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 <email@example.com>
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 »
Same footage played twice during the wild chase of Captain Rumpelstoss' runaway machine. See more »
"Up, Down, Flying Around, Looping The Loop And Defying The Ground"
I'm one of the biggest fans of old newsreels and I don't think there are too many of us who haven't seen some of that ancient footage with all those odd contraptions showing man's attempt to fly in the early 20th century. I guess it was only a matter of time before someone got the bright idea to do a comedy from those attempts.
Some of them weren't all that funny, people did in fact get killed, a lot of them in trying to master the air. But by 1910 there were all kinds of airplanes and even some early helicopters and a lot are shown in Those Magnificent Men.
The plot centers about an international race from London to Paris sponsored by one of the English press lords played in true John Bull style by Robert Morley. He's got a spirited suffragette daughter in Sarah Miles and a most proper member of the King's Coldstream Guards in James Fox courting her.
But along comes another flier, an American cowboy, Stuart Whitman who becomes Fox's air and romantic rival. But the film's got more than that. It's got Italian hopeful Alberto Sordi who can impregnate his wife with a dirty look. It's got Frenchman Jean Pierre-Cassel who keeps running into Irina Demick every place he goes. It's even got another English contestant in Terry-Thomas who's busy trying to sabotage everyone else.
However my favorite is the German entry, Gert Frobe. Poor Frobe has to pinch hit for the original German flier who partied too hardy. But as he tries to prove as long as you follow the instruction book, the German Army can accomplish anything. Seeing him try to fly his airplane while reading the instruction book is my favorite memory of Those Magnificent Men.
That and that incredibly catchy title song. I defy anyone to watch this film and not come away humming that tune for weeks. It will embed itself in your subconscious forever.
Those Magnificent Men is good entertainment and a gentle tribute to those early air pioneers.
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