Johnny in the Clouds (1945) Poster

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10/10
A film that deserves to be better known
russell_brown5 October 2000
Curiously enough, I first came across this film in Halliwell's Film Guide. Idly leafing through the pages, I came across this comment: "..One of the few films which instantly bring back the atmosphere of the war in Britain for anyone who was involved." While the Second World War ended many years before I was born, it sounded interesting and I made a mental note that it might be a good film to watch if ever I had the chance.

Months later, I was looking through my local tv guide in the list of movies that were on. I noticed "The Way to the Stars", and some little bell in the recesses of my memory began to toll. I looked up the movie in my film guide -- and decided that I had to see it.

As it turned out, that was a very happy decision. Others of the Second World War generation might be able to identify with the people and the setting of the film. I cannot, but I loved this movie for all the other reasons -- it really is a wonderful movie, a sad (and heroic) story of people during the war. Critics might provide an analysis of plot, characterisation etc, as a reason why it's such a good movie. I won't bother. I'll merely give this summary: It's one of my favourite films, it deserves to be better known, and you should see it if you get the chance.
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Brilliantly atmospheric recreation of wartime Britain
alfa-1614 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers
My French teacher, a Lancaster Pilot,used to say there were two films which recreated WWII for him with almost uncanny realism. "Appointment in London" was one of them but this was certainly the other. It's release on DVD is long, long overdue.

Unlike many of the films about the air war, this one never leaves the ground. It opens with a magnificent tracking shot, almost as long as Altman's opening shot in The Player, as a casual voice-over takes the viewer into the airbase and homes in on the wall next to the phone in the barracks, which has a series of marks and pictures on it, apparently insignificant but all turn out to have highly emotive connections to pivotal events in the plot.

It catches the sustained mood of hope and fear, punctuated by moments of terror, hilarity, panic and relief. But these are moments. The unique thing in The Way to the Stars is the sense that everyday life had to be preserved by continuing to live it.

The Rattigan script is wonderful, as is the direction. The long pause before John Mills has to tell hotel manager Toddy that her husband has been killed, with no background music or noise to break the almost unbearable tension, is one of the most painful in all cinema. 20 minutes later we're dealt another shocking, but equally understated emotional blow. The wisecracking, cynical New York bomb-aimer fills in the entertainment at a children's party, replacing his captain, killed that morning, having sacrificed himself to avoid injuring the local civilians.

The soldierly respect and comradeship which rapidly replaces grating competitiveness as the Americans arrive on the base is also realistic (and refreshing given Hollywood's recent tendency to write the British out of WWII as in U571 or Saving Private Ryan, or worse, portray them dazed and confused. as in Band of Brothers.)

Elegaic, heroic, understated, brilliantly filmed, acted and directed, without actually showing any real combat, The Way to the Stars manages to be one of the greatest war films ever made.
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A masterpiece capturing a war and a lost civilization
richardhwilton22 January 2010
The great thing about this war flying film is that there's hardly any flying in it. It's all about the terrible toll war takes on normal people. What makes it so gripping to a modern audience is how the characteristic emotional restraint of people at that time is so faithfully portrayed. That's why it doesn't date. You just know that's how people really were back then.

Above all, it's the Rattigan screenplay, with its wonderful trilogical structure that speaks out.

If you want to see how people really felt and acted in England in WW2, in a beautiful, tragic film, then you must see it.
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very warming, entertaining, watch it
tara-ken19 November 2002
The day i watched this film it was cold and damp outside, I settled in, turned up the heating, supplied myself with tea and cigarettes and was transported back to a black & white time in the 1940's when the world was fighting to keep Hitler at bay. The film is set on a RAF airfield, following the lives of several characters throughout the war. The filmmakers have done a great job in putting together an excellent cast, including the ever watchable John Mills,a young Bill Owen (Compo-only British people will know what I mean) Basil Radford and Michael Redgrave.The acting and screen writing is very natural and you are quickly sucked in to a way of life, of living, manners, morals, speech patterns, quiet heroism, that just doesn't exist anymore. There is no battles or bombings, all we see are the planes taking off and landing, but we don't need that, this film is about people and love and relationships, humour in the face of adversity, having to accept the death of your friends. There is good comedy relief in the shape the American air force guys who come to the base and the great Stanley Holloway. Check this film out it is excellent
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An invaluable testimony, superbly produced, of what it was to be in Britain at war
phmfl31 January 2000
I saw this film in Britain as a child when it first came out. The whole of our little town talked about it for days after it was shown in our single cinema. Of course, our population had been swollen by forces personnel, including airmen, so we were intimately familiar with the kind of events shown in the film. Now, learning from your web site the details of the distinguished writers, cast and production team, I understand better why it made such a deep impression. In brief, the film embodies the spirit of Britain as I remember it: firm resolve to defeat the Nazi evil, together with the consciousness of the tragedies and also the comic moments of World War II. This is something that is hard to imagine today, in Britain or elsewhere, and especially since the disillusionment produced by the Vietnam War. If only for this reason, the film is an invaluable testimony, truly portraying how British society was then. Other films from the 1940s are repeated constantly on TV; I have been waiting over fifty years to see this one again. Isn't it time for a video/DVD?
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Film locations
Pedro_Exit29 October 2004
What an excellent film, with a cast that lifts it above other films made during WW2. Was there a British war film made that did not have John Mills starring in it? Many of the actors here went on to become familiar faces in film and British TV. The story-line and the absence of background music do make this film both nostalgic and entertaining.

It may interest some that the 'Golden Lion' in the film does exist, it is a hotel in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. The street scenes were shot in nearby Bedale. I'm not sure which airfield was used, but it may have been one of the many bomber bases situated in this area, such as Leeming or Dishforth.
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10/10
A very rare war film
ambrosechris28 August 2006
This film is possibly my favorite film. Having seen it late at night on the ABC (Australian) I waited a year reading the television guide regularly until it was on again and taped it. I have since bought it on DVD. This is a brilliant look at the airmen based in Britain during WWII. It doesn't glorify the war or show one bomb dropping over Germany, but it glorifies the Men and Women who lived the times and suffered the war in a time when the fate of the world was uncertain. Touching and truthful. The cast are amazing and the script has a sense of humor which has long been associated with Britain in war times. the relationship between the English and Americans is at times funny when it comes to cultural differences, but as today the two countries stood together.
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9/10
Simple and effective
MartinHafer28 January 2008
This film was a tribute to the British and American bomber pilots who risked so much during WWII. While it is relatively simple in style, it was a lovely and effective film showing the human side of war. As the movie begins, it is just the British against the Germans in 1940 and a new pilot, John Mills, arrives at the airfield. Old hands, such as the Commander (Trevor Howard) and Michael Redgrave welcome the rookie and the climate is pretty grim. The film then jumps two years and it's 1942--American bomber crews are arriving and excited about getting into the action. A bit later, the film then jumps to 1944--as the war is nearing the end.

While this is a film about bomber crews, no shots of the crews on missions are used and most of the action takes place at a pub next to the base. Here, the crew members unwind and you learn about them as their characters slowly reveal themselves. What I particularly liked is that there were no bigger than life heroes here--just decent men who bravely did their jobs and tried to maintain their sanity through it all. Because of this, the performances were generally understated and realistic--like we are peering through a window into the past. Also, and I don't want to reveal any specifics, I liked how many of the main characters died through the course of the film--heightening both the realism and reminding us just how high the cost was for freedom.

