Battle of Britain


2h 12m 1969
Battle of Britain

Brief Synopsis

England defends itself against the Nazi Blitz.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Historical
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 20 Oct 1969
Production Company
Spitfire Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United Kingdom
Location
Hawkinge, England, United Kingdom; Duxford, England, United Kingdom; North Weald, England, United Kingdom; Northold Airfields, England, United Kingdom; Tablana Airfield, Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster (London, 1961).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

After the evacuation of Dunkirk and Britain's rejection of Hitler's offer for an armistice, the British hope to gain time to rearm for the inevitable clash with the Luftwaffe. Following Goering's plan to destroy British air power on the ground, the Luftwaffe attacks airfields in southern England, causing heavy losses. The RAF is able to fight back effectively, however, thus vindicating Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding's policy of maintaining protective strength in Britain during the battle for France. Continuous assaults by the Germans begin to place a strain on the RAF's most experienced pilots, such as Squadron Leaders Skipper and Harvey, and inexperienced fliers are hurriedly trained for the daily operations. When a German plane accidentally bombs London, the British retaliate by shelling Berlin; Hitler, furious that the enemy was able to penetrate his country, calls for the destruction of London and other British cities. The RAF uses the time of the blitzkrieg to rebuild the destroyed airfields and to regroup with the aid of the Polish Freedom Fighters; Goering's massive attack is met by a strong RAF, and the order to invade Britain is cancelled.

Cast

Laurence Olivier

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding

Robert Shaw

Squadron Leader Skipper

Christopher Plummer

Sqn. Ldr. Colin Harvey

Susannah York

Section Officer Maggie Harvey

Ian Mcshane

Sergeant Pilot Andy

Michael Caine

Squadron Leader Canfield

Kenneth More

Group Captain Baker

Trevor Howard

Air Vice Marshal Keith Park

Patrick Wymark

Air Vice Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory

Ralph Richardson

British minister in Switzerland

Curt Jürgens

Baron von Richter

Harry Andrews

Sir Francis Stokes

Michael Redgrave

Air Vice Marshal Evill

Nigel Patrick

Group Captain Hope

Michael Bates

Warrant Officer Warrick

Isla Blair

Andy's wife

John Baskcomb

Farmer

Tom Chatto

Willoughby's assistant

James Cosmo

Jamie

Robert Flemyng

Wing Commander Willoughby

Barry Foster

Squadron Leader Edwards

Edward Fox

Pilot Officer Archie

W. G. Foxley

Squadron Leader Evans

David Griffin

Sergeant Pilot Chris

Jack Gwillim

Senior air staff officer

Myles Hoyle

Peter

Duncan Lamont

Flight Sergeant Arthur

Sarah Lawson

Skipper's wife

Mark Malicz

Pasco

André Maranne

French N.C.O.

