Cast & Crew
At the Royal Air Force Training Base in Cranwell, England, a new crop of cadets arrives to start a three-year training program. Among them are Roger Endicott, a young man obsessed with building a flying saucer, Tony Winchester and the rich, pampered John Fletcher, who arrives piloting his own plane with which he impudently buzzes the base. In charge of turning these raw cadets into expert pilots is Wing Commander Rudge, who served under Tony's father during World War II. After meeting Tony, Rudge, who holds himself responsible for the senior Winchester's death, feels stirrings of guilt. Once they complete a course in navigation, the cadets board a plane to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom. They all fail miserably, and upon returning to base, Tony confides to Rudge's sympathetic wife Louise that he is experiencing feelings of self-doubt. Later that night, Tony visits the airplane museum on base and climbs into a World War II craft. Rudge walks in soon after and asks Tony what he is doing there. When Tony responds by inquiring about what it was like to fight in a war, Rudge replies that it was like being awake during a nightmare. Just as Tony demands that Rudge tell him how his father was killed, Rudge, still haunted by guilt, hears the sound of a plane crash and rushes onto the airfield where he learns that the pilot has safely bailed out. After completing their first year of training, the students and faculty enjoy a six-week leave then return for their second year of schooling. Once the cadets are finally assigned their own planes, Tony embarks upon a course of daredevil piloting in which he buzzes the local citizenry as well as their livestock. When the townspeople complain, Rudge lectures all three cadets but refrains from disciplining Tony. Later, Endicott demonstrates his newly built miniature flying saucer, which promptly crashes into the commandant's house, disrupting a tea party. On the day that the cadets are to fly solo, an approaching storm forces Rudge to cancel the exercise. Disobeying orders, Tony takes off and flies directly into a blinding storm. After a harrowing landing, Tony is berated by Rudge, who demands that he resign. The cadet then cruelly reminds Rudge that he defied his commanding officer once, resulting in the man's death. Later, after an argument with the commandant about Tony, Rudge tears up the cadet's resignation. At a dance to celebrate the end of the second term, Louise tells Tony that he reminds her of her husband, who suffered greatly before "learning his lesson." For their third year of training, the cadets are transferred to the RAF station at Leuchars, and are surprised to learn that Rudge has been assigned there, too. Only the best cadets will be allowed to perform in an aerobatic show, and when Rudge designates Tony a reserve member of the squad, Tony protests the fact that he is not on the primary team. When Rudge tells Tony that first he must learn to fit into a team, Tony accuses him of punishing him because of his guilty conscience over the death of his father. As the aerobatic team practices for the show, Fletcher's air hose becomes disconnected, rendering him unable to breathe. Although Rudge guides the gasping Fletcher to a safe landing, the injured cadet is disqualified from performing and Tony takes his place. After the air show, the squadron is sent to Germany for training in air-to-air firing. As they take off on their mission, the pilots are warned that flying out of their territorial boundaries could result in their being fired on. When two unidentified aircraft are spotted in the target area, Tony is sent to investigate and is shot at when he inadvertently crosses the border. With his plane severely damaged, the injured Tony is in danger of crashing when Rudge leads the squadron to guide him back to base for an emergency landing. After being pulled from the aircraft, Tony is taken to the hospital. When Rudge comes to visit, Tony smiles and offers his heartfelt thanks.
John Le Mesurier
A. S. Biettell
Albert R. Broccoli
Kenneth V. Jones
Group Captain John Pringle A.f.c.