Exceptional acting, writing and direction make this one of the better war films of the era and in many ways is like an aerial version of IN WHICH WE SERVE. Superb.
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7/10
Respectful observation of how the hearts and minds of several people were affected by The War, and the items that happened as a result of it.
johnnyboyz3 May 2010
The Way to the Stars begins on a downcast and flat footed note, a rather downbeat and dreary voice over as the camera sweeps its way through an old airfield long since abandoned. The voice is nostalgic, the tone full of regret and longing for the days of old. The camera nervously approaches the air field, as if afraid to go in, but does so and creeps around looking at markings on the wall; individual shelves and what-not that's still around. The year is 1945, and The Second World War is over; at least until the film triumphantly darts back to 1940 to a resounding chorus and tremendous score: hark, a plane in the RAF lands to a merry tune and all seems right again with activity and action clogging up the screen as busy bodies dart around and planes come and go. Despite this description, this is not a film that longs for conflict during times of war; rather the interaction and sense of togetherness it believes war brings out in people as they fight the cause. The opening tone in the aftermath of the mammoth event that was WWII suggests alienation, a sense of "where do we go from here?" Back in the day, The War was on; everyone knew their duty and would bond – we realise that the film doesn't miss The War itself, but rather the unity and relationships that formed out of The War as relics from days of old are ruefully lingered on.

In making The Way to the Stars, director Anthony Asquith has crafted a war film not entirely about the death and destruction of that time but the good that comes out of pulling together and forging certain relationships. Would young pilot Peter Penrose (Mills) have met young Iris (Asherson) had The War not been on?; would young American pilot John Hollis (Montgomery) have bonded with public house owner Miss Todd (John) had The War not been on? Would she be the same person after The War had she not gone through what she experienced with a certain flight lieutenant? Certainly not, in fact one moment much later on sees both Hollis and Todd share a moment in which they reflect on the implausibility of Americans visiting the exact setting they share under normal circumstances. But that's not to say it doesn't remember the war dead entirely, despite channelling (through Asherson's character) a sense of romping on with business; that despite loosing her husband of two years to The War, the film disallows her to grieve too heavily and instead places her on a path that sees her continue her role to play upstanding hostess and fuel the local pilots with escapism in the form of alcohol and unity, as well as later interaction with said American.

The film is a really well observed character piece; focusing on and manifesting a number of relationships in and around both a local airfield which houses Allied bombers and a public house named The Golden Lion. In 1940, all sorts of Royal Air Force members retain that fighting spirit and keep their chins up as German bombing threatens the air field and general area. The men are unperturbed, taking cover and keeping spirits high by nattering about menial things to distract themselves in that manner most films of the era had them positively presented. The presentation of masculinity, particularly in those between a young and middle age is mostly positive and upbeat with a young graduate has an opportunity to lie to a senior about some test scores but concedes to the truth another pilot is seen to help out in the kitchen of that local pub-come-hotel as he woos the owner with poetry.

Hounesty; resilience; an eye for the arts and always keen to lend a helping hand is the order of the day as these positive masculine traits are played out under a banner of strength through teamwork and ability to both connect and link with those of other cultures. For a film about men and male pilots; female character Miss Todd is impressively given a fair share of development; while young, initially snappy Penrose attempts to court a young woman named Iris are thwarted by her domineering aunt, a resident at the hotel, who'll have nothing of it if it means veering too far away from her. Penrose's arc will see him initially adopt one of the lead roles, something we were led into believing may have been Todd's husband, a certain David Archdale (Redgrave), who's in charge of the airmen before marrying and being granted a fairer share of screen time. Penrose is then is allowed to develop from a young hot-head into a calmer, more rueful and thoughtful young man more-so by way of the effects of the war on the home and those around him than any 'action' he saw overseas.