Anthony Nicholls

Minister

Nicholas Pennell

Simon

Andrzej Scibor

Ox

Jean Wladon

Jean-Jacques

Wilfried Van Aacken

General Osterkamp

Karl Otto Alberty

Jeschonnek

Alexander Allerson

Major Brandt

Dietrich Frauboes

Field Marshal Milch

Alf Jungermann

Brandt's navigator

Peter Hager

Field Marshal Kesselring

Wolf Harnisch

General Fink

Reinhard Horras

Bruno

Helmut Kircher

Boehm

Paul Neuhaus

Major Foehn

Malte Petzel

Col. Beppo Schmid

Manfred Reddemann

Major Falke

Hein Riess

Reichs Marshal Goering

Rolf Stiefel

Hitler

Crew

Eric Allwright

Chief makeup

Malcolm Arnold

Conductor

Bert Bates

Film Editor

John Bennett

Prop

Maurice Binder

Main titles

David Bracknell

Aerial & 2d unit Director

Col. Hans Brustellin

German tech & tactical adv

Ray Caple

Special Effects

Maurice Carter

Supervisor art Director

Derek Cracknell

Assistant Director

Brenda Dabbs

Wardrobe mistress

Bert Davey

Art Director

Squadron Leader B. Drobinski

British tech & tactical adv

Carl Duering

German casting & dial Director

Gordon Everett

Sound

S. Benjamin Fisz

Producer

Maj. Franz Frodl

German tech & tactical adv

George Frost

Chief makeup

Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland

German tech & tactical adv

Group Capt. Tom Gleave

British tech & tactical adv

Ron Goodwin

Music comp & Conductor

Wilfred Greatorex

Screenwriter

Claud Hudson

Production Manager

Bob Huke

2nd unit Photographer

William Hutchinson

Art Director

John Jordan

Aerial Photographer

Skeets Kelly

Aerial Photographer

James Kennaway

Screenwriter

Squadron Leader Ginger Lacey

British tech & tactical adv

Wing Cmdr. Claire Legge

British tech & tactical adv

Group Capt. Hamish Mahaddie

British tech & tactical adv

Ted Mason

Sound Editing

Jack Maxsted

Art Director

Gordon Mccallum

Sound

John Palmer

Associate Producer

Gil Parrondo

Art Director

Agustin Pastor

Spanish prod Manager

Cliff Richardson

Special Effects

Glen Robinson

Special Effects

Harry Saltzman

Producer

Elaine Schreyeck

Cont

A. G. Scott

Hairstyles

James Shields

Sound Editing

Maude Spector

Casting Director

Wing Cmdr. Robert Stanford-tuck

Tech & tactical adv

Sydney Streeter

Prod Supervisor

Wally Veevers

Special Effects

William Walton

Composer

Bernard Williams

Aerial unit prod Manager

John Wilson-apperson

Wardrobe Supervisor

Wing Cmdr. Robert Wright

British tech & tactical adv

Freddie Young

Director of Photography

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Action
Historical
War
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1969
Premiere Information
New York opening: 20 Oct 1969
Production Company
Spitfire Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United Kingdom
Location
Hawkinge, England, United Kingdom; Duxford, England, United Kingdom; North Weald, England, United Kingdom; Northold Airfields, England, United Kingdom; Tablana Airfield, Spain
Screenplay Information
Based on the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster (London, 1961).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 12m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Battle of Britain


"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," declared Winston Churchill famously to the House of Commons on Aug. 20, 1940. One week earlier, fierce dogfights had broken out over the skies of England between British and Nazi flyers. This episode of WWII - known as the Battle of Britain - lasted six weeks and included the worst of the London Blitz. Hitler was trying to pummel the British from the air in advance of a Nazi ground invasion. But the Royal Air Force, with some assistance from Czech and Polish pilots, put up a diligent fight despite heavy early losses, ultimately forcing Hitler on Sept. 17 to cancel his planned invasion "until further notice."

Battle of Britain (1969) is essentially this story, alternating personal vignettes of commanders, flyers and civilians with spectacular and vivid dogfight sequences. These combat scenes are the result of some impressive logistical coordination and craftsmanship, and they make the film visually compelling.

Producer Harry Saltzman and director Guy Hamilton, both known for their work on Goldfinger (1964) and other James Bond movies, oversaw 18 months of scripting and 14 months of shooting. They assembled over 100 vintage planes and hired as technical advisers three of the greatest veteran flying aces of the battle - two British and one German. They also had 14 movie stars in the cast, which made for a scheduling nightmare. It proved to be a real challenge to pull off an epic of this size while maintaining a clear and cohesive point of view for the audience. In the end, Battle of Britain tried to show too much, blunting its force with an episodic structure. Still, the dogfights look great, and the picture effectively evokes a sense of battle fatigue, anxiety over a pilot shortage, and the headaches of top military brass as they devise strategy with time running out.

