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One disaster after another happens on this trans-Pacific flight. You have the pilot who loses his nerve! The washed-up co-pilot. The milquetoast flight engineer. The young hot shot second officer. And a cabin full of passengers with every range of problems and personalities there could possibly be. Here you have the Duke in a role he didn't want, and a movie with the title song that became Duke's theme. What else could any John Wayne fan want? It's all here, and then some. Written by
The flying scenes were filmed during the third week in November 1953 using a DC-4 borrowed from Transocean Airlines. The ending scene showing all the passengers and crew disembarking in San Francisco according to the pilot was actually filmed at the old and now-defunct Glendale Air Terminal , where a special outdoor movie set was constructed to replicate the terminal gates at San Francisco in those days. See more »
In the flashback story her husband tells, Clara Joseph falls down some stairs and kicks a waiter's tray in the process. However, when they cut from the closeup of her feet, she is obviously sitting on the bottom step. She then leans back, takes aim, and kicks the tray. She then lies back like it was all one continuous motion. See more »
Soundtrack music is important. Try thinking of 'Star Wars' without John Williams' symphonic score, and you'll see what I'm saying. Dimitri Tiomkin knew exactly how to write for this picture, and how to move the audience, for without his classic and at times choral-accentuated theme and the rousing orchestral cues throughout, this would have been merely a good film rather than the near-great film that it is. Had it been made this year, for example, using a contemporary film composer, I believe TH&TM wouldn't carry it off.
There doesn't seem to be a replacement for Tiomkin on the horizon, and we couldn't afford to lose him.
The best lines belong to Jan Sterling (that cosmetics scene is still gripping), Robert Newton, and lovely Claire Trevor, and there's a great low-keyed, anticlimactic finale.
A Nine from me.
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