The film has a little more fun when the Americans arrive in '42, respectfully shifting tracts from loss of a friend and lover to a more comedic tone running on a clashing of cultures in detailing the differences in sports, beverages and sandwich fillings these two sides share. Their obvious initial ill-fitting to the locale exemplified in their upsetting of the 'old guard' in Iris' elderly aunt when she fails to connect with the young American pilots and their leisurely habits. That's not to say they're limited to alienated clowns though, as a certain Johnny Hollis will go on to take a rather predominant role; he himself alienated away from home and here rendering the piece not of a wholly begging ilk destined to highlight how solely bad the British had it. Through Hollis, the idea is that nationality is immaterial. In restricting his servants of The War to bombers and bombardiers, Asquith is reliant on how the effects of missions affect the life back home on the ground and in this sense, succeeds, culminating in a worthy effort that's worth seeing.
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10/10
The Way To The (Ten) Stars
writers_reign8 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those 'period' films replete with the kind of dialogue that we've heard 'sent up' a thousand times and responded to the send ups by laughing at them but this film that SHOULD be faintly risible holds the attention and inspires tears rather than laughter. This is probably because it is as finely crafted as a Faberge egg or a Louis VIII commode. The screenplay is the work of Terence Rattigan, one of the finest English playwrights of the 20th century - indeed even a cursory glance at the relationship between Joyce Cary and her niece Renee Asherson reveals a blueprint for the Mrs Railton-Bell and daughter Sybil in Rattigan's Separate Tables which lay a good ten years in the future - who could and did turn his hand to the screenplay usually successfully as in The Sound Barrier. Michael Redgrave, destined to star magnificently in Rattigan's The Browning Version (directed, as here, by Puffin Asquith)stands out as the dashing and charming pilot who disappears far too soon having flown without his 'lucky' lighter and gone down in flames. Rattigan's strength as a writer of wartime drama is in concentrating on the people rather than the battles so that the planes are seen taking off and landing at Halfpenny Field and that is all. The ensemble cast complement each other perfectly from John Mills raw recruit maturing into a leader to Stanley Holloway's hotel bore. One of the finest of its kind.
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10/10
Pass me the Kleenex! What d'you mean, the box is empty?
ella-483 May 2006
One of my all-time favourites, and always will be. Made in the months immediately after WW2, it charts the history of a typical RAF airfield, with particular emphasis on the 1942 arrival of US bomber crews. Their huge social impact on a rural English community is treated with warmth and much wry humour.

Those looking for an exercise in gritty documentary realism, though, should look elsewhere! This is essentially a 'relationships' movie, deliberately and finely calculated to tug at the heart strings. A very fine script (by Terence Rattigan, no less) is brought to vivid life by lovely performances from all concerned.

Sentimental? Undeniably, but in the best possible way: I defy even the hardest-bitten cynic to remain unmoved.
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7/10
Rough Duty.
rmax30482316 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
No battle scenes, no fist fights, no arguments, no car chases, no tears -- just a modest and nicely written script by Terence Rattigan directed with skill and restraint by Anthony Asquith and smoothly performed by seasoned British actors and some American performers you've never heard of.

John Mills is a newly minted RAF pilot posted to Halfpenny Field in 1940. It's the Battle of Britain but they don't just throw him into the obsolete Blenheim bombers at the field. They first assign him to a desk because his flying talents are less than minimal.

Mills becomes friends with one of his superiors, Michael Redgrave, and attends Redgrave's wedding party. Redgrave disappears a year later on a mission, leaving behind his widow, Rosamund John, and their child. Everyone takes Redgrave's death with polite matter-of-factness but the fact is wrenching and leaves Mills firmly convinced that marriage has no place in war. This, naturally, aborts his courtship of the cute snub-nosed Renee Asherson.

Next, a horde of American B-17 crews descend upon Halfpenny Field and their brusque manner contrasts with the decorous English politesse. A good chance for the script to go wrong here. Make the Yanks a mob of bragging, drunken, womanizing jackasses who shout when they speak. At first it seems this is the way the story may go. Lieutenant Joe Friselli, Bonar Colleano, appears to fit the template -- but, no. His expansiveness has shrunk to acceptable proportions by the end and he has been thoroughly humanized by the stress and the associated grief of combat.

The American we get to know best is Douglass Montgomery, a bomber pilot who first thrusts his face into Mills' dual-occupant room and looks like the kind of guy who could be a vampire or robot. But he turns out to be quiet, married, and sensitive -- enough so that Redgrave's widow is attracted to him and he to her, though nothing comes of it.

