The Way to the Stars is a superior wartime drama set in an RAF base, starring John Mills, Michael Redgrave and Trevor Howard. Terence Rattigan’s script steers clear of aerial heroics to concentrate on the personal relationships forming in and around the airfield after an American squadron moves in. The alien influx isn’t greeted too warmly at first, with stout English hearts broken when the local girls go gooey-eyed over the handsome Yankee dandies. But there’s a war on, allies are allies, and soon the base is echoing to the sound of back-slapping camaraderie and healthy (and often very funny) Anglo-American joshing. Of course, the hubbub is broken by the terrible silence of remembrance, and the threat of death, hanging over the airfield like a zeppelin, stokes the film’s sincere drama.
The leads – Mills (as Peter Penrose), Redgrave (as David Archdale) and Douglass Montgomery (as Johnny Hollis) – tackle their characters with the sympathetic gusto you’d expect, while Rosamund John holds her own among esteemed company as feisty airfield angel Toddy Todd. With scriptwriter and cast like these to work with, director Anthony Asquith (son of the Liberal PM), really only has to point and shoot for success. But he and cameraman Derrick Williams do their bit to evoke the base’s atmospheric mix of playground bravado, briefing room gravity and lonely terror.
UK / 1945
Director: Anthony Asquith
Writer: Terence Rattigan
Cast: John Mills, Michael Redgrave, Douglass Montgomery, Trevor Howard, Rosamund John, Stanley Holloway, Felix Aylmer, Bonar Colleano