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Island in the Sky (1953) Poster

Trivia

The general plot is based on a true story that Ernest Gann related in his 1961 autobiographical book about his flying career, "Fate is the Hunter". He and other pilots searched successfully for a lost fellow pilot in the wilds of northern Canada during World War II.
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This was one of just three films released theatrically in "WarnerPhonic" sound, an early four-channel surround sound system. Unfortunately, only the mono version of the soundtrack has survived.
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The little yellow radio shown in the movie was a actual radio. Its design was based on a World War II German emergency transmitter. It is a BC-778/SCR-578/AN-CRT3 emergency transmitter (it could not receive) affectionately called "Gibson Girl", a name taken from the narrow-waisted female drawings of 1890s fashion artist Charles Gibson. Its shape allowed the operator to hold it between the legs while cranking it the necessary eighty RPM to produce enough electricity to operate. It could be set to automatically send an S.O.S. signal, or switched to send Morse Code signals. Early models transmitted only on 500kHz, later models also could transmit on 8,280kHz (later modified to 8,364kHz). It was notorious for being tough to crank.
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The transport plane that was lost was a C47/DC3.
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Three actors in this film went on to star in movies or television shows about the Alamo. John Wayne played Davy Crockett in The Alamo (1960). Fess Parker played Davy Crockett in Davy Crockett at the Alamo (1955), and James Arness played Jim Bowie in The Alamo: Thirteen Days to Glory (1987).
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Ernest K. Gann (Author of the novel and screenplay) did some of the flying for the exterior shots of the C-47s. Filming was done in the Sierra Nevada range in California.
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The true story behind "Island in the Sky" was repeated by Ernest K. Gann in his 1961 book "Fate is the Hunter." It is covered in Chapters XI and XII. The movie generally follows the narrative written in the two chapters, except Dooley (John Wayne) was O'Conner in the book. All the other character names were different too. Even the airplanes involved were different, except for C-47s, which constituted part of the search force. O'Conner's plane was a Consolidated C-87, the 4-engine transport version of the famous B-24 Liberator. In addition to his flight crew, O'Conner was carrying 17 sick or injured men from Greenland. After O'Conner landed in the frozen wilderness, a search party C-47 that was in the group that discovered them, attempted to land near O'Conner's C-87, but ended up getting buried in deep snow and adding a few more mouths to feed. O'Conner and his crew and the crew of the downed C-47 were eventually rescued after a three-week ordeal in frigid termperatures, although the book is unclear as to how they were evacuated. Gann reported that everyone in the C-87 and C-47 were saved. Eventually, a team returned to the site of the downed C-87, assembled a small bulldozer that was flown out in pieces, fashioned an adequate airstrip, and flew the C-87 out. Gann did not mention what happened to the C-47.
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Dooley, played by John Wayne, recites The Lord's Prayer twice in the film; once during the first night In the wild, the second as they bury Lovatt.
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John Wayne, Andy Devine, James Arness, Harry Carey, Jr., Bob Steele, Fess Parker, and Paul Fix all had long and successful careers in Westerns. William Wellman directed several notable Westerns, including "Yellow Sky" and "The Ox Bow Incident".
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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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