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When a commercial airliner develops engine trouble, the passengers and crew think back on the lives they could be losing soon.
At the Honolulu airport, the crew of a routine passenger flight to San Francisco assembles, as mechanics make pre-flight checks of the plane. Most of the airline personnel are aware that the flight's second pilot, the seasoned and almost legendary older flyer, "Whistling" Dan Roman, is haunted by a flight he piloted that crashed, leaving him permanently injured and killing all others on board, including his wife and son. The captain of the flight to San Francisco, "Skipper" Sullivan, suffers from a secret fear of flying that sometimes hits pilots after logging many flight hours. Inside the airport, stewardess Spalding checks in the passengers, who all have personal troubles: Mr. Flaherty, a nuclear physicist, hates how his life's work has been used; Mr. and Mrs. Ed Joseph are returning to their small town after suffering a series of mishaps and bad luck during their long-anticipated "dream" vacation; traveling with his contemptuous wife Lillian is Broadway producer Gustave Pardee, who fears flying; and fading beauty queen, Sally McKee, fears rejection from the fiancé she courted by mail with an eight-year-old photograph. Also on board is heiress Lydia Rice, who is angry that her husband Howard wants to sell her inherited family business to buy a mine and is contemplating divorce. Newlyweds Nell and Milo Buck, whose honeymoon is over, must now face real life; a self-effacing young Korean woman, Dorothy Chen, feeling alone in a strange land, is on her way to an American school; and five-year-old Toby Field is traveling alone en route between his estranged parents' houses. After invalid Frank Briscoe, wealthy playboy Ken Childs, worldly blonde May Holst and Italian-born fisherman and family man Jose Locota board, businessman Humphrey Agnew, who has no reservations, buys a seat on the plane at the last minute. With the help of third pilot Hobie Wheeler and navigator Lenny Wilby, the plane makes a smooth take-off, but early in the flight Dan, Sullivan and Spalding notice unexplainable vibrations. During a rest break, while the insecure Lenny chatters about his younger, alcoholic wife, Sullivan tries to comfort himself that, according to older pilots, his mid-career fears are temporary. Although Sullivan senses that the plane's propellers are out of phase, Dan and Hobie cannot confirm it. In the passenger cabin, the Rices quarrel, as Harold explains that he wants to buy the mine to prove he can run a business on his own, while Ed tries to amuse the anxious Pardee with tales of their nightmare vacation. Dan and Sullivan's vague misgivings seem confirmed when Spalding notices vibrations in the back kitchen, but Dan inspects the fuel compartment and finds nothing amiss. A couple of hours into the flight, after the plane passes the point of no return and cannot go back to Honolulu if trouble occurs, Agnew accuses Childs of making love to his wife in Honolulu. Although Childs truthfully insists he is innocent, Agnew pulls out a gun and shoots, igniting a fire, which is quickly extinguished. However, the bullet ruptures a gas tank and twists one of the motors in its mounting, causing a severe drag. The pilots radio for help, but can only reach Gonzalez, an amateur operator on a merchant ship below. Gonzalez relays their message to the San Francisco Coast Guard, who send rescue planes prepared to make a water rescue. After calculating that they need to lessen the load to extend their gas usage, Dan rallies the passengers to dump their luggage out of the plane and into the sea. The activity brings the passengers together, as they relay luggage down the aisle to Dan, who pitches them out the hatch, and afterward they find that their individual problems seem less important. Overcoming his own fears, Pardee comforts Ed's wife, who worries about her young children, and Lillian, seeing her husband's bravery, finds her love rekindled. Dorothy and Briscoe befriend each other, May and Childs find companionship, and the fatherly Locota, who confiscated Agnew's gun, scolds the belligerent man into better behavior. Lydia begins to see that she really loves Harold, who needs her emotional support, and Sally removes her makeup, as she now feels secure enough to face her fiancé honestly. Although they secretly know that the heavy wind will not permit a safe water landing, Spalding and Hobie instruct the passengers on the use of life jackets and lifeboats. Lenny, having been distracted by thoughts of his marital problems, realizes that the coast is eleven minutes farther than he originally believed. While their colleagues on the ground prepare for the worst, Sullivan panics and prepares to ditch, but Dan slaps him back to his senses and takes over. After ordering a recalculation of their gas supply and weather conditions, Dan determines that they can just barely land safely at the San Francisco airport. Airport employees clear and light the runway, and the rescue planes fly nearby as guides, but all watch anxiously, as Dan and the crew bring the plane through turbulence and fog to a safe landing. As the plight of the airplane has made news, the disembarking passengers are greeted by the flash bulbs of reporters' cameras. Locota's large family is waiting for him, and Sally's future husband greets her warmly. Briscoe, whose exit is assisted by Dorothy, invites Spalding to join them for a steak dinner in town. Having slept through it all, young Toby awakens unchanged by the trip, but his mother, who was shaken by her son's brush with death, has decided to reconcile with her husband. Chastened, Agnew immediately calls his wife to apologize. When the crowd is gone, airport administrator Jim Garfield informs Dan that there were only thirty gallons of gas left in the tank. Dan, acknowledging the risk he took, goes off alone, whistling.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||Los Angeles opening: 27 May 1954; New York opening: 31 May 1954|
|Release Date:||1954||Production Date:||
UCLA has 35mm print RFB 0000041798, M22137 badly f
Cass. is best I can come up with at the moment - s
|Color/B&W:||Color (Warnercolor)||Distributions Co:||Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.|
|Sound:||4-Track Stereo, Mono (RCA Sound System)||Production Co:||Wayne-Fellows Productions, Inc.|
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high and the mighty
kevin sellers 2015-07-15
Like "Chariots of Fire," it's a mediocre film with great theme music (from Dimitri Tiompkin)
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Tom Spencer 2014-04-27
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Robert Chilcoat 2014-01-04
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