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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

Show more on IMDbPro »

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

This film features 4 future "Star Trek" actors--Paul Fix who played Dr. Piper in "Where No Man Has Gone Before", William Schallert who played Nilz Barris in "The Trouble with Tribbles"; David Brian who played John Gill in "Patterns of Force" and William Campbell who played the Klingon Koloth in "Trouble with Tribbles" and Trelane in "Squire of Gothos". See more »

Goofs

At the missile testing site, the word "missile" is misspelled "missle" on the sign. 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

A very few prints were made for release in the Los Angeles area during December, 1954 which included a vocal version of the Main Theme from "The High and the Mighty" in the closing credits. This was done to qualify the film for eligibility in the AMPAS Best Song category for the year. However, the Best Song award went to "Three Coins in the Fountain". See more »

Connections

Featured in Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech
Traditional
Whistled by John Wayne
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Wayne Disaster Film No Classic, But GREAT Entertainment!
20 July 2005 | by cariartSee all my reviews

"The High and the Mighty", the granddaddy of air disaster movies, often falls into almost campy melodrama, but under the direction of the legendary 'Wild Bill' Wellman, and punctuated by one of Dimitri Tiomkin's most bombastic yet exciting scores (earning him an Oscar), the film maintains such a level of intensity that it remains constantly entertaining. With John Wayne heading an ensemble cast (including several co-stars from the past, as well as personal friends), it is certainly an essential for any 'Duke' film library.

Produced by Wayne-Fellows Productions, and 'owned', eventually, by the Wayne family's Batjac Productions (along with "Hondo", "McLintock!", and "Island in the Sky"), the film was a BIG hit, when released, and offered one of Wayne's better performances, then gained even greater stature as it was unseen for a generation. I've always held the belief that the family planned to release the entire quartet of films in 2007, to mark the centennial of Duke's birth, but two events changed the plan; first, an unauthorized, 'remixed' VHS version of "McLintock!" was released, with rumors that a version of "Hondo" was also in the works, forcing Michael Wayne, then President of Batjac, to release authorized VHS versions of the two films, rather than have the market glutted with bad copies; second, with Michael's death, in 2003, the Wayne family rethought the master plan, deciding to release the entire collection on DVD earlier. For whatever reason, seeing "The High and the Mighty" again is a cause to celebrate!

Based on Ernest K. Gann's bestseller (which would inspire Arthur Hailey's later novel, "Airport"), the story centers around a routine commercial flight between Honolulu and San Francisco, which becomes a life-and-death drama when one engine explodes, just beyond the 'Point of No Return'. With limited fuel, in deteriorating weather, the crisis brings out the best and worst in both passengers and crew.

Wayne as the co-pilot, is quite good, playing a character older than he actually was (the role had been written for Spencer Tracy, who pulled out, just prior to filming); Robert Stack almost foreshadows his character in "Airplane!" as the no-nonsense pilot who goes ballistic when stressed. For cockpit 'overacting', however, the award has to go to Wally Brown, as the navigator, with his bugged-out eyes, visions of his shrewish wife, and WILDLY unruly hair...

While the passengers are all stereotypes, several actors are quite good in their roles, with standout performances by Claire Trevor and Jan Sterling (both Oscar-nominated), Robert Newton, Paul Kelly, and Paul Fix. While Phil Harris attempts to inject humor into his role, it only works sporadically (and Ann Doran, as his wife, plays 'hysterical' so convincingly that you want to STRANGLE her!) Laraine Day, third-billed (and, with Trevor, a previous Wayne leading lady), is remarkably unlikable as a rich wife with a 'bought' husband (John Howard); Sidney Blackmer plays the 'mandatory' unbalanced type; and veteran character actor John Qualen adds another 'ethnic' portrayal to his long list, as a Latin family man (with a Norwegian accent!) A bit of trivia: The young boy on board was portrayed by director Wellman's son!

Almost as fascinating as the story is seeing how much has changed, since the film was released; the plane's 'tail' is controlled by pulleys and wires in a rear compartment; the sole flight attendant is a "stewardess"; and everyone smokes (especially in the cockpit). On a more somber note, there is NO security, and one passenger boards easily, carrying a gun. It is, sadly, a wiser world, today...

While no one would ever accuse "The High and the Mighty" of being a film classic, it's role in creating the 'airplane disaster' genre can't be denied, and it continues to be a vastly enjoyable John Wayne feature.

It's great to have it back!


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