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:
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):
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.