The Man in the Sky

Last updated

The Man in the Sky
The Man in the Sky UK 1957 quad poster.jpg
Directed by Charles Crichton
Screenplay by John Eldridge
William Rose
Story byWilliam Rose
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring Jack Hawkins
Elizabeth Sellars
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Edited by Peter Tanner
Music by Gerard Schurmann
Production
company
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • 24 January 1957 (1957-01-24)(UK [1] )
Running time
86 minutes [2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget$486,000 [3]
Box office$500,000 [3]

The Man in the Sky (released in the U.S. as Decision Against Time) is a 1957 thriller drama film starring Jack Hawkins and produced by Ealing Films, Michael Balcon's new company, set up after Rank had sold Ealing Studios in Ealing Green, West London, to the BBC in 1955. Balcon, who had run the company on behalf of Rank since 1944, left Rank in 1956 and set up the new company, striking a distribution and production deal with MGM. This was the first Ealing production to be made at MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, North London.

Contents

Plot

Test pilot John Mitchell (Jack Hawkins) is married with two young sons and lives in a rented semi-detached house in the suburbs of Wolverhampton. He disappoints his wife Mary (Elizabeth Sellars) by refusing to increase their bid to buy a house from £3,500 to the asking price of £4,000, which he says they cannot afford. What she does not know is that the aircraft manufacturing company he works for is in desperate financial straits. Owner Reginald Conway (Walter Fitzgerald) needs to convince potential buyer Ashmore (Eddie Byrne) to place an order soon or the firm will go bankrupt. Mitchell takes the only prototype of a new freight aeroplane for a flight, with Ashmore and several of Conway's employees aboard. It has the maximum cargo on board: three heavy vehicles including a Rolls-Royce. Ashmore explains he is close to accepting a deal. During testing, one engine catches fire.

Ashmore and the others parachute to safety over the airfield. Mitchell is able to extinguish the fire by diving the aeroplane, but loses half of his aileron control in the process. It is suggested to fly on for two hours to reduce the fuel. Then, despite Conway's order and the urgings of others, he decides to try to land the aeroplane rather than crashing it into the sea. However, he has to fly back and forth for half an hour to use up fuel, shifting the centre of gravity in the aircraft away from the dead engine to make the landing more feasible. Ashmore is convinced of the aircraft's value by its performance in the dive and expresses confidence in Mitchell's ability to land it.

A freelance journalist (Howard Marion-Crawford) comes to the airfield to collect information for a story. As he waits for the plane to use up enough fuel to try a landing, the journalist tries to sell the story to a newspaper and is told that they will pay him £50 for the story if the plane crashes, but if the pilot lands the plane safely the newspaper does not want the story.

During the tense wait, after all the others have rejected the idea as serving no purpose, office worker Mrs Snowden (Megs Jenkins) takes it upon herself to notify Mitchell's wife by phone, anyway. Mary goes to the airfield and watches as her husband undertakes the tricky landing. She gets a friend to drive her home so Mitch is unaware that she saw the whole thing. Later, at home, she demands to know why he risked his life when everyone told him to bail out. He explains that while he felt it was his duty with the company's fate hanging in the balance, he took the risk out of love and concern for the welfare of his family. Then he phones the estate agent and agrees to the seller's price of the house mentioned earlier.

Cast

Production

Much of the filming of The Man in the Sky was done at Pendeford airfield near Wolverhampton, now a housing estate. The aircraft portraying the "Wolverhampton Freighter" was Bristol 170 Wayfarer Mk.IIA G-AIFV of Silver City Airways, a type that had actually been flying since 1946. During filming, the aircraft overshot the runway, damaging the nose and wing. After filming, the aircraft returned to service with Silver City Airways until May 1962, when it was scrapped. [4] [N 1]

Reception

The Man in the Sky premiered in London at the Empire, Leicester Square on 24 January 1957, [1] and the reviewer for The Times called it "an Ealing film with a difference". [5] According to MGM records, The Man in the Sky earned $150,000 in the US and Canada and $350,000 elsewhere. [3]

Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo in Aviation in the Cinema (1985) considered The Man in the Sky as part of the lineage of the "test pilot-hero" films of the 1950s. [6] Aviation film historian Michael Paris in From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema (1995) shared a similar perspective on the film. [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Balcon</span> English film producer

Sir Michael Elias Balcon was an English film producer known for his leadership of Ealing Studios in West London from 1938 to 1955. Under his direction, the studio became one of the most important British film studios of the day. In an industry short of Hollywood-style moguls, Balcon emerged as a key figure, and an obdurately British one too, in his benevolent, somewhat headmasterly approach to the running of a creative organization. He is known for his leadership, and his guidance of young Alfred Hitchcock.

