The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds WWII Bomber Base Drama

The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds poster film movie anthony asquith

Called The Way to the Stars in the UK and Johnny in the Clouds in the USA. This outstanding World War Two drama focuses on the lives of RAF bomber pilots during the course of the war. It shows the progression of new and improved aircraft being tested and flown into battle. Whilst following the day to day routine of the pilots responsible for flying them awaiting their next mission. Moving through the years of 1940 to 1944. It was released in the UK in June 1945 a few months before WWII had finished and overseas in the US during November.

The Way to the Stars (1945) David Archdale Michael Redgrave Peter Penrose John Mills

The film follows rooky pilot Peter Penrose (John Mills) as he arrives at the RAF Station Halfpenny Field airfield. With just 15 hours flight time under his belt in the Bristol Blenheim, he’d been assigned to join the bomber pilots of 720 squadron. On meeting his superior Flight Lieutenant David Archdale (Michael Redgrave) he soon discovers he will tallying up those hours, real fast.

Peter Penrose –I’m afraid I’m strictly amateur.
Flight Lt. David Archdale –There aren’t any amateurs and professionals anymore, just good pilots and bad pilots. The good pilots stay alive and the bad ones don’t. And that’s not true anymore either!

The Way to the Stars (1945) Peter Penrose (John Mills) Michael Redgrave bomber pilot

The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds RAF Bristol Blenheim Bomber Squadron
Bristol Blenheim Light Bomber

Flash forward a year and we find Peter has become a first class pilot now flying bombing raids and carrying out reconnaissance onboard the US manufactured Douglas Boston A-20 Havoc. And of course, after such missions it’s always good to unwind at the local, the Golden Lion Hotel, which served lashings of pints and brandy. You could guarantee a good sing song around the piano but when last orders come, landlady Miss Todd (Rosamund John) doesn’t take any nonsense.

The Way to the Stars (1945) Bonar Colleano Johnny Hollis Douglass Montgomery John Mills beer sing song piano

The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The CloudsUnited States Douglas A-20 Havoc bomber
Douglas Boston A-20 Havoc

Over the next few months a lot changes for our Peter. He’s fallen in love with Iris Winterton (Renee Asherson), been grounded and assigned ground controller. This coincides with the arrival of the United States Army Air Forces taking over the airfield for their B-17 Flying Fortress bombardment squadron. Peter becomes friends with the American crew, Captain Johnny Hollis (Douglass Montgomery) and his Lieutenant Joe Friselli (Bonar Colleano) and what else to do rather than flying? Yep you got it, drink loads of pints down the old boozer. It’s not long before Captain Johnny and his squadron head out on their bombing raids and Peter is back, this time flying the Avro Lancaster. Who will return from these treacherous missions? Can you make friends or even fall in love during such dangerous and difficult times? The Way to the Stars deals with this dilemma in this expertly observed war time drama.

The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds Avro Lancaster bomber
Avro Lancaster

A few things.

  • Directed by Anthony Asquith. I’ve featured a few of his films on here before like The Browning Version and Orders To Kill. Feel free to recommend others by him.
  • Written by Terence Rattigan who’d been a Flight Lieutenant himself in the RAF. At first writing his experiences for a play called Flare Path in 1942. The movie was produced by Anatole de Grunwald.
  • I think I prefer the title Johnny in the Clouds, especially as the film centers around the poem “For Johnny” an ode to Royal Air Force pilots written by John Pudney.
  • The eye eagled with spot Bill Owen aka Compo from the long running British comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine. It’s amazing to see he looks as old in this as he does 40 plus year later!

The Way to the Stars (1945) John Mills Douglass Montgomery Bill Owen Nobby Last Of Summer Wine

  • Look out for Trevor Howard, in his first credited role, playing Squadron Leader Carter. His next film would be Brief Encounter!
  • Every year in my home town of Bournemouth there’s an airshow on the coast. Sally B the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a regular flyer and she’s a wonder to watch. Incredible sound. She’s the last airworthy B-17 in Europe. You can read about her story on the official website Sally B
IMGP3032
Sally B the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

There’s a few things that really set this film aside. It’s brilliant to see, especially as the war had not yet ended, the way all the different aircraft are introduced through the years. Starting with the lighter bombers and moving on to the more famous named heavier bombers that were essential for the strategic bombing campaign.

The other standout was the way death on the air base was revealed. We see no battles as we are grounded on the base but we wait with binoculars and bated breath and count the returning aircraft. Left to see who walks back through the door. Who’s come back? It’s simple and extremely effective. You can only imagine that is what it would of been like. You mutter the words “Bad show old boy” pick up your kit and carry on, with a cup of tea, of course.

The film feels like a grand tribute to the allied bomber pilots that risked their lives throughout World War Two. It’s a very recommend watch if you haven’t seen it.  Thanks for having a read. All the best.. Mikey Wolf

The Way to the Stars (1945) Johnny In The Clouds American poster
Apparently it didn’t do very well at the American box office and surely that bland poster didn’t help matters.
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Hangover Square (1945) Murdering Maundering Madman Is Musical Genius

Hangover Square (1945) Laird Cregar Linda Darnell film noir movie poster

With no messing about, this film jumps straight into a POV murder. First a stab with a dagger then a double tap with a gas lamp. The victim isn’t just gonna die, he’s gonna burn too! In the first of a series of shocking and macabre death scenes Hangover Square really grabs your attention. I love it when a movie gamble pays off. Went into this film really for it’s short runtime. Not the ideal way to pick a film, I know. Had way too many late nights and the thought that if I ain’t digging it I’ll turn it off and get myself an early night. Haha no chance. I was hooked and instantly invested in the plight of George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar), right from that first hard hitting opening scene. Continue reading “Hangover Square (1945) Murdering Maundering Madman Is Musical Genius”