Standing out in the enormous all-star British cast is Laurence Olivier as Sir Hugh Dowding, head of RAF Fighter Command, whose crafty tactics with his limited planes induced the Luftwaffe to make fatal errors. Dowding refused to be glibly optimistic, persuading Churchill to keep as many planes as possible in England in order to have a real chance at defeating the Nazis there. The real Hugh Dowding, then 86, visited the set and reportedly wept as he watched Olivier reenact his famous confrontation with Churchill, in which he told the Prime Minister, "Our young men will just have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one."

Trevor Howard, also quite good as the Air Vice-Marshall, relished the chance to work with Olivier. He said, "There's a man you admire all your life, hope to one day get to make a film with, and you do only two small scenes with him shot in about two or three days. But it was worth it, old son. And I've known Larry a long time."

Among the supporting players is Michael Caine who recalled in his autobiography, What's It All About? (Ballantine Books), that his "part was small, but I took it and how glad I was, because it gave me an opportunity to talk to some remarkable survivors of the Battle of Britain. I was privileged to meet two of the greatest British air aces of that battle: Ginger Lacey and Bob Stanford Tuck, who were on the film as technical advisers. Our German technical advisor was none other than Adolf Galland, the Nazi air ace who led the battle from the enemy side."

The Battle of Britain emerged in the middle of a spate of epic combat films which re-created specific battles of WWII with all-star international casts, actual locations and docudrama-like realism - films like The Longest Day (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), and Midway (1976). The combat genre had by now evolved from early propagandistic retellings of actual events to virtual replicas of those events, paying close attention to minute details of time and place. Cinematically, the war was now a legend.

Producer: Benjamin Fisz, Harry Saltzman
Director: Guy Hamilton
Screenplay: Wilfred Greatorex, James Kennaway
Cinematography: Freddie Young, Bob Huke
Film Editing: Bert Bates
Art Direction: Bert Davey, William Hutchinson, Jack Maxsted, Gil Parrondo, Maurice Carter
Music: Ron Goodwin, William Walton
Cast: Harry Andrews (Senior Civil Servant), Trevor Howard (Air Vice Marshal Keith Park), Michael Caine (Squadron Leader Canfield), Curd Jurgens (Baron Von Richter), Ralph Richardson (Sir David), Ian McShane (Sgt. Pilot Andy).
C-132m. Letterboxed.

