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The Spirit of St. Louis
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Spirit of St. Louis More at IMDbPro »

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26 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

Billy Wilder captures the pioneering spirit of the era!

8/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
11 February 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Spirit of St. Louis" is Billy Wilder's film tribute to one of the best figures in aeronautical history, remembered for the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in May 1927 with James Stewart (a little too old for the part) playing Charles Lindbergh...

As a tribute it is eloquent enough and, although a few nice liberties may have been taken with historical fact, the motion picture describing the detailed odyssey before and after the Paris flight on May 20-21 in the monoplane "Spirit of St. Louis."

Although the lengthy internal monologue employed during the journey may be disappointing to an audience, the truth is that it helps keep the picture focused tightly on its essential point... Stewart dignified the portrait of one of the greatest adventurers in the air the world has ever know, departing, in a highly modified single engine monoplane, from Long Island, New York to Paris, France...

No action is depicted in the trip, only some flashbacks to break up the monotony of the long flight... But there is superb determination of the ordeal of a brave and talented pilot decided to fly alone... His equation is simple: less weight (one engine, one pilot) would increase fuel efficiency and allow for a longer flying range, but with so much risk... Lindbergh's claim to fame was doing something that many had tried and failed...

Even though Wilder has bravely put it upon the screen in a calm, unhurried fashion, it comes out as biography of intense restraint and power... But it is James Stewart's performance (controlled to the last detail) that gives life and strong, heroic stature to the principal figure in the film...

From it there, emerges an awareness of a clever, firm but truly humble man who tackles a task with resolution, plans as much about it as he can, makes his decisions with courageous finality and then awaits with only one thought in mind, to get to Paris... In his efforts to cut off the plane's weight, any item considered too heavy or unnecessary was left behind...

The record-setting flight proved not only to be a fight with the elements and a test of navigation, but also a long battle against fatigue... A busy schedule and an active mind kept Lindbergh up all of the previous night... Still, he managed to stay conscious enough to keep the monoplane from crashing and landed at Le Bourget Aerodrome, near Paris, 33 hours and 30 minutes after leaving New York...

Stewart gives an able portrait of a brave pilot who attains legendary status, emphasizing the intention and dominant resolution to fly nonstop 5,810 kilometers (3,610 miles) across the Atlantic...

Photographed in CinemaScope and WarnerColor and backed by Franz Waxman's beautiful music, the film effectively captures the pioneering spirit of the era and the hero's ultimate achievement since he takes off, that day, from Roosevelt wet field, and clears telephone wires at the end of the runway...

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Good entertainment.

8/10
Author: tomstanley1 from Atlanta, Georgia USA
25 March 2005

I have watched this film several times over the years and always find it an entertaining experience. As a retired airline pilot, I am interested in most aviation movies and this is one of the better ones. I know that Lindbergh was only 25 years old at the time of his historic solo flight to Paris and that James Stewart was almost 50 when making this movie but I can overlook that fact because Stewart has always been one of my all-time favorite actors and does one of his usual outstanding performances as the "lone eagle".

There is a good mixture of comedy and drama throughout the film and a good use of flashbacks. It also helps that James Stewart was a pilot in real life both in the military and civilian life.

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13 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Quite uplifting, this rather forgotten Wilder

Author: jandesimpson from United Kingdom
26 October 2004

Someone once said to me that there are only four basic movie plots: the first, boy meets girl: the second, man against apparently insuperable odds: the others.....I can't remember. Although I am not by nature agoraphobic, I guess when it comes to cinema I prefer the cosily domestic to wide open spaces. Every so often, however, I find myself responding to man battling it out against the elements, particularly if the point is being made that, without the sheer determination of an individual to grapple with prejudice and ignorance, civilization would not gain a pace or two forward. Billy Wilder's epic of human endeavour, "The Spirit of St. Louis", is just such an instance. It is heaps better than most in this category mainly through the excellent central performance by James Stewart as Charles Lindbergh, the first successful transatlantic flyer. True, Stewart was twice the age of the man he was portraying but he brilliantly manages the demeanour of a much younger person and has the advantage of being one of the very few actors able to convey the determined obsessive fanaticism that Lindbergh must have possessed. One can admire Wilder's skill in sustaining audience interest throughout what is essentially a one character and a one scene film but he achieves it through interspersing the present from the night before the takeoff, with flashbacks that retell the background to the mission, each a little story in itself, some quite tense such as Lindbergh's adventurous flight during a blizzard when he was a flying mail courier and others rather droll such as giving a flying lesson to a priest who is the most incompetent would-be aviator ever. The main journey once it gets going is mainly smooth and something of a leisurely travelogue with nice views over Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on the way. Far more dramatic is the takeoff during foul weather from a rain drenched runway in which Stewart grapples with his tiny aircraft narrowly clearing pylons and a clump of trees. The miracle that so flimsy a machine could make it not only for a few miles but across a vast ocean is reinforced by the hazardous implications of this wonderfully atmospheric sequence in a way that make the journey and the arrival in Paris quite uplifting.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

