The High and the Mighty
John Wayne personally produced many of his ’50s films, which is why some of them have languished in corporate limbo following his death. The High and the Mighty was one of his most popular vehicles (no pun intended). This long, necessarily sedentary drama aboard an endangered airliner is a CinemaScope bridge between 1932’s Grand Hotel and 1970s disaster movies. Despite Wayne’s iconic presence as a pilot–now copilot–who survived the plane crash that wiped out his family, it’s an ensemble movie with an impressive cast: Robert Stack sharing the cockpit, Oscar® nominees Claire Trevor and Jan Sterling, Laraine Day, Robert Newton, Paul Kelly, John Qualen, Regis Toomey, the ubiquitous Paul Fix, and director William A. Wellman’s good-luck character actor Douglas Fowley. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score won the Oscar, though the fondly remembered theme song isn’t as prominent as you’d expect. Wings veteran William H. Clothier shot the aerial footage.
John Wayne plays “Whispering Dan” Roman in this film, an airplane pilot who lost his wife and child in a plane crash some years before. When he travels as a co-pilot on a long flight, his experience will be needed when the plane runs into some serious problems. The crew has to decide if they have enough fuel to make it to San Francisco or if they should attempt to land in the water, hoping the plane won’t sink until they are met by rescue workers.
The story examines the psyche of several passengers, and how they react when they realize they could be confronted with death. The story is interesting and none of the content crosses Dove’s level of acceptability so we are pleased to award this movie with our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal.