34 user 9 critic

Spitfire (1942)

The First of the Few (original title)
Aircraft designer/patriot R. J. Mitchell, alarmed at growing German militarism, works to perfect a defense against the German Messerschmidt at the cost of his health.


Leslie Howard


Henry C. James (original story), Katherine Strueby (original story) (as Kay Strueby) | 2 more credits »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Leslie Howard ... R.J. Mitchell
David Niven ... Geoffrey Crisp
Rosamund John ... Diana Mitchell
Roland Culver ... Cmdr. Bride
Anne Firth ... Miss Harper
David Horne ... Mr. Higgins
J.H. Roberts ... Sir Robert McLean
Derrick De Marney ... Squadron Leader Jefferson
Rosalyn Boulter Rosalyn Boulter ... Mabel Lovesay
Herbert Cameron Herbert Cameron ... MacPherson
Toni Edgar-Bruce Toni Edgar-Bruce ... Lady Houston (as Toni Edgar Bruce)
Gordon McLeod Gordon McLeod ... Maj. Buchan
George Skillan George Skillan ... Mr. Royce
Erik Freund Erik Freund ... Messerschmitt
Fritz Wendhausen Fritz Wendhausen ... Von Straben (as F.R. Wendhausen)


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 {J-26}

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Did You Know?


Lucy, Lady Houston, did indeed travel around the British Isles with an electric sign on her yacht "Liberty" in 1932. However, instead of "DOWN WITH THE GOVERNMENT. WAKE UP ENGLAND" as shown in the film, it displayed a rather more blunt "DOWN WITH MACDONALD THE TRAITOR", in reference to the then Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. 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 »


Diana Mitchell: Remember? Watching those birds.
Reginald J. Mitchell: Mmm. But, it isn't exactly a bird I'm creating, is it? At least, a curious sort of bird. A bird that breathes fire and spits out death and destruction. A spitfire bird.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Zero Day September 15th, 1940 See more »

Alternate Versions

DVD Version. Extended scene when Mitchell and Crisp are attending a display of gliding in Germany and they speak with German officials about the role of gliders. DVD version has extra scene where a German Hitler Youth leader marches away from the display with a band playing. See more »


Featured in Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave a Damn (2016) See more »


Arranged by Roy Douglas
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User Reviews

Good Historical-Based Drama
16 July 2001 | by Snow LeopardSee all my reviews

While sometimes a bit melodramatic, "Spitfire" (or "The First of the Few") is a good historical-based drama that follows the development of the Spitfire airplane that was so important to Britain in World War II. Most of the film concerns the work that went into the plane, but there are also a few aerial scenes. The historical story is interesting and significant, and was even more so at the time that the film was made. It moves rather slowly at times, but is carried by the two fine stars in the lead roles.

Leslie Howard works well as Mitchell, the designer of the plane. His dreaminess seems appropriate for a man who created an effective new invention by looking beyond the ways that things had been done in the past. David Niven is particularly good as the pilot who tests the plane and invests his own time and career to see that Mitchell's invention gets a chance. Niven also narrates the story. Those two help make up for some slow stretches in the plot. At times things also seem a bit exaggerated, but then it was a time when daily events were filled with melodrama.

This would be a good film to watch for anyone with an interest in historical or war films.

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English | Italian | German

Release Date:

14 September 1942 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Spitfire See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)


Black and White (archive footage)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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