Cast & Crew
Elroy "crazylegs" Hirsch
In the final weeks of World War II, Ted Stryker, a Canadian squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, leads a raid on the German town of Wiesbaden. Though the target area is covered by fog, Ted does not abort the mission and six of his blinded planes crash into the German countryside. The seriously wounded Ted survives the disastrous mission, but blames himself for the death of his men. Eleven years later, Ted applies for a job in the Jet Research division of the Mid-Canadian Aircraft Co., Ltd., located in Winnipeg, Canada. Despite Ted's poor employment record since the war, his old friend Frank Graham agrees to hire him, and Ted returns home to celebrate the good news with his wife Ellen and son Joey. Instead, he finds a note from Ellen, stating that she is leaving him. Ted rushes to the airport just in time to book passage on her plane to Vancouver, despite the fear of flying he developed after the war. Aboard the plane, Ted asks Ellen to give him another chance, but she refuses, arguing that he has never stopped running from his mistake over Wiesbaden. Midway through the flight, some of the passengers begin to suffer debilitating stomach cramps, so the stewardess, Janet Turner, asks Dr. Baird, a physician aboard the flight, to examine them. Baird tells Capt. Bill Wilson to land the plane immediately, so the sick passengers can be taken to the hospital, only to learn that poor weather conditions make such action impossible. Soon thereafter, co-pilot Stewart passes out, and Baird quickly determines that the problem is food poisoning, as all the passengers who dined on grilled halibut have become deathly ill. Soon, Bill is overcome with food poisoning as well, though he manages to put the airplane on autopilot before collapsing. Asked by the stewardess if he can revive the pilot in time to land the plane, Baird tells Janet he is not even sure he can save the sick passengers' lives unless they receive prompt medical attention at a hospital, as they seem to be suffering from a deadly bacterial infection. Janet then surveys the passengers for anyone with flying experience, and finds Ted to be the only one. In the cockpit, Baird informs Ted that he is the only person aboard capable of landing the plane, even though he has never flown such a large aircraft. Ted then takes the pilot's seat and contacts Canadian air traffic control, asking for guidance in flying the plane. At the Vancouver airport, senior controller Harry Burdick calls in Captain Martin Treleaven to help with the emergency, as Treleaven flew with Ted during the war, but it is quickly apparent that the two intensely disliked each other. With Ellen acting as his co-pilot, Ted takes control of the plane and Treleaven teaches him how to fly the aircraft with its landing gear down. Soon, Ted begins having flashbacks to the war and nearly loses control of the plane. Regaining level flight, Ted and Ellen temporarily lose radio contact with Treleaven, but reestablish it thirty minutes outside Vancouver. As the city's emergency forces prepare for a possible crash landing, fog envelopes Vancouver. Though Treleaven orders Ted to circle the city until the fog breaks, Ted insists on landing the plane immediately, as the sick passengers, including Joey, are in critical condition. As they prepare to land, Ellen tells Ted how proud she is of him. Although he approaches the airport at too high a speed, Ted manages to land safely, but the plane itself is badly damaged. As the passengers prepare to disembark the plane, Treleaven tells Ted that his landing was probably the worst landing in the history of the airport, but he still wishes to shake his hand and congratulate him on it.
Elroy "crazylegs" Hirsch
Jo Ann Wade
John Eremin Buck
John C. Champion
John C. Champion
John C. Fuller
John P. Fulton
Eddie Armand Scheffer
John F. Warren
By the time the plane landed, the businessman, Arthur Hailey, had sketched out a rough plot. His story supposed that half the food on board had been tainted and that the only passenger who could land the plane was terrified of flying after a wartime trauma. By March, Hailey had fleshed his story into a television script called Flight Into Danger and sent it to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1956, the CBC was four-years old and struggling for a hit that would justify them as more than a local service for British and American television. Flight Into Danger was exactly what they needed. The story required only a handful of sets but was as riveting as any thriller. The CBC's drama supervisor bought the script for $600.
On April 3rd, Flight Into Danger aired on CBC's General Electric Theatre. James Doohan, later to become famous as "Scottie" on Star Trek, played the passenger-turned-reluctant-pilot with Corinne Conley as the stewardess who helps him land the plane and Zachary Scott as the man who has to talk him down by radio. Two million Canadians watched the show and when the British Broadcasting Company showed a kinescope copy of the live broadcast in England, another ten million tuned in.
After being restaged in the U.S. on the Alcoa Hour with MacDonald Carey in the lead, Hailey sold the film rights to his story to independent producer Hall Bartlett. Bartlett re-titled the story Zero Hour! (1957). The lead character, originally called Spencer, was renamed Ted Stryker and was played by Dana Andrews. Linda Darnell (My Darling Clementine, 1946, A Letter to Three Wives, 1949) starred as the wife who is leaving him and Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle, 1950, Dr. Strangelove, 1964) portrayed the navigator in the radio tower.
After Zero Hour!, producer-director Bartlett continued in a B-picture vein with the most notable exception being his 1973 adaptation of the cult novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Hailey's novels made an even bigger splash. Hotel in 1965 and particularly Airport in 1968 made him a multi-millionaire. Airport, another problems-in-the-sky story, was filmed in 1970 and sparked the decade's biggest movie fad, the disaster film. Even Hailey's old script was dusted off as part of the craze, being remade in 1971 as a TV-movie called Terror in the Sky.
