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I stumbled across this gem of a period piece recently, and the airline enthusiast in me couldn't pass it up. I wasn't disappointed. Heathrow (pardon me.... London Airport) is bustling with efficient airline personnel, sharply dressed and not at all worked up over the 12-hour delay caused by a thick London fog. Passengers all receive individualized attention, and are guided through their layover by attendants who address them each by name. These are innocent times for air travel. The airport restaurant divides those who have been through customs from those who haven't by simply hanging a red cordon across the middle of the room. No metal detectors or baggage scanners here. My favorite scene is the final one, an over-the-top display of the many different ethnicities in the terminal lobby, all in pairs, all wearing native dress. It's a contrived and forced attempt to create an environment which is natural today. Oh yes.... the love story? Of course it's there, along with all of the expected trappings of a 1955 B&W drama. But don't watch this film for the love story. Watch it for a loving recollection of the early days of air travel in all its naive glamour.
After Ealing's 'Dead of Night', ensemble films-- sets of short stories
linked by theme- caught on in Britain. And after 'Train of Events'
(1949), Relph and Dearden had another bash with this pre-'Airport' (and
pre-'Airplane!') compendium of tears, love and laughter set at London's
Heathrow Airport. Michael Balcon eased the purse strings to permit
shooting in Eastmancolour-- all those blue skies and silver speed
birds-- but the cast, apart from Lorenz and the British-based American
David Knight, is British Commonwealth (Robert Beattie, a Canadian,
worked mainly over here) and the low-key tone is Anglo too.
'Out of the Clouds' can be seen as a continuation of the post-war 'victory against the odds' genre: uniforms, stiff upper lips, quasi-military routines with room for the odd romance or shared confidence between male pilots (officers) and subservient female stewardesses. During a sticky landing, the airport firemen standing by are shot from heroic low angles as if by Humphrey Jennings. Anthony Steel as a philandering, smuggling cockpit jockey is like the statutory bad apple in a POW camp.
But wartime memories feed into the film's inspiration in a less obvious manner. It reflects a brief surge of optimism about Britain leading the world in civil aviation.
Heathrow, though it looks like a desert here, has been operating for almost ten years. It is on its way to becoming the busiest crossroads of air travel, as well as the greatest noise pollution disaster in Europe. The central area already has its control tower and first purpose-built terminal-- a far cry from the tent city which hastily arose in 1945 after a cabal of civil servants and airline managers fooled Churchill into green lighting the forced appropriation of Middlesex's best farmland, on the pretext that the RAF needed a bigger field near London than Northolt. In the movie all the airliners are prop-driven; but De Havilland has just produced the first jet, the Comet, and its fatal metal-fatigue flaws are not yet understood.
Here on view is the half-forgotten period when passengers embarked so near the lounge that friends could wave them on board; when stewardesses, not Tannoys, addressed travellers courteously and by name; when security precautions were cursory; when BOAC and Pan Am embodied national pride; and, more fancifully, when a cabbie would give a foreign couple a tour of 'the real London' ending in his own home.
Interestingly the main plot concerns an Auschwitz survivor: very rare in film fiction 50 years ago. This Austrian orphan is diverted from marrying an elderly ex-GI in Wisconsin by meeting a young hydrologist who wants to make the desert bloom in the new Israel. Balcon seldom let his Jewishness show so clearly.
Britflick fans will enjoy plane-spotting faces such as James Robertson Justice, on the verge of Hollywood stardom in 'Land of the Pharoahs'; ever-fluttery, downtrodden Esma Cannon; Sid James, gambling on his wife's life with travel insurance; Terence Alexander, the future Charlie Hungerford of 'Bergerac', as a flight controller; Abraham Sofaer, celestial judge in 'A Matter of Life and Death', as a talkative Indian; and Bernard Lee, aka 'M', as a customs man with a nose for Steel's suitcase shenanigans.
Steel, as usual, projects suave unreliability, like a more reined-in Laurence Harvey. Twenty years later he would be outraging Corinne Cléry in 'Histoire d'O'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ealing Studios were more well known for their comedies, but they did
several dramas as well, including this one. I taped this when Channel 4
screened it recently one afternoon. I was surprised to find it in
colour as I was expecting it to be in black and white.
It is about a day in the life of what is now Heathrow Airport. The main story is about an American man and an engaged woman going to different destinations and fall in love with each other almost straight away. At the end, she breaks off her engagement and agrees to marry the American. This would not have happened if the airport had not closed for 12 hours due to fog. Another story is involving a pilot whose plane returns after take off on three engines and refuses to take it out again until it is fully repaired.
The cast is made up of several well known British stars: Anthony Steel, Robert Beatty, Margo Lorenz, James Robertson Justice, Bernard Lee (Q in the Bond movies) and a brief appearance by Carry On star Sid James.
Watching Out Of the Clouds is an ideal way to spend around an hour and a half one afternoon or evening. Excellent.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the 1940s and 1950s, Ealing Studios periodically released films
which offered an almost anatomical view of various institutions or
locations. This led to fare like "The Square Ring" and "Out of the
Clouds", with their behind-the-scenes looks at airports and boxing
clubs, "Painted Boats", which delved into the world of Britain's canal
systems, or "Dance Hall" and to a lesser extent "The Cruel Sea", with
their naval corvettes and dance clubs.