<i>Flying Wild</i> 1941 film

Flying Wild is a 1941 film directed by William Beaudine under the pseudonym "William West" as the fifth installment of the East Side Kids series which eventually totaled 22 films. The film is the team's first one in the spy film genre.

<i>Zero Hour!</i> 1957 American drama film directed by Hall Bartlett

Zero Hour! is a 1957 drama film directed by Hall Bartlett from a screenplay by Bartlett, Arthur Hailey, and John Champion. It stars Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and Sterling Hayden and features Peggy King, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, Geoffrey Toone, and Jerry Paris in supporting roles. It was released by Paramount Pictures.

<i>The Shiralee</i> (1957 film) 1957 British film

The Shiralee is a 1957 British film in the Australian Western genre. It was made by Ealing Studios, starring Peter Finch, directed by Leslie Norman and based on the 1955 novel by D'Arcy Niland. Although all exterior scenes were filmed in Sydney, Scone and Binnaway, New South Wales and Australian actors Charles Tingwell, Bill Kerr and Ed Devereaux played in supporting roles, the film is really a British film made in Australia, rather than an Australian film.

<i>The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell</i> 1955 film by Otto Preminger

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell is a 1955 American CinemaScope biographical drama film directed by Otto Preminger, and starring Gary Cooper and co-starring Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy, Rod Steiger, and Elizabeth Montgomery in her film debut. The film is based on the notorious 1925 court-martial of General Billy Mitchell, who is considered a founder of the U.S. Air Force.

<i>Julie</i> (1956 film) 1956 film by Andrew L. Stone

Julie is a 1956 American film noir written and directed by Andrew L. Stone and starring Doris Day, Louis Jourdan and Barry Sullivan. The film is among the earliest to feature the subplot of a stewardess piloting an aircraft to safety, later used in Airport 1975 (1975) and parodied in Airplane! (1980). Julie is also notable for being technically accurate in its use of contemporary aviation technology.

Charles Herbert Frend was an English film director and editor, best known for his films produced at Ealing Studios. He began directing in the early 1940s and is known for such films as Scott of the Antarctic (1948) and The Cruel Sea (1953).

<i>Angels One Five</i> 1952 film

Angels One Five is a 1952 British war film directed by George More O'Ferrall and starring Jack Hawkins, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, John Gregson, Cyril Raymond and Veronica Hurst. Based on the book What Are Your Angels Now? by Pelham Groom, the plot centres on a young fighter pilot immediately before and during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Some scenes in the film were shot at RAF Uxbridge, where there was a wartime operations room.

<i>Central Airport</i> (film) 1933 film

Central Airport is a 1933 American pre-Code aviation drama film directed by William A. Wellman, based on the John C. "Jack" Moffitt story, "Hawk's Mate". The film stars Richard Barthelmess and Sally Eilers. Central Airport was produced and released by Warner Bros., on April 15, 1933. John Wayne had an uncredited part in the film, playing a co-pilot, and this film features his first on-screen death.

<i>Ceiling Zero</i> 1936 film by Howard Hawks

Ceiling Zero is a 1936 American adventure drama film directed by Howard Hawks and starring James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. The picture stars Cagney as daredevil womanizing pilot "Dizzy" Davis and O'Brien as Jake Lee, his war veteran buddy and the operations manager of an airline company. Based on a stage play of the same name, the film blends drama with some light comedy. The title, as defined at the beginning of the picture, is an insider term referring to those moments when the sky is so thick with fog that navigating an aircraft is nearly impossible.

<i>Death in the Air</i> 1936 film by Elmer Clifton

Death in the Air is a 1937 American film directed by Elmer Clifton and stars Lona Andre, John Carroll, Leon Ames and Henry Hall. The film is also known as Murder in the Air in the United Kingdom and as The Mysterious Bombardier. The film was Fanchon Royer's first production for her new company, Fanchon Royer Features, Inc. Film Daily reported that noted "G-Man" Melvin Purvis was offered a role in this film, but turned it down.

