Captain Fred Allison has been in a German Prisoner of War Camp for a long time. It has been two years since he last saw Monica, a girl he met, married and bought a house with in six days ... See full summary »
Roy Del Ruth
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
It's 1917. In Russia, the Communist revolution is in full swing. Stephen 'Steve' Locke is a British agent in Russia. The main task of Steve is to prevent the Bolsheviks, led by Joseph ... See full summary »
Tom Collier has had a great relationship with Daisy, but when he decides to marry, it is not Daisy whom he asks, it is Cecelia. After the marriage, Tom is bored with the social scene and ... See full summary »
1940. Captain Terence Stevenson with the British Army is part of the bomb disposal unit in London, his primary job to defuse them. Despite having no experience as a spy, he is asked by his ... See full summary »
By the late 1920's aircraft designer R.J. Mitchell feels he has achieved all he wants with his revolutionary mono-planes winning trophy after trophy. But a holiday in Germany shortly after Hitler assumes power convinces him that it is vital to design a completely new type of fighter plane and that sooner or later Britain's very survival may depend on what he comes to call the Spitfire.Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Soundtrack credit for William Walton's Spitfire Prelude & Fugue appears to have been omitted. See more »
The Rolls Royce Merlin engine is not named after the character from the King Arthur legends. Rolls Royce named some of its engines after birds of prey, such as Merlin, Peregrine, Kestrel, Goshawk. See more »
Air Ministry Official:
[Referring to the new Spitfire airplane]
We shall need it in 12 months. Sorry, but that's all the time we can give you.
Reginald J. Mitchell:
[Referring to his imminent death]
You shall have it in eight. Because... because that's all the time *I* can give *you*!
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Opening credits prologue: Zero Day September 15th, 1940 See more »
DVD version has a scene involving the British Schneider team visiting Italy for the flying competition. Scene involves Crisp 'chatting up' an Italian lady in a gondola. See more »
'The First of the Few' shows Leslie Howard at his most reflective, almost to the point of diffidence. His only show of assertiveness is when he informs the haughty bigwigs of 'Supermarine'that he will design aeroplanes HIS way, despite David Horne's salutary warning that he will 'come an almighty cropper'. Howard plays R.J. Mitchell, legendary designer of the Spitfire, the revolutionary fighter plane that was to take centre stage in the Battle of Britain.
Throughout the film it is Howard himself who takes centre stage and never really leaves it, his star quality and charisma embracing all manner of scenes, from cheeky one - liners, 'you're not a bird, but you can fly', as a retort to Tonie Edgar - Bruce's mercurial Lady Houston, or modestly basking in the reflected glory of yet another Schneider Trophy triumph (the annual seaplane contest between Great Britain, USA and Italy which has now passed into folklore). Perhaps he is even more compelling in the touching solo scenes, with little or no dialogue, where, to William Walton's evocative music, he is found by his colleagues overworking himself deep into the night, trying to design the Spitfire before the imminent spread of Germanic imperialism, or, later on, close to death, scanning the skies for a sign of David Niven leading the way on the famous fighter plane.
An impressive cast of character actors give him great support, including Roland Culver as the supportive and insightful head of Supermarine, Anne Firth as a petite but highly efficient secretary, and future film maker Filippo Del Giudice as a foppish, hilarious Bertorelli, the high ranking Italian official who relays the message from 'Il duce' Mussolini, to the effect that the winning British Schneider Trophy entry could only have achieved such a feat 'in our glorious Italian sky'.
Howard's introverted Mitchell is in contrast to David Niven's jaunty, red blooded senior pilot, who demonstrates in this film just why he will go on to be the top British star in Hollywood, his easy acting style and unbridled optimism making Crisp a lovable character without ever seeming arrogant. Perhaps his inexplicable crash in one of the Schneider Trophy contests has the effect of 'bringing him down to earth', both literally and in character.
The only downside of the film is an oddly mechanical performance from Rosamund John, as Mitchell's wife. Obviously she could not come over as a dominant figure to Howard's subtle Mitchell, but the attempt to make her appear even more introverted than the star produces an uncharacteristically robotic outcome from this fine actress.
Both Mitchell and Howard were soon to pass beyond earthly constraints into immortality, the latter disappearing in mysterious circumstances, ironically, in a plane, over Portugal, in June, 1943. There is no finer epitaph to both of them, than 'The First of the Few', Mitchell as the genius aeroplane designer, and Howard as the first English actor (albeit of Hungarian parents) to make it big in Hollywood. In this respect, Niven may be regarded as 'the second of the few'. A gem of a film, whose great star never shone more brightly than here.
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