The Conquest of the Air (1936)

 |  Drama, History  |  20 May 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 148 users  
Reviews: 6 user | 2 critic

This documentary traces man's attempts to fly from ancient times through the 1930s.


(commentary), (commentary), 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Frederick Culley ...
Franklin Dyall ...
Jerome de Ascoli
Hay Petrie ...
Tiberius Cavallo
John Turnbull ...
Charles Lefeaux ...
Bryan Powley ...
Alan Wheatley ...
Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier


This drama follows man's attempts to fly from ancient times through the first balloons, the Wright Brothers, and other pioneers, using dramatic re-enactment and working models of early flying machines. Beginning with World War I, archival footage is used. Much on mid-1930s commercial aircraft and experimental planes including early helicopters. In conclusion, some sword-rattling appropriate to the opening months of World War II. Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

leonardo da vinci | aviation | See All (2) »


Drama | History


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Release Date:

20 May 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Conquest of the Air  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


First Film of Alan Wheatley. See more »


Lilenthal is still breathing when he is discovered 'dead' by his assistant. See more »


Narrator: The great interest displayed by the spectators was not so much due to the historical importance of the flight as to the roaring fire kindled immediately under the flimsy and very flammable balloon, which gave the adventure a suicidal aspect. The crowd looked forward to the same enjoyment they would obtain from a public execution.
See more »


Referenced in Round the Film Studios: No. 2 Denham Part 5 (1937) See more »

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User Reviews

Alas: Not the film it was meant to be!
22 January 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

To clarify some questions raised by other user comments, I quote from the liner notes to a CD collection called "Classic British Film Music," which includes a suite from the score Arthur Bliss composed for the original version of the film:

"CONQUEST OF THE AIR was planned as an epic chronicle of mankind's romance with flight from the early legend of Icarus to speedy aerial circumnavigations of the modern age. This history was to be retold as a series of lavishly mounted tableaux vivants featuring, among others, Hay Petrie as a corpulent Tiberius Caesar ... and Laurence Olivier in fine voice as the grandiloquent balloonist Vincent Lunardi. However the film was not immediately released--appearing belatedly in 1940 in a much truncated form--running for only seventy-one minutes—and with many of its original sequences either missing or drastically curtailed—but with additional scenes added impress the extent of Britain's growing military airpower. During the wholesale dismantling of the original footage, no account was taken of Bliss's music, which was copped up along with the film stock" .... (Liner notes by David Wishart)

So keep in mind when viewing the film as it now survives that this is a very poor "remix" of something we will almost certainly never see, and that might have been very fine.

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