I don't suppose we really need those familiar shots of soaring Spitfires and turret gunners chattering away at the nettlesome enemy fighters. What we witness is the results of those battles on the ground.

And it's a pretty good story, about those results, an ensemble effort that succeeds.
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Life around a WWII air base shared by US and British airmen.
hugh.blanchard19 December 2000
The story is set around an English bomber air base during WWII, which subsequently becomes host to the US 8th air force. The principle characters frequent the local inn, run by 'Toddy', the wife of Flight Lieut. David Archdale.

There is an ensemble of emotions, but the theme concentrates on stiff upper lip stoicism as bomber aircrew are faced with terrible odds of survival, and friends and loved ones make the best of the situation.

The movie was obviously made as a morale booster at the end of the war in Europe and features an outstanding poem that serves as an epitaph to airmen killed in action. The poem is a parody on one written by Heinrich Hoffman, the title translating to `The Story of Johnny Head-In-Air' [1844].

For Johnny

Do not despair for Johnny head-in-air; he sleeps as sound as Johnny underground. Fetch out no shroud for Johnny-in-the-cloud; and keep your tears for him in after years. Better by far for Johnny-the-bright-star, to keep your head and see his children fed. [John Purdey (RAF 1941-1945)]
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10/10
THE WAY TO THE STARS (Anthony Asquith, 1945) ****
Bunuel19761 May 2006
I have recently watched Anthony Asquith's superb 1945 war drama THE WAY TO THE STARS. It is undoubtedly one of the best British films ever and, perhaps, the best on the subject.

Unfortunately the print utilized for the R2 DVD was rather muddy and hampered by excessive speckles, scratches and lines throughout the entire film. It was not unwatchable as such but it obviously was not in the least bit cleaned up, let alone restored! But since I had never watched the film before, I did not want to hold out any longer from acquiring the DVD (despite its being bare-bones) for fear of it going OOP - as had happened to another British WWII classic I have never watched, THE WAY AHEAD (1944) - and at only GBP 6.99, it was certainly worth it! The audio, at least, was not low as in other British films of the period I have watched (like the R1 HAMLET [1948], from Criterion - of all companies!) but sometimes the dialogue was unintelligible, though this may have something to do with the actors' heavy accents.

There is little to criticize about THE WAY TO THE STARS: the "stiff upper lip" attitude is heavily on display (after all this was a propaganda film made during the war), while the rather one-dimensional portrayal of the American allies and the caricatured upper-class snobbism prevalent in the character played by Joyce Carey (her 'domineering matron' act in relation to the Renee' Asherson character was used again by writer Terence Rattigan for his play SEPARATE TABLES, also set in a hotel) tend towards cliché and date the film somewhat.

Apart from this, however, the film was riveting: producer Anatole de Grunwald and director Asquith assembled an amazing cast of actors and actresses, many of whom are shown at the top of their form here: Renee' Asherson, Felix Aylmer, Joyce Carey, Bonar Colleano (Jr.), Anthony Dawson, Stanley Holloway, Trevor Howard, Rosamund John, John Mills, Douglass Montgomery, Basil Radford, Michael Redgrave, Jean Simmons, David Tomlinson, etc. While some of them appear very briefly or in fairly insignificant roles, Trevor Howard in particular, gave an impressive bit as the airfield CO and it was no surprise that David Lean would that same year choose him for the lead in BRIEF ENCOUNTER (which incidentally also featured Carey and Holloway).

The lead roles were superbly filled by John Mills, Rosamund John, Michael Redgrave and Douglass Montgomery. Mills and Redgrave had extensive careers on both stage and screen, but their performances here rank among their finest. It is interesting how th plot allows all three men (who all interact with Rosamund John's character at some point) to dominate different sections of the film: at first, Michael Redgrave as David is the leading character until he is killed, then John Mills playing Peter Penrose takes center-stage during the middle section, and finally, when he appears, Douglass Montgomery as Johnny (an American) takes over for the rest of the film. It was quite an audacious structure for the 1940s, I suppose (Michael Powell's episode 49TH PARALLEL [1941] had utilized a similar if more radical 'viewpoint'), but it works splendidly, the rhythm of the plot flowing unobtrusively and never feeling encumbered.