by Jeremy Arnold
Battle Of Britain

Battle of Britain

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," declared Winston Churchill famously to the House of Commons on Aug. 20, 1940. One week earlier, fierce dogfights had broken out over the skies of England between British and Nazi flyers. This episode of WWII - known as the Battle of Britain - lasted six weeks and included the worst of the London Blitz. Hitler was trying to pummel the British from the air in advance of a Nazi ground invasion. But the Royal Air Force, with some assistance from Czech and Polish pilots, put up a diligent fight despite heavy early losses, ultimately forcing Hitler on Sept. 17 to cancel his planned invasion "until further notice." Battle of Britain (1969) is essentially this story, alternating personal vignettes of commanders, flyers and civilians with spectacular and vivid dogfight sequences. These combat scenes are the result of some impressive logistical coordination and craftsmanship, and they make the film visually compelling. Producer Harry Saltzman and director Guy Hamilton, both known for their work on Goldfinger (1964) and other James Bond movies, oversaw 18 months of scripting and 14 months of shooting. They assembled over 100 vintage planes and hired as technical advisers three of the greatest veteran flying aces of the battle - two British and one German. They also had 14 movie stars in the cast, which made for a scheduling nightmare. It proved to be a real challenge to pull off an epic of this size while maintaining a clear and cohesive point of view for the audience. In the end, Battle of Britain tried to show too much, blunting its force with an episodic structure. Still, the dogfights look great, and the picture effectively evokes a sense of battle fatigue, anxiety over a pilot shortage, and the headaches of top military brass as they devise strategy with time running out. Standing out in the enormous all-star British cast is Laurence Olivier as Sir Hugh Dowding, head of RAF Fighter Command, whose crafty tactics with his limited planes induced the Luftwaffe to make fatal errors. Dowding refused to be glibly optimistic, persuading Churchill to keep as many planes as possible in England in order to have a real chance at defeating the Nazis there. The real Hugh Dowding, then 86, visited the set and reportedly wept as he watched Olivier reenact his famous confrontation with Churchill, in which he told the Prime Minister, "Our young men will just have to shoot down their young men at the rate of five to one." Trevor Howard, also quite good as the Air Vice-Marshall, relished the chance to work with Olivier. He said, "There's a man you admire all your life, hope to one day get to make a film with, and you do only two small scenes with him shot in about two or three days. But it was worth it, old son. And I've known Larry a long time." Among the supporting players is Michael Caine who recalled in his autobiography, What's It All About? (Ballantine Books), that his "part was small, but I took it and how glad I was, because it gave me an opportunity to talk to some remarkable survivors of the Battle of Britain. I was privileged to meet two of the greatest British air aces of that battle: Ginger Lacey and Bob Stanford Tuck, who were on the film as technical advisers. Our German technical advisor was none other than Adolf Galland, the Nazi air ace who led the battle from the enemy side." The Battle of Britain emerged in the middle of a spate of epic combat films which re-created specific battles of WWII with all-star international casts, actual locations and docudrama-like realism - films like The Longest Day (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), and Midway (1976). The combat genre had by now evolved from early propagandistic retellings of actual events to virtual replicas of those events, paying close attention to minute details of time and place. Cinematically, the war was now a legend. Producer: Benjamin Fisz, Harry Saltzman Director: Guy Hamilton Screenplay: Wilfred Greatorex, James Kennaway Cinematography: Freddie Young, Bob Huke Film Editing: Bert Bates Art Direction: Bert Davey, William Hutchinson, Jack Maxsted, Gil Parrondo, Maurice Carter Music: Ron Goodwin, William Walton Cast: Harry Andrews (Senior Civil Servant), Trevor Howard (Air Vice Marshal Keith Park), Michael Caine (Squadron Leader Canfield), Curd Jurgens (Baron Von Richter), Ralph Richardson (Sir David), Ian McShane (Sgt. Pilot Andy). C-132m. Letterboxed. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

But the essential arithmetic is that our young men will have to shoot down their young men at the rate of four to one, if we're to keep pace at all.
- Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding
The engine's overheating and so am I. Either we stand down or blow up. Now which do you want?
- Squadron Leader Canfield
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
- Winston Churchill
Shut up! Silence - in Polish!
- Squadron Leader Edwards
Well don't just stand there, get one up!
- Squadron Leader Skipper

Trivia

The large number of aircraft collected for this production made it the 11th largest air force in the world.

27 Spitfires in various degrees of repair were found for the film, but only five Hurricanes, three of which were flyable. The Messerschmitts and Heinkels were on loan from the Spanish Air Force.

According to the book written about the making of the movie the production crew used more ammunition (blanks of course) to film the movie - due to the fact that directors re-shoot scenes numerous times - than was actually used in the real historical battle.

Adolf Galland, the Luftwaffe pilot who fought during Battle of Britain, who later became the youngest German general at the age of 29, was hired as a technical advisor.

American special effects creator 'John Fulton' was going to do the special effects for this film. He died in England before principal photography began.

There were to have been scenes featuring Lord Beaverbrook. Alec Guinness was hired to play Lord Beaverbrook, but these scenes were cut from the script shortly before filming.

Notes

Location scenes filmed at Duxford, Hawkinge, North Weald, and Northold airfields in England, and at the Tablana airfield in Spain. Opened in London in September 1969.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 15, 1969

Released in United States on Video January 10, 1989

Released in United States on Video January 10, 1989

Released in United States Fall September 15, 1969