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The High and the Mighty (1954)

Not Rated | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 3 July 1954 (USA)
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When a commercial airliner develops engine problems on a trans-Pacific flight and the pilot loses his nerve, it is up to the washed-up co-pilot Dan Roman to bring the plane in safely.

Director:

William A. Wellman

Writers:

Ernest K. Gann (screenplay), Ernest K. Gann (novel)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Dan Roman
Claire Trevor ... May Holst
Laraine Day ... Lydia Rice
Robert Stack ... John Sullivan
Jan Sterling ... Sally McKee
Phil Harris ... Ed Joseph
Robert Newton ... Gustave Pardee
David Brian ... Ken Childs
Paul Kelly ... Donald Flaherty
Sidney Blackmer ... Humphrey Agnew
Julie Bishop ... Lillian Pardee
Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez ... Gonzales (as Gonzalez Gonzalez)
John Howard ... Howard Rice
Wally Brown ... Lenny Wilby, navigator
William Campbell ... Hobie Wheeler
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Storyline

On a flight from Hawaii to California, the engine dies on the plane Dan is flying. As he prepares for a crash landing, the passengers reassess their lives. The template for disaster movies with an Oscar-winning score and a cast list that reads like a who's who of 1950s film. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The 2-year best seller blasts to the screen with every kind of love there is! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 July 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

William A. Wellman's The High and the Mighty See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,470,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo | Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Nearly every one of the beloved 1970s disaster movies was strongly influenced by The High and the Mighty (1954) and another pre-genre disaster film, Zero Hour (1957). See more »

Goofs

Ed and Clara Joseph give their ages as 38 and 33, but players Phil Harris and Ann Doran were actually 50 and 43 at the time. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ben Sneed: Hey fella, ain't you Dan Roman?
Dan Roman: Yeah.
Ben Sneed: I heard you whistlin' and I said to myself only one guy does that just so.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The song "The High and the Mighty" (with lyrics) does not appear in the original 1954 release of this film. However, the studio wanted the hugely popular, chart-topping song to be nominated for the Best Song Academy Award that year. According to AMPAS regulations, the song could not be nominated because it was no officially sung in the film, even if would be heard elsewhere. To satisfy these regulations, a version was released towards the tail-end of 1954 for a few nights only with the song inserted into an Exit Music. The Academy then decided to give the song a nomination on the basis of these screenings. The song lost to "Three Coins in a Fountain". See more »

Connections

Edited into Flight That Disappeared (1961) See more »

Soundtracks

Semper Paratus
("Always Ready") (uncredited)
Written by Francis S. Van Boskerck
See more »

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User Reviews

That Majestic Theme Song
4 January 2006 | by LechuguillaSee all my reviews

Has there ever been a more majestic film score? Slightly melancholy and beautifully haunting, Dimitri Tiomkin's Academy Award winning music gives us a grand and expansive auditory experience comparable perhaps to what a soaring eagle must feel, in its own way, as it glides high above a landscape of the mundane and the mediocre.

In the early 50s, people were just getting used to the idea that they could climb aboard a big man-made eagle and soar above cars, buses, and trains. It was a thrilling, but scary, idea, not unlike traveling on the Titanic. And so, with "The High And The Mighty", Hollywood created the first big budget movie that conveyed the idea of risk, in commercial air travel. Throughout the film, the overriding emotion is insecurity, not only among passengers but among the crew as well. Since the film was a cinematic prototype, I can see how its nerve-wracking story would appeal to moviegoers of that era. The film's angelic theme music thus provided inspiration to help viewers overcome their fear of something new and different, something potentially life threatening.

Since the early 50s, air travel has lost its sense of adventure. The film to us seems quaint and dated. What seemed odd to me, for example, was the ticket counter. The pace was leisurely, and the attention was very personal. Then, on board the plane, the stewardess made sure that the passengers got personalized attention. At one point, even the captain, upon request, reassured a nervous passenger. Those were the days.

First time viewers also need to be aware that this film is talky and dreamily melodramatic. The emphasis is on story and acting, not special effects or high-powered action. And then there is that final Act. It is different perhaps from what most of us probably would expect. But again, we must take into account the era in which the film was made.

Fifty years after its release, "The High And The Mighty", as a film, cannot compete with its own theme music. The sweeping orchestration, like music generally, transcends time and spans the generations. By contrast, technology, and mankind's reaction to technology, changes. The film's story thus has a different meaning to us than it did to the original moviegoers. If you can place the film in its proper historic context, you have a better chance of appreciating the film for what it was then, not for what it is now.


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