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The High and the Mighty (1954)

 -  Action | Adventure | Drama  -  3 July 1954 (USA)
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When a commercial airliner develops engine problems on a trans-Pacific flight and the pilot loses his nerve, it is up to the washed-up co-pilot Dan Roman to bring the plane in safely.



(screenplay), (novel)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
May Holst
Lydia Rice
John Sullivan
Sally McKee
Ed Joseph
Gustave Pardee
David Brian ...
Ken Childs
Paul Kelly ...
Donald Flaherty
Humphrey Agnew
Julie Bishop ...
Lillian Pardee
Gonzales (as Gonzalez Gonzalez)
Howard Rice
Wally Brown ...
Lenny Wilby, navigator
Hobie Wheeler


When a commercial airliner develops engine problems on a trans-Pacific flight and the pilot loses his nerve, it is up to the washed-up co-pilot Dan Roman to bring the plane in safely. Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The 2-Year Best-Seller Sensation! The Year's Greatest Cast! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 July 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

William A. Wellman's The High and the Mighty  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (RCA Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 »


Neither the passenger plane nor the Coast Guard rescue B-17 have their flashing wingtip lights on as they fly towards each other. This omission, which is a violation of FAA regulations, is particularly dangerous because the planes are flying at night. See more »


[first lines]
Ben Sneed: Hey fella, ain't you Dan Roman?
Dan Roman: Yeah.
Ben Sneed: I heard you whistlin' and I said to myself only one guy does that just so.
See more »


Son of a Gambolier
("Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech")
Whistled by John Wayne
Dubbed by Muzzy Marcellino
See more »

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User Reviews

Not the classic everyone "remembers"
13 July 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I went to the DVD premiere screening of THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY tonight (12 June 2005) at Paramount studios. It was a big red-carpet event, and I saw a number of people associated with the film there, though there are a scant handful of the cast still surviving. Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez, William Campbell, and Robert Easton were there, and from bits of applause during the screening, I suspect that a few others were there as well. Of course, all of the major character players are gone: Wayne, Stack, Trevor, Day, Sterling, Harris, Newton, Brian, Kelly, Blackmer, and Qualen. Other than Karen Sharpe and William Schallert, I'm not certain whether anyone yet unmentioned is still alive. Doe Avedon probably is (she was really lovely as the flight attendant).

As some have speculated, there's no way for this film to live up to the hype that has grown up because of its near-forty year unavailability. It's been beautifully restored. The picture quality seems to my uneducated eye to be impeccable, and the sound is really magnificent. And there are some moments of nice performance, particularly by Wayne, Robert Stack, Jan Sterling, and John Qualen. But as much as I would love to say this is a resurrected masterpiece, it simply isn't possible for me to do so honestly. After AIRPLANE!, I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect people to take a Fifties airliner disaster movie seriously. But the level of corn and hokum and treacle and syrup in which the film wallows (especially in the primary sections dealing with the passengers rather than the crew) is simply intolerable in today's world. I'm not referring to the fact that it's a different practical world now, one in which it would be ludicrous to show a passenger pulling a gun on another passenger on an airliner of today. I'm referring rather to the simple unbelievability of the human behavior exhibited. I'm willing to accept a passenger getting aboard a trans-Pacific airliner with a gun in his pocket in 1954. I'm not willing to accept him pulling that gun, threatening other passengers with it, having it taken from him, and later having it handed back to him just because he says, "I'm all right now, I've calmed down." Phil Harris, fifty at the time and looking sixty, plays a 38-year-old, and 43-year-old Ann Doran plays his 30-year-old wife. Laraine Day berates her husband and demands a divorce, and good ol' Phil says to the husband, "You think you got problems?" and proceeds to tell him about how rain and crummy hotels ruined his vacation, and the husband (John Howard) thus sees his own life in a new perspective. Every cliché imaginable comes into play, and rarely is there a moment that can be easily swallowed, even with Herculean efforts to place oneself mentally in the zeitgeist of the film.

Only in the cockpit are things comparatively realistic and believable, and even there big pills must be swallowed. One of the reasons John Wayne comes off so well in this film is he has relatively little to say. It's probably the lowest line-count of any of Wayne's leading roles, and thus unsaddled with the maudlinities and sappiness of the dialog the passengers are stuck with, he comes off better than anyone in the picture. Spencer Tracy was supposed to play Wayne's role but turned it down (according to various stories) either because he thought the script was lousy or he didn't want to work for taskmaster William Wellman. I'm betting on the former reason.

There are still things to like in THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (Dimitri Tiomkin's Oscar-winning score among them), but an awful lot of people have been waiting forty years to see this "masterwork" again, and an awful lot of them are going to be either seriously disappointed or forced to convince themselves that it's not as bad as it seems.

74 of 113 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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