" But it's got to be tried, until it's accomplished! Don't you understand that ? "

9/10
Author: thinker1691 from USA
10 March 2009

The word impossible has led many to select a particular view concerning any incredible task. In 1927, it was believed no man could fly the breath of the Atlantic Ocean. Many had tried but failed and some even gave their lives to the effort. Nevertheless, it had to be done as every challenge needs to be met with equal determination. Such then is the heart of this movie called "The Spirit of St. Louis." The actor chosen for this historic film is none other than America's own James Stewart who convincingly plays Charles Lindbergh. Although there are many facets of Lindbergh's life, the segment featured here is his efforts to be the First Man to fly across the Atlantic. The story is an interesting one and for Stewards' fans compelling to say the least. Seeking enough funds to build a special aircraft, to the fateful decision to began the journey on a gloomy day in May 1927, 'Luck Lindy' as he was christened, endured enormous risks, which are featured in this superb film. Other notables which helped make this film believable are Murray Hamilton who plays Bud Gurney, Bartlett Robinson as Ben Mahoney, Arthur Space and Charles Watts as O.W. Schultz. The sum total of this now famous movie is that despite poor endorsement on its debut, it has since become a Classic in it's own right. Well done! ****

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11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

One of the most exhilarating adventure stories ever filmed

9/10
Author: TrevorAclea from London, England
3 December 2006

Every year there's one can't-miss much-anticipated red-hot big-budget title with the right combination of star, director and subject matter that fails miserably at the box-office. This year it was Superman Returns. In 1982 it was Blade Runner. In 1957 it was Billy Wilder's The Spirit of St Louis, a film that had everything - top director, huge star, best-selling true story about an American hero - except enough of an audience to cover its costs. Maybe the public still remembered Lucky Lindy's anti-Semitism and his loud admiration for Nazi Germany's achievements before the war (neither covered in the film, which ends with his arrival in Paris before the legend got too tarnished). Maybe because they thought they knew the story or that it was just going to be one guy stuck in a cockpit for two hours. Certainly Wilder and co-writer Wendell Mayes are aware of the dramatic pitfalls of Lindbergh's relatively uneventful flight, alternating between a well-executed flashback structure to key points in his life and the build-up to the flight itself. Once the film is airborne, it's both surprising and suspenseful, finding genuine drama in his attempts to stay awake and to navigate without proper instruments.

It also builds up a quite remarkable sense of dread that's unlike anything else in Wilder's filmography, allied to a real sense of the epic: shots like the ominous storm clouds over the hanger the dark dawn before the flight carry a real chill of foreboding to them. Even the typically muted and problematic WarnerColor adds to the film rather than detracts from it. Along with the superb use of CinemaScope, there's a remarkable score from Franz Waxman: majestic, soaring but filled with understated menace, and cleverly used as part of the fabric of the film rather than mere musical accompaniment. The film does lose points for implying, though never actually saying outright, that this was a race to be the first to fly the Atlantic - in fact, Lindbergh was the third man to fly across the Atlantic after almost completely forgotten Brits Alcock and Brown's astonishing flight eight years earlier - but it's still a remarkably tense and engrossing adventure story that deserved the success it never found.

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

I love this movie!!

10/10
Author: jambos
28 March 2002

A great movie about triumph over all the nay-sayers who try to kill your spirit, achieving the impossible. I won't go on about it, other than to say that I liked to reflect on the this film when I'm facing something particularly daunting, and realize that if Lindberg could do what he did, I can certainly face the task before me. Definitely a "feel good" movie.

See it. You won't be disappointed.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

The whole spirit of the flight.

Author: yenlo from Auburn, Me
21 September 1999

When people think of the great Billy Wilder films they often forget to mention this one. A great picture that tells the story of the flight, certain events in Lindbergh's life, how he came to make the flight, the design and building of the plane, his association with the people who helped make it happen and even some of the trademark Billy Wilder humor. Visit your local fish market get some Sanddabs (if they have them, they're a California fish) fry em up and sit back and enjoy a great movie about one of the great accomplishments of this century with one of the greatest actors of this century in the lead role. The wide screen version is tops.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Fun and entertaining story of Wilder.

6/10
Author: psagray from Spain
16 December 2014

Although we have a great director and even great actor is not the best of both but that does not mean it is an entertaining film and all becomes a bad movie. It is true that Wilder has spoiled us with his films can be treated as comedy or drama always comes to absolute roundness in his films, a subtle narrative and a mastery of the camera without equal.