In 1974, at the height of the disaster film boom, three members of a Los Angeles comedy troupe called Kentucky Fried Theater saw Zero Hour! on a late-night broadcast. Recognizing the film as the perfect material to satirize, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker bought the film rights and began a six-year quest to bring their spoof to the screen. When it came out, Airplane! (1980) was thought to be a send-up of the Airport series. Right author but wrong title; Airplane! is an almost scene-by-scene remake of Zero Hour! The parody¿s success helped hasten the demise of the disaster film phenomenon, a movie-craze that had begun, by a circuitous route, in the mind of a bored Canadian businessman twenty-four years before.
Producer: Hall Bartlett, John C. Champion
Director: Hall Bartlett
Screenplay: Arthur Hailey, Hall Bartlett, John C. Champion
Cinematography: John F. Warren
Film Editing: John C. Fuller
Art Direction: Boris Leven
Music: Ted Dale
Cast: Dana Andrews (Lt. Ted Stryker), Linda Darnell (Ellen Stryker), Sterling Hayden (Capt. Martin Treleaven), Elroy 'Crazylegs' Hirsch (Capt. Bill Wilson), Geoffrey Toone (Dr. Baird), Jerry Paris (Tony Decker), Peggy King (Janet Turner).
BW-81m. Closed captioning.
by Brian Cady
I guess I picked the wrong week to give up smoking.- Treleaven
Although the onscreen credits contain an exclamation point in the film's title, most contemporary sources referred to the picture only as Zero Hour. The film begins with a voice-over foreword, spoken by William Conrad, explaining that Ted Stryker, the lead character in Zero Hour!, was a Canadian squadron leader in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Ordered to bomb Axis supply depots in Wiesbaden, Germany, Stryker failed to abort the mission when fog suddenly enveloped the city, causing his planes to become disoriented and crash into the ground. Though Stryker survived his injuries, six of his men were killed. At different times in the film, Charles Quinlivan's character is referred to as "Harry Burdick" and "Harry Ballard."
Newt Arnold and Lee Lukather, who are listed onscreen as "Assistant to the producer" and "Production manager," respectively, are listed by some contemporary sources as assistant directors. According to the Variety review, Zero Hour! was the first film by the new independent film consortium of director Hall Bartlett and producer John Champion. Although Hollywood Reporter news items state that the film was to be the first in a two-picture deal between Bartlett-Champion and Paramount, the pair did not produce any other films together.
According to the file on the film in the Paramount collection at the AMPAS Library, Zero Hour! was produced at the cost of $400,764, including $21,000 for the screen rights to Arthur Hailey's teleplay, entitled Flight into Danger, which aired on NBC's The Alcoa Hour on September 16, 1956, and starred Macdonald Carey and Patricia Barry under the direction of Herbert Hirschman. The film version marked Hailey's first feature-length screenplay. Hailey went on to become a highly successful novelist in the 1960s, with film adaptations of his work including the 1967 Warner Bros. film Hotel and Universal's 1970 release Airport (see entries in AFI Catalog of Feature Film, 1961-70).
According to Los Angeles Times news items, Harrison Reeder of Robert Alexander Productions attempted to purchase the screen rights to Hailey's story as a star vehicle for actor Steve Cochran, but was outbid by Bartlett, who purchased it five days after the television production was first broadcast. Hollywood Reporter news items at that time state that Bartlett had intended to produce the film in association with Sam Weiler, but Weiler received no screen credit in Zero Hour! and his contributions, if any, to the released film have not been determined. Paramount studio records also indicate that footage of actor Dana Andrews was purchased by Paramount from Twentieth Century-Fox for Zero Hour! The footage, used in the film's opening sequence in which Andrews portrayed a World War II pilot, May have been taken the 1944 Fox film Wing and a Prayer (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). According to a May 24, 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, portions of the film were shot on location at an airport in Santa Ana, CA.
Nightclub and television performer Peggy King made her feature film debut in Zero Hour!. Paramount press materials report that King recorded the song Zero Hour on Columbia Records in conjunction with the film's release. The picture also marked the feature film debuts of Charles Quinlivan, Carole Eden, Steven London, Jo Ann Wade and Raymond Ferrell. Although the credits imply that John Ashley made his screen debut in Zero Hour!, he also appeared in the AIP release Dragstrip Girl, which was released earlier in 1957.
According to a June 1957 Los Angeles Examiner article, Harold Cope, the film's technical advisor, was an executive with American Airlines. Hollywood Reporter news items include Robert Brubaker, Duane Grey, Cyril Delivanti, George Selk, John Zaremba, James Maloney, Sheila Noonan, John Launer and Joe Perry in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources also include Woody Chambliss in the cast.
In 1971, Hailey's story was filmed a second time for television under the title Terror in the Sky, directed by Bernard L. Kowalski and starring Leif Erickson and Doug McClure. Zero Hour was also the inspiration for the 1980 film parody Airplane!, which starred Robert Hays as "Ted Stricker" and Julie Hagerty as "Elaine" and was directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. The great success of that film led to a sequel in 1981, Airplane II, The Sequel, and spawned numerous similar film parodies.
Released in United States Fall November 1957
A former World War II pilot, overcoming a neurosis about flying, must come to the helm of a passenger plane when most of the crew and passengers have come down with food poisoning.
Released in United States Fall November 1957