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Way To The Stars, The (1945, John Mills, Michael Redgrave)

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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.

US Title: Johnny in the Clouds.

production details
UK | 109 minutes | 1945

Director: Anthony Asquith
Writer: Terence Rattigan

cast
David Tomlinson as ‘Prune’ Parsons
Michael Redgrave as Flight Lt. David Archdale
Felix Aylmer as Rev. Charles Moss
Basil Radford as ‘Tiny’ Williams
Joyce Carey as Miss Winterton
Bonar Colleano as Joe Friselli
Renée Asherson as Iris Winterton
Bill Owen as Sgt. ‘Nobby’ Clarke
Ann Wilton as Schoolmistress
Alf Goddard as PT Instructor
Vida Hope as Elsie
Stanley Holloway as Mr. Palmer
John Mills as Pilot Officer Peter Penrose
Charles Victor as Corporal Fitter
Anthony Dawson as Bertie Steen
Jean Simmons as A Singer
Caven Watson as RAF Corporal
Rosamund Greenwood as Miss ‘Toddy’ Todd
Douglass Montgomery as Johnny Hollis
Trevor Howard as Squadron Leader Carter
Nicholas Stuart as Colonel Rogers (as Tryon Nichol)
Grant Miller as Wally Becker
Johnnie Schofield as Jones
Hartley Power as Colonel Page
Hugh Dempster as ‘Tinker’ Bell
Charles Farrell as American Orderly
Bill Logan as Radio Operator
John Howard as Shelter Officer
Murray Matheson as Joe Lawson
John McLaren as ‘Cheerio’ Chester
Jacqueline Clarke as Waitress
Sydney Benson as Fred
Peter Cotes as Aircraftsman

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