope this finally gets made!!!

    Harryhausen will never die!

  6. Pingback: Undead Backbrain » Blog Archive » Visions of War Eagles

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  8. charles says:

    Im working with the Obrien Estate to sell his whole collection and there is still War Eagle stuff as well as a few more unproduced projects

  9. Robert Hood says:

    Charles, any chance of seeing the War Eagles stuff and hearing more about the unproduced projects? This sounds very exciting. If possible, email me on:

    spookshow at roberthood.net

    I would love to hear more.

  10. Richfrog – This site is wonderful – Does anyone know where I can buy a copy of the final draft screenplay or copies of the pictures. Where can I find info on the new version of the film that is mentioned here? Thanks – themadpen@hotmail.com I used to own O’Brien’s script with his hand colord pencil drawings of the production, but donated it to Forry Ackerman

  11. greenblade says:

    I seem to remember seeing, as a kid, in Famous Monsters or
    another monster mag, an image of pterodactyls* and dirigibles in aerial battle near the Empire State or Chrysler Building. It was very cool and period. A pre-production painting maybe?
    Does something like this actually exist? Can I buy a print of it? Please email me to let me know.

    * maybe it was eagles.

  12. enlarge says:

    Awesome material. Memorabillia is top of the range.

  13. Pingback: War Eagles Re-Visited « monsterminions

  14. Richfrog says:

    I received official word from the Harryhausen website via e-mail.

    The War Eagles project has been officially dropped. Harryhausen is too old to oversee the project in his early 90’s.

  15. Fred Bishop says:

    I didn’t know there was so much interest in this material. My Grandfather worked in as an assistant in the editing department at RKO in the 1930s and took home lots of unwanted stills and unused trims from King Kong and War Eagles plus some other dinosaur picture that got cancelled. Mostly silent film tests of dinosaurs, flying things and spiders etc. He gave me most of it boxed up. Now I know its worth something I will definately auction it on ebay as my teenage kids aren’t that interested in looking after it all when I’m gone.

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