He helped to re-create many wars, beginning with the Civil War in the 1951 classic, "The Red Badge of Courage," directed by John Huston. At the end of his career, Flowers blew up bridges and villages in "Apocalypse Now," the controversial 1979 Francis Ford Coppola epic about the Vietnam War that recently was re-released in a longer, re-cut form.
Rigged House to Fall Over Cliff in '1941'
His success at turning filmmakers' illusions into reality required considerable technical knowledge of fields from hydraulics to electronics, which he learned at several trade schools. But it also relied on sheer nerve, as Flowers suggested in a story about a scene for Spielberg's "1941."
Flowers' challenge was to rig a two-story house to fall over a cliff--in one take. "If we goofed on the shot, the cost of rebuilding the house, plus actors, cameras, and crew, would have meant an additional two or three hundred thousand dollars," he recalled in the book "Special Effects in the Movies" by John Culhane. "After it was all set and the cameras were ready to roll, Steven Spielberg came over to me and said, 'Now, tell us exactly what's going to happen.' I looked at him for a moment before saying, 'Well, on the average, from the ones I've done in the past . . .' "
But Flowers had never heaved a house over a cliff before. It was, Culhane wrote, "Flowers' finest moment" in the film. The house crumpled without a hitch.
Flowers retired to Camarillo in 1979 after living for many years in Westchester. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, the former Vivian Lois "Vee" Shea; a daughter, Peggy Brogna of Brea; and three grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Jim.