Phil C. Samuel
The film High Flight, too, is an ode to aviation. It follows a year in the life of three 1950s Cranwell cadets as they train to become RAF flyers. The three are familiar stereotypes: Winchester (Kenneth Haigh), a headstrong, cocky experienced pilot who disregards orders and takes too many risks; Fletcher (Kenneth Fortescue), scion of a wealthy family who just wants to be one of the guys; and Endicott (Anthony Newley), the comic relief of the group, who's obsessed with flying saucers. Overseeing them is Wing Commander Rudge (Ray Milland), a World War II veteran who was in the same squadron as Winchester's late father during the war. All the characters are familiar types from dozens of military films, and they're mere sketches, pallidly portrayed in the case of two of the cadets, and played with pained boredom in the case of Milland. Only Newley brings any personality to his character, giving him a droll, goofy energy. A former child actor, Newley played the Artful Dodger in David Lean's film version of Oliver Twist (1948). Soon after appearing in High Flight, he became a successful pop singer, and in 1961 he co-wrote and starred in the London and Broadway musical Stop the World I Want to Get Off, which made him an international star.
High Flight is not a film you watch for the performances or the characters. Instead, the movie is a cult favorite among aviation buffs for the flying sequences with aircraft such as Vampires and Hunters. Shot on location at Cranwell with the cooperation of the Royal Air Force, it has some of the most spectacular aerial sequences of that era, and stunning cinematography enhanced by Technicolor and Cinemascope. One simple yet breathtaking scene of planes taking off at dawn is especially impressive.
High Flight was produced by Warwick Productions, a production company formed in 1951 by Americans Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Irving Allen to make films in Britain for the international market. They had great success with a series of action-adventure films, often starring aging American stars such as Alan Ladd and Victor Mature whose popularity at home was waning, supported by top British actors, and talented British directors. John Gilling, who directed High Flight, was a former editor who had turned to directing in the late 1940s, and would make a series of popular horror films for Hammer Studios in the early 1960s.
Warwick's use of Ray Milland was typical. The Welsh-born Milland had been a major leading man in American films of the 1940s, winning an Academy Award for his performance as an alcoholic in The Lost Weekend (1945). By the mid-1950s, he was less in demand, but still a marquee name. He had also moved into directing, and would direct both films and television, as well as continuing to act until shortly before his death in 1986.
By the end of the 1950s, the American audience for Warwick's films was shrinking, and Broccoli became interested in a series of spy novels that he thought would make good films. Allen disagreed, and the partnership ended, with Broccoli going off on his own to produce what would become the phenomenally successful James Bond series. The Bond films continue to this day, produced after Broccoli's death by his daughter and stepson. Allen also continued on his own, producing prestige films (The Trials of Oscar Wilde, 1960), historical epics (Cromwell, 1970) and even an international spy series of his own, the Matt Helm films starring Dean Martin.
Producer: Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli, Phil C. Samuel
Director: John Gilling
Screenplay: Ken Hughes, Joseph Landon, Jack Davies (story)
Cinematography: Ted Moore
Film Editing: Jack Slade
Art Direction: John Box
Music: Douglas Gamley, Kenneth V. Jones
Cast: Ray Milland (Wing Commander Rudge), Bernard Lee (Flight Sergeant Harris), Kenneth Haigh (Tony Winchester), Anthony Newley (Roger Endicott), Kenneth Fortescue (John Fletcher), Sean Kelly (Cadet Day).
by Margarita Landazuri
The film opens with the following written acknowledgment: "The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the Royal Air Force without which the film could not have been made." The opening and closing cast credits differ in order. The opening credits read: "and introducing Sean Kelly, January Brooks." Although the film's copyright lists its running time as 102 minutes, the Daily Variety review for the London opening lists it as 95 minutes and the Hollywood Variety review lists it as 83 minutes. The viewed print ran 95 minutes.
Although a Hollywood Reporter production chart places Duncan Lamont in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A September 1956 Los Angeles Times news item notes that Alan Ladd was initially sought to star. The Variety review states that the film's 2d unit filmed the air scenes under the direction of Max Varnel, Anthony Squire and Bernard Mainwaring. An April 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that eighteen days of location shooting were filmed at the Cranwell RAF Training Base in Lincolnshire, England. Interiors were filmed at the Elstree Studio in London. High Flight marked the American screen debut of January Brooks.
Released in United States 1958
Released in United States 1958