Another aspect which makes the film stand out is its almost total absence of combat sequences (despite their obvious bearing on the plot) - only one of the key death scenes is shown, the rest takes place off-screen. In fact, this 'attitiude' gives rise to a bravura moment following Michael Redgrave'a final mission. Being superstitious, he never flies without his cigarette lighter. Just by showing the lighter (which has been left behind) we know the Redgrave character is dead; then a hand enters the frame and picks up the lighter, almost hoping that the superstition has been proved groundless, only for the camera to pan up towards his face and we discover it is John Mills who has the lighter now. An utterly simple movement, yet tremendously effective.

There were several other excellent wartime films made in England in the 40s and 50s, none of which are available on DVD: NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH (1940), PIMPERNEL SMITH (1941), THE NEXT OF KIN (1942), MILLIONS LIKE US (1943), THE CAPTIVE HEART (1946), AGAINST THE WIND (1947), THE WOODEN HORSE (1950), THE SOUND BARRIER (1952), ALBERT R.N. (1953), THE NIGHT MY NUMBER CAME UP (1955), THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1956), THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY (1957), DANGER WITHIN (1958), DUNKIRK (1958), I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE (1958), ORDERS TO KILL (1958), SINK THE BISMARCK! (1960), TUNES OF GLORY (1960), etc.

Other British films I would like to see on DVD, though not war films in themselves, include: THE GOOD COMPANIONS (1932), ROME EXPRESS (1932), Friday THE THIRTEENTH (1933), FIRE OVER ENGLAND (1936), VICTORIA THE GREAT (1937), SIXTY GLORIOUS YEARS (1938), QUIET WEDDING (1940), HATTER'S CASTLE (1941), KIPPS (1941), LOVE ON THE DOLE (1941), MAJOR BARBARA (1941), THUNDER ROCK (1942), THE MAN IN GREY (1943), A PLACE OF ONE'S OWN (1944), I SEE A DARK STRANGER (1945), IT ALWAYS RAINS ON Sunday (1947), NICHOLAS NICKELBY (1947), THE October MAN (1947), TAKE MY LIFE (1947), THE GUINEA PIG (1948), London BELONGS TO ME (1948), SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (1948), THE WINSLOW BOY (1948), THE BLUE LAMP (1950), SEVEN DAYS TO NOON (1950), THE BROWNING VERSION (1951), THE CARD (1952), OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (1951), HOBSON'S CHOICE (1954), SAPPHIRE (1959), TIGER BAY (1959), SONS AND LOVERS (1960) and VICTIM (1961).

Although supplements would probably be scarce for the majority of these titles, it is no reason for them to be overlooked on DVD. I am sure there are many who, like me, love the great British films of the past.
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A great W.W.2 movie full of stars
Bunnie2 July 1999
Certainly one of the best films to come out of the second world war. Basically the story of a mixture of American and English servicemen placed together on an air force base in England. The film depicts the tragedies of the air crews and their missions over Germany, as well as the comedy side of the English and American airmen each trying to teach the other the game of baseball and cricket. Some superb acting by an outstanding cast. But where oh where can one obtain this splendid movie ???
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9/10
I remember the wartime years in Britain very vividly, and feel that Asquith and his actors got it exactly right.
colin-cooper19 October 2006
I was in the British armed forces from 1944 to 1947, and I can confirm that this movie gets the feel of the period exactly right.. Anthony Asquith and the actors breathed life into the cardboard of Rattigan's characters. I didn't like it when I saw it all those decades ago - too sentimental - but now that I can see it more objectively I rate it very highly indeed. One piece of plotting puzzled me: why does Johnny Hollis agonise about the mail from home he never receives? Was it intended that his wife should die or leave him, thus freeing him to court the widowed Iris? This in fact does not happen, and the film ends in a rather downbeat way.
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10/10
A Got to See Film
flugluftholgate13 August 2006
You have got to see this film, I saw it as a kid in Yorkshire, England where I live but did not appreciate it. until I saw it years later in my forties. But one line really stood out for me, been interested in the Apollo moon flights and spaceflight in general a character in the film says "...rockets, a thousands tons!" very prophetic, especially when you realise rockets weigh that much if not more. Been made in 1945 the largest rocket was the German A4/V2 which weighed about 25 tons. Guess who ever wrote the film had seen sight of The British Interplanetary Society's 'Journal' and Practical Mechanics from before the war.
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7/10
Bit soapy, but also inventive and moving
runamokprods6 June 2011
Sappy, melodramatic and dated at times, but also very well done, and emotionally understated enough that the sappiness doesn't take over the experience.

