It’s not uncommon for Suns players to get together on the road and catch a movie. What is uncommon is that one of them may be personally connected to the film that they’re watching.
Such was the case with Red Tails, George Lucas’ latest motion picture that focuses on the Tuskegee Airmen, an all-black World War II fighter pilot squad. It just so happened that Channing Frye’s grandfather, John Mulzac, was a member of the historic squadron.
Although it’s first and foremost an action movie that reenacts dogfights from the war, the film also calls attention to the tremendous amount of prejudice that African-Americans faced during that period of time. Occasionally, Frye’s grandfather would talk to the Suns’ power forward about his experiences in the war.
“He had so many stories,” Frye recalled. “But I think the biggest thing that stood out was when he first walked in there, he talked about how utterly disrespectful he was treated and everything that he had to deal with during that time.”
On an off-day on the road, the players that usually band together to form the “Suns Cinema Club” include Frye, Grant Hill, Josh Childress, Michael Redd and Jared Dudley. Dudley is usually the organizer of the group, but on this occasion, Hill was the catalyst to see the movie.
The Suns’ co-captain received a text from fellow Dukie and Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer to go out and support the film. Dudley, who was unaware of the Tuskegee Airmen’s story before seeing the movie, came away with an incredible appreciation for their role in American history after watching it.
“You saw the perseverance that they had to have and everything that they had to go through,” Dudley said. “Once they were given a chance to go, they made good on it, and that’s what you have to do in life. No matter what race you are, once your opportunity comes knocking, you’ve got to make it happen.”
As recorded in history, the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber to enemy action during any of their missions. Frye said that his grandfather made him aware of that amazing statistic when he was a youngster. But he also made it clear that the pilots weren’t out to pitch a perfect game.
“At the time, they just wanted to make sure that everybody got home,” Frye said. “But as life went on, it became an incredible story of how nobody died and nobody got hurt.
“He said the fact that they were all so mistreated brought them together. They developed a ‘we’re-going-to-show-you’ type of attitude.”
The DVD of the film was released into stores this week.