<i>Sky Devils</i> 1932 film

Sky Devils, also known as Ground Hogs, is a 1932 American Pre-Code aviation comedy film, starring Spencer Tracy as a draft dodger who blunders into a war zone.

<i>Sky Murder</i> 1940 American film

Sky Murder is a 1940 detective film starring Walter Pidgeon as detective Nick Carter in his third and final outing for MGM as Nick Carter. The film was part of a trilogy based on original screen stories starring the popular literary series character. In the heightened tensions prior to World War II, Hollywood produced many films in the spy film genre such as Sky Murder.

<i>Sky Bride</i> 1932 film

Sky Bride is a 78-minute 1932 drama film, produced by Paramount Pictures and directed by Stephen Roberts. The film stars Richard Arlen, Jack Oakie and Virginia Bruce. Sky Bride depicts the life of barnstorming pilots flying in the years following World War I. All over North America, skilled pilots, many of them veterans of the aerial combat of World War I, plied their trade on the barnstorming circuit of the 1920s in small towns where impromptu air shows were staged.

<i>Top of the World</i> (1955 film) 1955 film by Lewis R. Foster

Top of the World is a 1955 American aviation adventure film, directed by Lewis R. Foster, and written by John D. Klorer and N. Richard Nash. The film starred Dale Robertson, Evelyn Keyes, Frank Lovejoy, Nancy Gates, Paul Fix, Robert Arthur, and Peter Hansen. Composer Albert Glasser composed the music to the film.

<i>The Phantom Flyer</i> 1928 film

The Phantom Flyer is a 1928 American silent Western and aviation film directed by Bruce M. Mitchell and starring Al Wilson, Lillian Gilmore and Buck Connors. The film was produced and distributed by the Universal Pictures. The Phantom Flyer was one of a series of films that showcased the exploits of the stunt pilots in Hollywood.

<i>Flying Romeos</i> 1928 film

Flying Romeos is a 1928 American comedy adventure directed by Mervyn LeRoy and written by John McDermott, Sidney Lazarus, Gene Towne and John W. Conway. The film stars the comedy team of Charles Murray and George Sidney, stars of Universal's popular "The Cohens and Kellys" comedies, moonlighting at First National Pictures. Other sidekicks included Fritzi Ridgeway, Lester Bernard, Duke Martin, James Bradbury Jr. and Belle Mitchell. Flying Romeos was released on February 26, 1928, by First National Pictures, typically a B movie studio.

<i>Happy Landing</i> (1934 film) 1934 film directed by Robert N. Bradbury

Happy Landing is a 1934 American action film directed by Robert N. Bradbury and starring Ray Walker, Julie Bishop and William Farnum.

<i>The Air Patrol</i> 1928 film

The Air Patrol is a 1928 American drama film directed by Bruce M. Mitchell and written by William Berke and Gardner Bradford from a story by Al Wilson, the star. The film stars Al Wilson, Elsa Benham, Jack Mower, Frank Tomick, Monte Montague and Taylor N. Duncan. The film was released on January 1, 1928, by Universal Pictures. The Air Patrol was one of a series of films that showcased the exploits of the stunt pilots in Hollywood.

<i>Pirates of the Sky</i> 1926 film

Pirates of the Sky is a 1926 American silent adventure melodrama film directed by Charles Andrews. The film stars Charles Hutchison, Wanda Hawley and Crauford Kent. In different sources, Pirates of the Sky distributed by Pathé Exchange has conflicting release dates of February 20, 1926 and March 21, 1927.

References

Notes

  1. Bristol Freighter 170 Mk.31 also appeared in the film. [4]

Citations

  1. 1 2 "Picture Theatres, Empire, The Man in the Sky". The Times, 24 January 1957, page 2, first column. Retrieved: 29 August 2015.
  2. "Runtime: 'The Man in the Sky'." BBFC, 2019. Retrieved: 11 June 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 "The Eddie Mannix Ledger." Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study (Los Angeles), 2019.
  4. 1 2 Santoir, Christian. "Flames in the Sky: 'The Man in the Sky'." Aeromovies, 26 November 2011. Retrieved: 11 June 2019.
  5. ". The Times, 28 January 1957, p. 12. Retrieved: 29 August 2015.
  6. Pendo 1985, p. 26.
  7. Paris 1995, p. 200.

Bibliography

  • Paris, Michael. From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995. ISBN   978-0-7190-4074-0.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN   0-8-1081-746-2.