The lone hero is not one of his best works achieved but that does not mean there are not moments to remember such as the flight across the Atlantic and see a person with their individual spirit and fighter aware of what is trying to achieve in life against what others may say. This is the main spirit of the work but it is true that Wilder could have gotten more for this topic after his years of experience, it is true that lack a little psychological profile of the protagonist.

The end is well done, all the tension when it comes to Europe but the journey ends and where it ends, I think that Wilder did not plan well the whole story and narrative, could have had more things stay as a simple adventure story without showing the importance of the event for aviation and especially the spirit of the man who fought for what he believed.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Epic recreation of Lindbergh's first and historic flight from New York , across Atlantic , until Paris

7/10
Author: ma-cortes from Santander Spain
12 October 2014

Overlong though exciting story behind the story of Lindbergh's incredible flight from New York to Paris. It deals Charles 'Slim' Lindbergh (excellently performed by James Stewart , he always wanted to portray him , when he ultimately got his chance is very old for a young role ; he was given this character after John Kerr had turned it down, owing to his disapproval of Lindbergh's pro-Nazi sympathies and his racist and anti-Semitic views) struggles to finance and design an airplane that will make his New York to Paris flight the first solo transatlantic crossing . As a 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot, Lindbergh (Charles wanted Anthony Perkins to play him in the movie) emerged suddenly from virtual obscurity to instantaneous world fame as the result of his Orteig Prize-winning solo nonstop flight on May 20–21, 1927, made from the Roosevelt Field in Garden City on New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles or 5,800 km , in the single-seat, single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis . As a result of this flight, Lindbergh was the first person in history to be in New York one day and Paris the next.

Interesting picture with plenty of thrills , emotion , biographic elements and brief touches of humor . The film is pretty well though the action does drag at times and results to be overlong . Magnificent acting by James Stewart -at age 48- who gives a real Tour De Force back by good plethora of secondaries . However , many critics felt he was too old to be believable . In fact , producer Jack L. Warner was strongly opposed to the casting of James Stewart, which he believed caused the film to flop on its release in 1957 . Colorful and evocative cinematography in CinemaScope by two awesome cameramen Peverel Marley and Robert Burks , Hitchcock's ordinary . Impressive and thrilling musical score by Franz Waxman . However , the soundtrack was re-composed but composer Franz Waxman was no longer available so veteran film composer Roy Webb was hired along with Warner Brothers Music Director Ray Heindorf to come up with new cues based on Waxman's original material . The motion picture was compellingly directed by Billy Wilder , but it was a box office flop when originally released . After the film received bad notices from preview audiences, it was extensively re-edited with some new footage shot . Rating : Above average , this one remains a quality movie for the whole family .

This exciting and inventive picture well well based on true events , these are the followings : Six well-known aviators had already lost their lives in pursuit of the Orteig Prize when Lindbergh took off from Roosevelt Field on his successful attempt in the early morning of Friday, May 20, 1927. Burdened by its heavy load of 450 U.S. gallons of gasoline weighing about 1,230 kg, and hampered by a muddy, rain-soaked runway, Lindbergh's Wright Whirlwind-powered monoplane gained speed very slowly as it made its 7:52 am takeoff run, but its J-5C radial engine still proved powerful enough to allow the Spirit to clear the telephone lines at the far end of the field "by about twenty feet or six meters with a fair reserve of flying speed". Over the next 33.5 hours, he and the Spirit faced many challenges, including skimming over both storm clouds at 10,000 ft , 3,000 m, and wave tops at as low at 10 ft (3.0 m), fighting icing, flying blind through fog for several hours, and navigating only by the stars , whenever visible , and dead reckoning before landing at Le Bourget Airport at 10:22 pm (22:22) on Saturday, May 21. The airfield was not marked on his map and Lindbergh knew only that it was some seven miles northeast of the city. He initially mistook the airfield for some large industrial complex with bright lights spreading out in all directions. The lights were, in fact, the headlights of tens of thousands of cars all driven by eager spectators now caught in "the largest traffic jam in Parisian history " . A crowd estimated at 150,000 spectators stormed the field, dragged Lindbergh out of the cockpit, and literally carried him around above their heads for "nearly half an hour".

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Movies like this make me proud to be named after James Stewart

10/10
Author: jimbennett007 from Everett, WA
9 July 2013

This movie was made in the 50's and it is really fun to watch. My mom must have really liked Jimmy Stewart as she found it necessary to name me after him.

James Stewart Bennett Sr. :)

I have enjoyed all of his work that I have seen to date. I wish I had been able to meet him before he passed, but it wasn't in the cards.

Jimmy Stewart was a class act right to the end.

I was honored to be able to see the actual "Spirit of St. Louis" hanging in the Smithsonian in Washington DC many years ago.

Very cool.

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