The High and the Mighty (1954) Prime

April 21st, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: William A Wellman | Cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, Robert Stack, Jan Sterling | US Disaster Movie 147′

Indispensable viewing for anyone interested in Hollywood in general and the 1950s in particular, when air travel was glamorous. Former WWI pilot William A. Wellman immediately snapped up the 1953 novel by aviation specialist Ernest K. Gann and the result couldn’t fail to be irresistible box office fodder in the classic tradition of Grand Hotel and Stagecoach (the stars of which it reunites). Sidney Blackmer’s role recalls Berton Churchill in ‘Stagecoach’ and anticipates Van Heflin in Airport while Robert Stack actually parodied his role in this in Airplane!

It’s all very easy to sneer at the way the movie throws in everything but the kitchen sink, and the relentless promotion of Dimitri Tompkin’s Oscar-winning score (the theme of which John Wayne even whistles occasionally), complete with heavenly choirs. There’s also the oversight of not casting any black actors (although it does include an Asian). But with immaculate photography in CinemaScope and Warnercolor by Archie Stout and a fabulous cast there’s something for everyone. So just enjoy! @Richard Chatten

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