Way to the Stars, The / Johnny in the Clouds (1945)

Way to the Stars, The / Johnny in the Clouds (1945)

“There aren’t any amateurs and professionals anymore; just good pilots and bad pilots.”

In England during the early years of World War II, a new fighter pilot (John Mills) is assigned to work under a veteran flight lieutenant (Michael Redgrave) who marries his sweetheart (Rosamund John) and has a child. Meanwhile, Mills falls for a pretty young woman (Renee Asherson) living with her strict aunt (Joyce Carey), and over the years various American pilots — including a young father named Johnny (Douglass Montgomery) — are sent to join the RAF in their efforts.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Airplanes and Pilots
  • John Mills Films
  • Michael Redgrave Films
  • Military
  • Trevor Howard Films
  • World War II

Playwright Terence Rattigan wrote the screenplay for this British tribute to WWII flyers, who repeatedly risked their lives to engage in dangerous but essential work while juggling decisions related to romance, marriage, and kids:

Saying more about specific storylines would give away spoilers, so I’ll avoid doing that; suffice it to say that the realities of sacrifice aren’t sugar-coated here, and we see individuals managing complicated emotions.

Meanwhile, much fun is had with cultural and linguistic differences between the Brits and the Yanks (who nonetheless quickly learn to get along):

Interestingly, despite its very specific topic and setting, there are parallels between this wartime flick (shortened and released as Johnny in the Clouds in the U.S.) and Rattigan’s later Separate Tables (1958), given that both take place at least partly in a rooming house/hotel. In The Way to the Stars, Rosamund John plays the role of the “efficient hotel manager” (inhabited by Oscar-winning Wendy Hiller in Separate Tables):

… and Renee Asherson — last seen as Princess Kate in Laurence Olivier’s Henry V (1944) — plays a shy young woman (Deborah Kerr’s equivalent in Separate Tables) living under the thumb of an overly protective caretaker:

Note: Watch for Trevor Howard in his first credited screen role:

… and 15-year-old Jean Simmons in a brief bit as a singer in a club:

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine performances by Redgrave and Mills

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look by those interested in films of this period. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Way to the Stars, The / Johnny in the Clouds (1945)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Episodic in nature, there’s no plot; it reads like an homage to the flyers of the RAF. ~ which is fine and worthy; it’s not a bad film. It’s earnest, mainly subdued, but somewhat lacking in dramatic thrust.

    The aspects of similarity with ‘Separate Tables’ are well-observed in the assessment.

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