In the early days of the 20th century, a British Newspaper offers a prize for the winner of a cross channel air race which brings flyers from all over the world. There are many sub-plots as the flyers jockey for position and the affections of various women. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The French entry in the race, flown by the character Pierre Dubois, is a replica of the "Demoiselle", designed by the Brazilian expatriate Alberto Santos-Dumont, who had been believed by the French to be the first to fly a powered aircraft, until Wilbur Wright & Orville Wright's demonstrations in 1908. The replica builders were faithful in constructing the Demoiselle, but no one could get it to leave the ground until it was discovered that Dumont had been a very small man who weighed only 85 pounds. A female pilot Joan Hughes was hired. She successfully flew the plane throughout the filming. See more »
The propeller on Sir Percy's Avro Triplane is a four-bladed paddle-type throughout the movie, except for the first day of the race when it suddenly changes to a normal two-bladed type. See more »
A Comedy for the Ages; Farce, Beauty Aloft, Humorous Types Below
"Those Magnificent Men" probably looked on story boards like merely a colorful, often humorous and very enactable satire of an era, of its nations and of the early days of manned flight. Its plot line involved an international air race, from England to Paris, for whose prizes competitors in home-made aircraft from all over the world would journey to compete. The racers included Stuart Whitman aided by his brother Sam Wanamaker (Wilbur and Orville) from the U.S., James Fox of England, Albert Sordi from Italy, Gert Frobe and his team from Germany, Jean-Pierre Cassell and his ebullient hard-drinking group from France, plus a Scotsman and his dog, the villainous Sir Percy and his henchman, Terry-Thomas and Eric Sykes, a Japanese entrant and many others. Others in the large cast of the ensuing film also included Robert Morely as the wealthy patrician organizer of the race, a rather weak Sarah Miles as his daughter, beautiful Irina Demick who keeps turning up in every locale (in a new persona) and many more. But what the film's makers forgot was that the bravery and beauty of these canvas-winged and wooden primitive aircraft taking off and actually achieving flight would upstage even the often-hilarious comedy of the well-written proceedings. Using Red Skelton as "every man who has ever dreamed of flight", the producers prepared for the race, staged the race, and awarded the prizes--the climax being the arrival of the racers and what happened near the finish line, plus a justly happy ending. The film was written by Ken Annakin with Jack Davies, and Annakin directed it very competently also. Ron Goodwin's music and title song are well-remembered treats too. Others in the large, attractive cast include narrator James Robertson Justice, Gordon Jackson, Zena Marshall, Karl Michael Vogler, Yujiro Ishihara, Benny Hill, Flora Robson and Jeremy Lloyd. The film's pace is beautifully varied and consistently-maintained; the action includes acts of sabotage by the villains, practice flights gone wrong, low-comedy, a duel between the dour Frobe and devil-may-care Cassell conducted in hot air balloons, national humor at the expense of all concerned and incidents before and during the race. This is a very well-acted film; but the fine technical achievements and subordinate arts here had to take a back seat to the flight of the many wonderful "early birds", who outshone even the amusing national types who flew them. A much-imitated and superior comedy classic of its sort.
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