The Reluctant Astronaut (1967) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Don Knotts is Roy Fleming, a small town kiddie-ride operator who is deathly afraid of heights. After learning that his father has signed him up for the space program, Roy reluctantly heads for Houston, only to find out upon arriving that his job is a janitor, not an astronaut. Anxious to live up to the expectations of his domineering father, Roy manages to keep up a facade of being an astronaut to his family and friends. When NASA decides to launch a lay person into space to prove the worthiness of a new automated spacecraft, Roy gets the chance to confront his fears.

  • Thirty-five year old Royal Fleming is as unassuming a man as there could be, he who still lives with his parents in the small town of Sweetwater, Missouri. Roy works at a carnival operating a children's space capsule simulation ride, he acting as the astronaut. Being a real astronaut is as far away from Roy's reality as possible, as Roy is even afraid of heights, which includes not being able to fly in airplanes. Roy's father, Arbuckle Fleming, who only hears what he wants to hear, is a WWI US Army hero. Much to Roy's chagrin, Buck has dreams of Roy becoming a "hero" in his own right in the form of a real live astronaut, as demonstrated by he sending astronaut applications to the space program on Roy's behalf. Roy is horrified when his application has been accepted. Upon his arrival at the space center, Roy learns that the job for which he has been accepted is not as an astronaut trainee, but rather as a janitor. Roy has every intention of telling the truth to his family and friends - who also includes his somewhat "girl" back home, Ellie Jackson - but he doesn't have the heart to when he learns the truth behind why his father is so desperate for him to become a hero. Roy has to continue the ruse of being in astronaut training without being caught by those back home, in the process he getting into one misadventure after another. The Americans' space race with the Russians largely factors into what ultimately happens to Roy.



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