The film traces 4 years in the life of an English Air Force base during WW II (1940-1944). An interesting approach to a war film, in that the camera never shows battle, never leaves the ground, but focuses on the lives of the fliers, their officers, and their women. That can lead to a certain soap opera quality, but also to a film that doesn't feel quite like any other war film I've seen.

The acting is mostly top notch (Michael Redgrave, in particular), although some of the many characters fall into caricature.

But the film isn't afraid to kill off major characters, and deal with the emotional consequences. Some of the most interesting and moving scenes are how the men deal with losses with almost complete suppression of emotion – which feels very honest.

Also, there's some real fun had with the differences between the UK fliers, and the US troops who join them in 1942.

One of those films my head felt should rate lower, but I had to admit I enjoyed.
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9/10
Excellent war film with much heart
jem1321 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Excellent wartime film, designed as propaganda, but so well-made that it's a lasting British classic. John Mills and Michael Redgrave star as the fliers who become firm friends. We are let into their lives and loves and it's a warm film that feels genuine. Like the trial scene in Powell & Pressburger's magical "A Matter Of Life And Death" director Anthony Asquith also has something to stay about British-American relations during WW2, finding humour in the differences yet also heart. Mills may slip under people's radar because he's always so quiet and efficient, Redgrave is magnetic on screen. Very well edited and shot, it's one you must check out.
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8/10
Way to the Stars-A Staircase to Heaven ***
edwagreen26 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting, but yet slow moving British drama dealing with an airbase and accompanying inn during World War 11.

Toddy, the innkeeper, has the misfortune to lose her husband, leaving her with the inn to manage and an infant. She then becomes friendly with an American flyer, and while there is nothing to indicate that she'd break up his marriage, she had a deep admiration for him and then tragedy strikes again.

The writer of this movie, Terence Ratigan, seems to have a fetish with inns, innkeepers and dominant mothers and daughters as we saw years later in the memorable "Separate Tables." We certainly have elements of that film again in the guise of a domineering aunt who smothers her niece, the latter looking for love with flyer John Mills.

The picture, nicely done, deals with both American and British flyers at the base.
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10/10
The love, strength and humanity of people in war
SimonJack24 July 2012
This British war movie hit theaters in England on June 16, 1945 – just five weeks after VE Day. The film had been in production for some time, and no doubt the filmmakers could see the war slowly coming to an end in Europe. Still, it seems something of a risk to produce and release this type of film near war's end.

Coming right on the heels of the war, it must have evoked deep emotions from Brits and Americans alike. Anyone who lost a loved one—spouse, son, father, brother, would identify with "The Way to the Stars." And, for all of us – then and now, the film remains a moving, heartfelt story of love, strength, sorrow and carrying on in the face of loss.

Released as "Johnny in the Clouds" in England, the film is also a wonderful portrait of friendly British and American relations, both militarily and amidst the public. It has a feel of reality in the rural setting around a small bomber airfield. The film develops each of several characters in detail. The men and women of the small British town are as much a part of the lives of the airmen as are their comrades in uniform. And the Brits welcome the Yanks who later replace them with new American Flying Fortresses.

