“I believe in an instrument panel, a pressure gauge, a compass — things I can see and touch. I can’t touch God.”
While preparing for and then living through his 36-hour flight from New York to Paris, Charles Lindbergh (Jimmy Stewart) reflects back on his past as a barnstormer and mail carrier.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Airplanes and Pilots
- Billy Wilder Films
- Jimmy Stewart Films
Billy Wilder directed this adaptation of Charles Lindbergh’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir about his 1927 trans-Atlantic flight, which (much to Lindbergh’s consternation) starred 47-year-old Stewart as the 25-year-old aviator. Nothing is mentioned at all about Lindbergh’s infamously toxic political beliefs, leaving us instead with simply a tale of a determined young man who won’t give up on his dreams — which, as we know, he achieved. The film’s intrinsic excitement comes first from seeing Lindbergh’s attempts to secure financing for a custom-built plane:
… and then ample footage of his harrowing flight, which included falling asleep numerous times, accidentally allowing ice to build on the wings, and losing navigational abilities, among many other challenges:
Along the way, we see Lindbergh chatting with a rogue fly stuck in the cockpit:
… and watch some of flashbacks that filled his mind during the long hours of the flight — including reflecting back on his friendship with a fellow pilot (Murray Hamilton):
… making a living as a barnstormer:
… and teaching an incompetent yet perennially cheerful priest (Marc Connelly) how to fly.
While this well-crafted aviation flick isn’t must-see viewing, it’s worth a look.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh
- Good attention to period detail
- Fine cinematography by Robert Burks and J. Peverell Marley
No, though it’s recommended for one-time viewing.