Q Planes (Columbia 1939, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson)

Q Planes

Q Planes was based on a newspaper story about an aircraft that took off and never reappeared. When new bombers mysteriously start disappearing without trace on their test flights, George Merritt, the owner of the manufacturers, contacts Scotland Yard who assign eccentric Major Ralph Richardson to the case. Richardson is understandably convinced that there is foul play behind the vanishing aircraft but the only person he can get to support his theory is Merritt’s test pilot Laurence Olivier whose help is enlisted by Richardson’s newspaper reporter sister Valerie Hobson. Richardson discovers Merritt’s secretary, George Curzon, is giving away secrets but he is shot before he can tell his story.

The mystery is solved when Olivier’s plane disappears on a test flight, having been brought down in the sea by a mysterious wireless ray transmitted by a ship, The Viking, ostensibly engaged in salvage work. Foreign agents in command of the vessel pick up the plane and imprison Oliver and his crew – but they and other aircraft crews held prisoner escape and engage the foreigners in a battle for control of The Viking – and the arrival of a British destroyer with Richardson on board gives them victory…

Olivier had top billing but his role was essentially that of a bland matinee idol who, with Hobson, supplied the romantic interest. It was Richardson, giving a brilliant comic performance, who easily stole the acting honours. Patrick MacNee is rumoured to have based his portrayal of John Steed in The Avengers on Richardson’s performance in this film.

Laurence Olivier as Tony McVane
Ralph Richardson as Major Hammond
Valerie Hobson as Kay
George Curzon as Jenkins
George Merritt as Barrett
Gus McNaughton as Blenkinsop
David Tree as Mackenzie
Sandra Storme as Daphne
Hay Petrie as Stage Door Keeper
Frank Fox as Karl
George Butler as Air Marshall Gosport
Gordon McLeod as The Baron
John Longden as Peters

crew details
Director: Tim Whelan
Writer: Ian Dalrymple
Story: Brook Williams, Jack Whittingham, Arthur Wimperis

production details
Country: UK
Studio: Columbia
Year of Release: 1939
Duration: 82 minutes

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