6.9/10
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The Sound Barrier (1952)

Approved | | Drama, Romance, War | 21 December 1952 (USA)
Fictionalized story of British aerospace engineers solving the problem of supersonic flight.

Director:

David Lean

Writers:

Terence Rattigan (story), Terence Rattigan (screenplay)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 8 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Ralph Richardson ... J.R.
Ann Todd ... Susan
Nigel Patrick ... Tony
John Justin ... Philip
Dinah Sheridan ... Jess
Joseph Tomelty Joseph Tomelty ... Will
Denholm Elliott ... Chris
Jack Allen Jack Allen ... 'Windy'
Ralph Michael Ralph Michael ... Fletcher
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Storyline

Tony successful fighter pilot during World War II marries into the family of a wealthy oil magnate who also designs airplanes. The movie traces the company's attempt to break the sound barrier, as well as tensions between father and daughter. Lots of footage of early 50s jet aviation in Great Britain as well as shots of the Comet airliner, world's first jet passenger plane. Written by Henry Brugsch <henry@g0gku.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Jet Packed Excitement! Jet Packed Danger! Jet Packed Romance! The Greatest Adventure Story of Our Time! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 December 1952 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Breaking Through the Sound Barrier See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

£250,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)| Mono (Sound Recording of the breaking of the sound barrier made by John W. Davies - afterwards known in the industry as Jack Sound.)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Despite this fictionalized story of breaking the sound barrier, this feat was accomplished by U.S. Air Force General Chuck Yeager on October 14, 1947 at Edwards Air Force Base. Furthermore, Yeager explained that if a pilot were to break the sound barrier in the manner depicted in this movie, the pilot would've been killed. This movie was also heavily based on the endeavors of the de Havilland company in the U.K. Geoffrey de Havilland, Jr., son of company owner Geoffrey de Havilland, was killed in September 1946 while conducting high speed tests approaching the speed of sound over the Thames estuary. See more »

Goofs

John tells Tony when they are in the observatory that the Andromeda galaxy is 700,000 light years away. In fact, it is 2.54 million light years away. See more »

Quotes

Philip Peel: Will?
Will Sparks: What?
Philip Peel: Is it possible that at the speed of sound, the controls are reversed?
Will Sparks: At the speed of sound, Philip, anything's possible. Why?
Philip Peel: During the war once, I put a Spitfire into a flat-out dive. No particular reason, just youthful high spirits. I think now that I hit the sound barrier. I remember that the more I pulled on the stick, the harder the nose went down. The same thing happened this morning.
Will Sparks: You're not supposed to do a high Mach number!
Philip Peel: I know, but I did. Both times, I had the ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, immediately after the human actors, are listed four British aircraft: The de Havilland COMET The Vickers-Supermarine ATTACKER The de Havilland VAMPIRE 113 The Vickers-Supermarine SWIFT Rolls-Royce 'Avon' Engine See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Bit Part (1988) See more »

Soundtracks

Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me a Bow-Wow
(uncredited)
Written by Joseph Tabrar
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Great Drama About Men of Vision Using Jet Research as a Vehicle
5 October 2008 | by silverscreen888See all my reviews

By many standards, David Lean's production of the film he directed in 1952, "The Sound Barrier" is both unusual and I suggest rewarding. The screenplay by Terence Rattigan I found to be riveting throughout. This I judge stems from the fact that its subject is men of vision, and what they do to about their greed for something unnameable, necessary and sometimes deadly. The author in the film is at pains not to paint such men as glory hunters, nor seekers after excitement alone; in one scene, the central character talks about the fliers of the past, and then suggests the men of the future will need vision even more than flying skills to conquer what awaits us--and the answer to what that is is given as "the stars"--called the final frontier in this film in all but name. There are three fliers we meet in the film at a fictitious industrial empire called Ridgefield. The boss's son who hasn't got what a flier needs, Tony, who marries his daughter and reaches his limit because he lacks the necessary genius, and Philip, who has "the right stuff". What I find extraordinary about this very well-directed cinematic tale is that it is always about the people and the joy and danger of flight at the same time, without the focus ever losing sight of the people. The music for this film was supplied by Malcolm Arnold, and it is extraordinary almost everywhere but I find never intrusive. One sequence involves one of the three pilots taking his new wife for a swift flight to Cairo from England; the scene accomplishes many things at once. She learns because of her journey, what some men see in the serenity of the sky, and even its danger; it introduces us to the third pilot and his wife; and we are given a sense of the camaraderie of the men who flew in those days; another such moment occurs when the French ace Geoffrey de Havilland is killed trying to break the sound barrier ahead of all others. Jack Hildyard and several others supplied the cinematography and aerial scenes; Elizabeth Hemminges did a fine subdued job on the costumes; Vincent Korda is credited with the Art Department's superb work while Muir Matheson is acknowledged as music director. Among the smallish cast, the pilots are all beautifully played. bright Nigel Patrick is likable ace Tony, young Denholm Elliot stands out as the boss's son, and John Justin is just right as the third of the trio, Philip. Joseph Tomelty is admirable as Will Sparks, the designer tormented by his own part in causing test pilots to risk their lives; Ann Todd is good as the tormented Susan, wife to Tony and daughter of the boss of Ridgefield. Dinah Sheridan is also lovely as Philip's brave wife; but it is Ralph Richardson's powerful realization of John Ridgefield, former pilot, towering presence and inspiring and dangerous leader of men who along with Justin gives the film its unusual dimension of mind and purpose. One may quarrel with the motivations attributed to Richardson in the last scenes; but he has been so alone in his vision and at such a cost, he may be forgiven for asking at last to be understood. The ending I find to be most satisfying, the film's climax tremendously moving. This is a great film, which has never been appreciated as it should have been. It is B/W film-making at its dramatic best for my money. Its science may not be perfect, but its depiction of human merit and what happens when that quality is lacking in a man is powerful indeed. Not to be missed.


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