Cast & Crew
Even though wealthy playboy Jim Spence was at the controls, pilot Sky Kelly is held responsible for an airplane crash in the United States in which a passenger is killed. Kelly's sister Sydney, a newspaper reporter, is angered by the decision and vows that she will bring Spence to justice. Some time later, Spence and Sydney have fallen in love, but when a scandal sheet photographer reveals Sydney's real profession, Spence ends the relationship. He later reads an appeal for pilots to ferry U.S. B-17 bombers known as "flying fortresses" to Britain and flies to Canada to volunteer. After an officer chastises him for his irresponsible stunt flying, Spence changes his mind about volunteering, but before he leaves, he learns that Kelly is training new pilots. Determined to prove that he is as good as Kelly, Spence again changes his mind and decides to fly for the ferry service. Spence makes his first flight to London with Kelly, who reveals that his sister is now working in London. The two pilots reconcile during the flight. After they land in England, Kelly and Spence hitch a ride into London with the beautiful Lady Deborah, and Kelly makes a date for dinner with her. Kelly suggests that Spence bring Sydney as his date, but when Spence arrives at Sydney's office, she refuses to make up with him. In the meantime, Deborah invites Kelly to her palatial home, and he meets her brother, Lord Ottershaw. The two men immediately dislike each other: Kelly assumes that Ottershaw is a malingering fop, and Ottershaw thinks that Kelly is a rude American. That evening, while Sydney, Kelly and Deborah dine, Spence sits at a nearby table until he successfully apologizes to Sydney. Soon after, an air raid warning sounds, and Sydney and Deborah go to work. Impressed by the fortitude of the British, Spence and Kelly vow to return as soldiers. After joining the Royal Canadian Air Force, they return to London and are reunited with Sydney and Deborah. To Kelly's surprise, Ottershaw is their wing commander. Kelly's opinion of the earl is further changed when he learns that he will fly along with his men. Ottershaw asks both Spence and Kelly to fly in his plane. After they bomb their target, a power station in Berlin, German aircraft attack the squadron. Ottershaw's plane is hit and plunges toward the ground, but an emergency repair allows them to continue. Then another attack wounds Ottershaw and sets an engine on fire. Making light of his injury, Ottershaw keeps the plane in the air while Spence, with Kelly's help, crawls out onto the wing of the plane and extinguishes the fire. After Kelly returns to his co-pilot seat, Ottershaw succumbs to exhaustion, collapses and dies.
George E. Blackwell
Ernest A. Royls
The movie's most harrowing scene, when Spence climbs out of his plane in mid-air to repair a hole in its side, was based on a real incident. On July 7, 1941, a Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot, Sergeant James Allen Ward, climbed onto the wing of his plane to smother a burning engine. Ward earned the Victoria Cross for his heroic effort.
Greene, who had been working in the U.S. under contract to Twentieth Century Fox, had asked for a release from his contract to return to his native England and aid in the war effort. He enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps of the Twenty-Seventh Lancers, serving in the Netherlands and Belgium and rising to the rank of first lieutenant. In 1942, on separate occasions, he was temporarily relieved of duty to appear in two films deemed important for British propaganda purposes: Flying Fortress and Unpublished Story (1942).
Unfortunately, Greene's career never seemed to recover from its wartime interruption. Tall, dark, handsome and dimpled, he had been viewed by Fox as a dashing leading man in the mold of their own Tyrone Power and MGM's Robert Taylor. When he returned after the war, however, Greene's career settled into leads in mostly undistinguished films, with occasional forays into character acting. He did enjoy a nice success with a long-running British TV series shown in the U.S. under the title The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955-60). He died in 1985.
Flying Fortress was one of a series of patriotic films aiding the war effort to be produced at Teddington, one of the few studios to operate during World War II. In 1944 a flying rocket exploded onto the property, destroying buildings and killing three employees. But Teddington survived and remains in operation today.
Director: Walter Forde
Screenplay: Brock Williams, Gordon Wellesley and Edward Dryhurst
Cinematography: Basil Emmott, Gus Drisse (Aerial Photographer)
Original Music: Jack Beaver, Howard Jackson (both uncredited)
Editing: Terence Fisher
Art Direction: Norman G. Arnold
Principal Cast: Richard Greene (James "Jim" Spence Jr.), Carla Lehmann (Sydney Kelly), Betty Stockfeld (Lady Deborah "Debbie" Ottershaw), Donald Stewart (William "Sky" Kelly), Basil Radford (Captain Wilkinson).
by Roger Fristoe
The film begins with the following written foreword: "Made with the cooperation of the Royal Air Force and the Atlantic Ferry Service, which pioneered the North Atlantic Air Crossing to deliver ever increasing numbers of American aircraft in the cause of freedom." Richard Greene appeared in the film courtesy of the British Army. The British version of the film ran 110 minutes, but it was cut to 65 minutes for the American release. According to a December 30, 1942 New York Herald Tribune article, the heroic engine repair depicted in the film was based on a real repair performed by Second Pilot Sergeant James Allen Ward of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Ward earned the Victoria Cross after he climbed onto the wing of his airplane on July 7, 1941 and smothered a burning engine with an engine cover.