Spitfire

1942

Biography / Drama

7
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 64%
IMDb Rating 7.1

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Leslie Howard as R.J. Mitchell
David Niven as Geoffrey Crisp
Rosamund John as Diana Mitchell
Roland Culver as Commander Bride
720p
750.59 MB
960*720
English
Approved
23.976 fps
1hr 30 min
P/S 0 / 7

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by music-room 9 / 10

Howard at his charismatic best.

'The First of the Few' shows Leslie Howard at his most reflective, almost to the point of diffidence. His only show of assertiveness is when he informs the haughty bigwigs of 'Supermarine'that he will design aeroplanes HIS way, despite David Horne's salutary warning that he will 'come an almighty cropper'. Howard plays R.J. Mitchell, legendary designer of the Spitfire, the revolutionary fighter plane that was to take centre stage in the Battle of Britain.

Throughout the film it is Howard himself who takes centre stage and never really leaves it, his star quality and charisma embracing all manner of scenes, from cheeky one - liners, 'you're not a bird, but you can fly', as a retort to Tonie Edgar - Bruce's mercurial Lady Houston, or modestly basking in the reflected glory of yet another Schneider Trophy triumph (the annual seaplane contest between Great Britain, USA and Italy which has now passed into folklore). Perhaps he is even more compelling in the touching solo scenes, with little or no dialogue, where, to William Walton's evocative music, he is found by his colleagues overworking himself deep into the night, trying to design the Spitfire before the imminent spread of Germanic imperialism, or, later on, close to death, scanning the skies for a sign of David Niven leading the way on the famous fighter plane.

An impressive cast of character actors give him great support, including Roland Culver as the supportive and insightful head of Supermarine, Anne Firth as a petite but highly efficient secretary, and future film maker Filippo Del Giudice as a foppish, hilarious Bertorelli, the high ranking Italian official who relays the message from 'Il duce' Mussolini, to the effect that the winning British Schneider Trophy entry could only have achieved such a feat 'in our glorious Italian sky'.

Howard's introverted Mitchell is in contrast to David Niven's jaunty, red blooded senior pilot, who demonstrates in this film just why he will go on to be the top British star in Hollywood, his easy acting style and unbridled optimism making Crisp a lovable character without ever seeming arrogant. Perhaps his inexplicable crash in one of the Schneider Trophy contests has the effect of 'bringing him down to earth', both literally and in character.

The only downside of the film is an oddly mechanical performance from Rosamund John, as Mitchell's wife. Obviously she could not come over as a dominant figure to Howard's subtle Mitchell, but the attempt to make her appear even more introverted than the star produces an uncharacteristically robotic outcome from this fine actress.

Both Mitchell and Howard were soon to pass beyond earthly constraints into immortality, the latter disappearing in mysterious circumstances, ironically, in a plane, over Portugal, in June, 1943. There is no finer epitaph to both of them, than 'The First of the Few', Mitchell as the genius aeroplane designer, and Howard as the first English actor (albeit of Hungarian parents) to make it big in Hollywood. In this respect, Niven may be regarded as 'the second of the few'. A gem of a film, whose great star never shone more brightly than here.

Reviewed by bkoganbing 7 / 10

A Bird That Spits out Fire and Destruction

The development of the Spitfire fighter plane by the Royal Air Force is considered a crucial factor in winning the Battle of Britain in that crisis year of 1941. It could fly faster and higher than the best German fighters and of course being right at home base it had the advantage of being able to instantly refuel. Unless a German pilot could shoot one down, a tie was always to the defenders because the German eventually had to return home for fuel.

Though he didn't live to see it, credit for the design of the Spitfire and a share of winning the Battle of Britain goes to Reginald J. Mitchell who had been dead four years before the Battle of Britain. This film is a tribute to him as realized by Producer/Director/Star Leslie Howard.

The problem one encounters in biographical films of this sort occurs when the subject lead colorless lives. We don't get that much of Mitchell here I suspect because outside of designing aircraft he probably was a pretty dull fellow. But Howard and David Niven who played his friend and test pilot are capable players and there's enough aerial footage to satisfy any buff.

Howard's seminal moment in the film occurs when he goes to Germany to view their nascent airplane industry and realizes just who is the target of all these new warplanes. He comes back and through sheer persistence and conviction persuades the Air Ministry and the Baldwin government to start the development of a better fighter plane.

Curiously enough the American aviator hero Charles Lindbergh got the same treatment from the Germans and came back to America with a message of defeatism. Interesting the different reactions when aviation people start talking shop.

Had Leslie Howard not died ironically enough a battlefield casualty as the airliner he was on shot down in 1943 in the Bay of Biscay, The First of the Few might have been the beginning of a great career behind the camera. Probably would have extended into British television as well as the cinema.

Still this film is a fine farewell and a tribute to two British patriots, Leslie Howard and Reginald J. Mitchell.

Reviewed by info4inglis 10 / 10

unsung heroes

The film was shot at Ibsley (now no longer in existence either as a base or a beacon, though you can see the remnants) which was in Hampshire, and in 1942 an active fighter station. The group of airmen listening to David Niven recounting the story of Mitchell were real RAF airmen. The filming did not stop for the war. If the bell went to scramble, filming would temporarily be halted while those airmen would run to their spitfires, go off and fight the war, before returning and carry on filming as though nothing had happened. At the end, Niven was so impressed with those heroes that he sent them off to The Savoy in London for the weekend, ringing the manager with instructions to give them whatever they wanted: women, drink, food, making sure the bill was sent direct to him. Difficult to imagine our pampered "stars" doing likewise these days! How do I know so much? One of those unsung heroes was my adored uncle Peter Howard-Williams, who had been in 19 Squadron flying out of Duxford during the Battle of Britain, but happened to be at Ibsley when the station was chosen for the film.

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