The best example of this trend was 1955's "Out of the Clouds". Directed by Basil Dearden, and taking place over the course of almost twenty four hours, the film is composed of several sub-stories, each dealing with the passengers, crew and support-staff working at or passing through London Airport.
The vignettes in "Out of the Clouds" are mostly trite. We observe the anxieties of pilots, we watch as passengers fall in love and we watch as various radar operators, duty officers and stewardesses go about their business. Others struggle to forge romantic relationships in a job that hinges on transience. Though these sub-stories are uninteresting, the way the film juggles all its subplots is somewhat sophisticated. Evocative of Robert Altman, with its criss-crossing lives and its suggestions of a sprawling world in flux, the film's style is fairly atypical of its era. It also utilises huge sets to simulate the interior of airport terminal buildings, some of which are impressive.
In the post-war years, Ealing Studios released a number of films which attempted to both glorify working-class men and women and convey pride in what it deemed to be "Britishness". We see this in "Clouds", with its proud workers, and its pride in British institutions (Heathrow Airport was then state owned), workforces and systems. Today British cinema is mostly a joke. Anonymous and vacuous, its once unique identity has long been destroyed by Hollywood mores and the almighty dollar. Anthony Steel and future Bond-girl, Eunice Gayson, star.
6/10 - Worth one viewing.
This is a fascinating ensemble piece, well directed by Basil Dearden, which creates a combination of personal dramas involving pilots, passengers, and airport personnel and shows how their stories cross and intermingle. Robert Beatty plays an ex-pilot who has become the head of operations at the airport, but hates being on the ground and longs to get back to his old job of flying over the Atlantic. But the doctor will not pass him. James Robertson Justice is an experienced pilot who repeatedly refuses to take off in a plane because he rightly says he hears something wrong with one of the four engines. Sid James has a bit part. There is a touching love story about two young people (played by David Knight and Margo Lorenz) who meet at the airport while waiting for their delayed planes to take off in opposite directions. The film works very well dramatically, but its chief interest today is the extraordinary portrait of Heathrow Airport as it was in the mid-1950s. In those days you could drive a car right onto the tarmac. Ah, those were the days, before everybody got up tight. Anyone interested in the history of commercial aviation needs to see this film, it is a 'must'. And it is very entertaining as well. It is not done in a semi-documentary style at all but is entirely done as a dramatic film which incorporates the details of the airport and shows how everything works.
I watched this on December 21st of December 2006, and it's really a thick fog covering most of the country, including of course London airports. The t.v. was full of pictures of massive crowds trying to get away. This film took you back to the same airport that is fog bound today. In those days it looked almost an enjoyment to be fog bound. It's a great old film full of atmosphere of the times. No drunken swearing passengers dressed as if they had come straight from work, all well behaved passengers who spoke very well and behaved admirably. None of the passengers complained it was the airports fault like today, all agreed it was the terrible weather. Good old fashion British black and white film, with stars of the day. Watch it again and again and you will find its different every time, its almost as if you were there It does what 'Oh Mr. Porter' and the 'Ghost train' did for rail travel fans, pure yester year atmosphere. Peachy Mead
Ealing loved its portmanteau films.If the stories are good enough eg Dead of Night then the film becomes a classic.If they are as bad as these then the film becomes instantly forgettable.None of the stories in this film is of much interest,and the love story is badly written and acted.Having seen this film before I decided to fast forward through the sequences featuring this laboured tale of romance.Therefore the only real interest is in watching a film set in an airport at the beginning of the jet age and comparing the differences to the current age of jet travel.Everything seems so stress free and controlled unlike today's environment.By the way this was definitely not a B feature.Colour was too expensive for B features in the fifties,it just feels like a B Feature.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this film because it is set at Heathrow airport in 1955. For
a convinced fan of the (pre-jet and now long since swept away)
airliners of that era,(me, but I wasn't alive then) this film is
nirvana, but otherwise, it seems to me that it is a typical absolute
clunker of a British B-movie film of the fifties. The love scenes were
so bad that I had to fast forward through them and the taxi ride
sequence is just plain daft.
So watch this film for its amazing aircraft and also for a very interesting view of how innocent and courteous international air travel was in the mid-fifties, compared with the sometimes nightmare conditions of today. Interesting also to see Terence Alexander (of later Bergerac fame as the millionaire Charlie Hungerford) pop up in an early role; and Sid James and Bernard Lee.
At London Airport, a variety of staff and passengers pass each other, their
various stories are told here some intertwined some separate. Two
passengers passing through meet briefly and develop a bond that seems due to
be broken, an ex-pilot tries to pass his medical and get his wings back
while another has to make a decision when faced with temptation.
Modern audiences will be very familiar with ensemble films that have several characters whose stories overlap around one theme (in this case the airport). However it doesn't really manage to pull this off to any great degree and it struggles to really paint an overall picture that engages. The main part of the plot is the romantic meeting between two passengers; this doesn't work for several reasons. Firstly, the plotting of it is strained and I never really bought into it. Secondly the performances from the two actors involved are so poor that the material can't survive past that.
The rest of the film has a few interesting strands with the pilots but again these don't really work out. Part of the reason for this is the film just not having enough time to really develop the characters into real characters, rather than just stories. The lack of character meant that I wasn't involved in the tale, rather just watching it. It is a shame because I haven't seen such a film from this period, even though I could name several from the past 10 years, but it just doesn't work out.
Overall it was a good try but the poor stories really draw a lot away from those that had potential. The film struggles more because the stories with potential are not supported or developed enough to be involving.
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