Excellent performances are given by all in the large cast. Among those who stand out are John Mills, Rosamund John, Stanley Holloway, Douglass Montgomery, Renée Asherson, and Bonar Colleano. This is one of a few excellent war movies that isn't centered on combat action, but that tells the human story on a home front that's close to the action. The direction, script and plot, cinematography and other technical aspects of the film are all excellent.
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7/10
Lead Killed Halfway Through The Movie
bkoganbing22 August 2010
Michael Redgrave and John Mills star in this British production about the RAF in wartime Great Britain, the men who serve there and the women who love them.

Redgrave plays a Royal Air Force squadron leader and Mills is the new man assigned to him. In the early days of the Battle Of Britain new men were rushed right into combat and given a lot of on the job training. If the training was right it was a simple test, pilots and their crews lived to fight another day. Mills is a bit full of himself at first, but he straightens out soon enough under Redgrave's tutelage.

The title Johnny In The Clouds comes from an airman's simple poem said over dead comrades. It's something that Redgrave found and it's brief, but eloquent. It's not usual for one of the leads to get killed halfway through the film, but Redgrave is remembered throughout the movie.

His wife and later widow is Rosamund John who gets a few people sniffing around after Redgrave's demise, including Mills. He later gets interested in Renee Asherson, but she's under the heel of a domineering spinster aunt played by Joyce Carey. As for John, when America enters the war and our Army Air Corps comes in and takes over in large measure from the RAF, John gets interested in American flier Douglass Montgomery.

Stanley Holloway is in the film lending his usual good cheer in any movie he's in. And in a brief role you can spot Jean Simmons as a singer, maybe a harbinger of what she did in Guys And Dolls where she also sang. Look also for Trevor Howard in a bit part.

Johnny In The Clouds is not a war film in the truest sense because there are no aerial combat sequences. It's a romantic film set during World War II and it came out after the outcome was in the bag. Everyone is in the best stiff upper lip tradition of the British people and as a romance Johnny In The Clouds still holds up well today.
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6/10
Wartime drama with a rich mix of emotions: fear, courage, romance, heartbreak...
moonspinner559 June 2011
John Mills gives yet another sturdy, competent, though somewhat colorless performance playing an amateur Pilot Officer in England, 1940; he's the new man on the squadron of professional fliers, and has to prove himself in the ranks before he can gain confidence. This portrait of activity and camaraderie on a British bomber base is vivid and emotional without being exceptionally exciting. Overrated by most critics, it certainly was a timely picture (with the action wrapping up in 1944), and the performances by the large cast (including Michael Redgrave, Trevor Howard, and David Tomlinson) are uniformly excellent. The opening sequence set in the now-empty hangar and barracks strikes a somber tone, and indeed there is much life-and-death heartbreak and melodrama on hand, though the finale has a hopeful, nearly-upbeat spirit. It's a heartfelt film, though the editing is lax (particularly involving a plane crash and a silly bit with a cigarette lighter that tends to spell bad luck for its owners!) and the midsection sags a bit from the weight of too many issues. Anthony Asquith's direction is solid; he wisely keeps the introductions and chit-chat to a minimum and instead concentrates on the personalities and feelings of the soldiers and their ladies. Watch for a young Jean Simmons, astonishingly lovely and perky as a singer in the mess hall. **1/2 from ****
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7/10
The Way To The Stars
roger-simmons194219 October 2006
In his autobiography "Up in the Clouds,Time Gentlemen Please",John Mills mentions location filming at Catterick (N.Yorks),he also mentions doing a short scene with Trevor Howard.Mills tells his wife that evening that with any luck Howard must become a star one day. The film has what must rank as one of the worst mimes ever with Jean Simmons as a singer,however,her youth and sheer beauty transcends her miming. This is a classic film of the wartime genre with a superb cast.Three supporting actors went on to work together in Brief Encounter. John Mills also mentions in his book (page 278) that the day before he went to Catterick a "doodlebug" (V1 rocket)flew overhead and exploded not far away in Denham Studios near where he lived.
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