Green for Danger (1946) Doctors, Flirting, Doodlebugs, Murder and Alastair Sim

Green for Danger (1946) Alastair Sims murder mystery whodunit movie poster

Joseph Higgins (Moore Marriott) was the friendly village postman. He fondly remembered back to before the war had turned his quaint little village into a WWII hospital. Now it was over run by doctors, surgeons and nurses. Being on the flight path of the German V1 rocket bombardment of England there wasn’t a day go by without that terrible sound filling the skies. The probability you were gonna be blown to smithereens was an everyday worry! Oh how he wished to be sat in the local pub knocking back a few bevvies with his mates. Continue reading “Green for Danger (1946) Doctors, Flirting, Doodlebugs, Murder and Alastair Sim”

Obsession (1949) British Politeness, A Hot Water Bottle & A Perfect Murder

Obsession (1949) The Hidden Room Robert Newton Sally Gray poster artwork

Storm Riordan (Sally Gray) is not to be confused with a certain naughty Stormy who turned tricks for a President with bouffant hair in her spare time. Or even be mistaken for that African American lady who causes pandemonium with her weather controlling superpowers when she’s in a bit of a mood. No, this Storm is a pretty normal lass, goes to work, likes the cinema and entertaining friends. She loves her cute little dog, Monty but unfortunately she has fallen out of love with her husband Dr. Clive Riordan (Robert Newton) Continue reading “Obsession (1949) British Politeness, A Hot Water Bottle & A Perfect Murder”

The Snake Pit (1948) Olivia de Schizo Journeys The Levels Of Madness!

The Snake Pit (1948) movie poster film artwork olivia de havillandMaybe it’s an insight into my own fractured mind but I do enjoy a good insane asylum film. Traveling into the depths of madness. They do have to be done well and feature deep thoughts on the subject. Films like David and Lisa and Shock Corridor have score high on my wolfy meter. Continue reading “The Snake Pit (1948) Olivia de Schizo Journeys The Levels Of Madness!”

They Drive by Night (1940) The Magnificent Fabrini Brothers

They Drive By Night (1940) poster movie Raoul Walsh Bogie Raft Lupino

Humphrey Bogart is back again hitting my screen in the wolf lair as the quest to work through his films carries on. This time HB was in supporting role mode in this 1940’s movie called They Drive By Night . Top billing duties went to George Raft who, lets be honest, sounds more like Humphrey than Bogie himself in this. These two native New Yorkers make very believable brothers. Let’s meet the Fabrini Brothers. Continue reading “They Drive by Night (1940) The Magnificent Fabrini Brothers”

High Sierra (1941) Bogie, Ida & Special Guest Star, Zero The Dog

High Sierra (1941) Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino poster art photo

When the best thing in a film is your own blooming terrier dog showing off and stealing all the top scenes right from under your nose. What was Humphrey Bogart to do with this camera hogging pooch Zero, well he had to up his game and show his four legged friend who the boss was! And work his ass off he did. Continue reading “High Sierra (1941) Bogie, Ida & Special Guest Star, Zero The Dog”

Raw Deal (1948) Prison Break, Pyromaniac Mobster, A Threesome & A Theremin!

Raw Deal (1948) anthony mann film noir dennis o'keefe movie poster

Here’s a film noir that hits a whole heap of crazy, yet still manages to keep its feet on the ground. Director Anthony Mann delivers this mile a minute crime drama that whips you into a frenzy with it’s rapid fire action, suspense and thrills and spills. Love triangles, gangsters, hitmen, a twisted firestarter, roadblocks, man hunts, torture, fights, gun battles and inner monologues. This film has it all in it’s 79 minute runtime, sit back and strap yourself in for the ride. Continue reading “Raw Deal (1948) Prison Break, Pyromaniac Mobster, A Threesome & A Theremin!”

Thieves’ Highway (1949) Wages Of Fear With Apples For Nitroglycerine!

Thieves' Highway (1949) poster film movie one sheet film noir jules dassin

You know it’s gonna be a tough trip when even your own truck tries to ground and pound you!

Nick Garcos (Richard Conte) is a war veteran returning to the family home to see his jolly loving folks. Nick’s got gifts, his sweet girlfriend Polly is there and Pops and Mama are singing and smiling. The war had been tough but life is good and the smell of Mama’s cooking fills his heart, everything is perfect? STOP! Pull that needle right across the record…….

Thieves' Highway (1949) Richard Conte pops mama record player film noir jules dassin Continue reading “Thieves’ Highway (1949) Wages Of Fear With Apples For Nitroglycerine!”

The Dark Mirror (1946) Double Trouble & Psychological Rorschach Tests

The Dark Mirror (1946) movie poster film noir

I just had to go check, not long into the film, that Olivia de Havilland didn’t in fact have a twin! She had to, right? This is 1946, there is no way camera tricks are this advanced? It seems that, only in the last 10 or so years, they’ve been able to pull off the perfect effect of having the same person play doppelgangers. There always seemed to be a tell of sorts, eyes looking in the wrong place, maybe a slight haze around one of the characters where they have been added, always something that gave it away. Flash forward to the present and we have TV shows like Counterpart where we get two JK Simmons wander around flawlessly interacting with each other but how did they do it 72 years ago? Ok I know there are some a few tale tale signs but it’s really astonishing how they pulled it off so believably, most credit due I must add to Olivia de Havilland’s skillful acting talent. Continue reading “The Dark Mirror (1946) Double Trouble & Psychological Rorschach Tests”