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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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”

A Man Escaped (1956) Imprisoned French Resistance Fighter Seeks Liberation

A Man Escaped (1956) Robert Bresson film prison POW french resistence movie poster

Caught. Wedged on the back seat of a speeding car. Three men. Two handcuffed, one not. Maybe not enough cuffs to go around? He’s by the door. The door handle beacons. Should he make a run for it? He’s likely to be killed anyway, whatever he does. He’d chance it, go for it. No! the car is travelling too fast. At the traffic lights he’d make a break for freedom. The car speeds through. His hand taps the door handle. A tram is coming. Now’s his chance! Continue reading “A Man Escaped (1956) Imprisoned French Resistance Fighter Seeks Liberation”

Billy Budd (1962) Terence Stamp Sweetly Smiles Through The Napoleonic War

Billy Budd (1962) Peter Ustinov robert ryan terence stamp poster movie art work

And again I reached that age old question? Is Robert Ryan going to be a goodie or a baddie? Well I believe it’s no secret to say that Robert Ryan’s portrayal of John Claggart the Master Of Arms is as malicious and hateful as he’s ever been. No question? A man so cruel and despicable that he makes another ship bound lunatic, like say Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) look decidedly sweet and tender. Continue reading “Billy Budd (1962) Terence Stamp Sweetly Smiles Through The Napoleonic War”

Night People (1954) Gregory Peck And Cold War Kidnapping In Berlin

Night People (1954) Gregory Peck Broderick Crawford Nunnally Johnson movie posterI’m a sucker for a good Cold War story. What with the recent Salisbury nerve agent attack not too far from home and all the spy drama hitting the shores again, it’s like it never went away. Well we know it never really did, don’t we? There will always be brinkmanship and contests to see who can swing their todger the fastest in the helicopter move! But you’ll be pleased to know that Gregory Peck didn’t have to resort to that special skill! Night People is set in Berlin just after the Second World War and the start of the bubbling Cold War shenanigans between UK, Russia and the United States and a host of other nations. Continue reading “Night People (1954) Gregory Peck And Cold War Kidnapping In Berlin”

King Rat (1965) Kentucky Fried Rat In Mi Prison What Am I Gonna Do?

King Rat (1965) George Segal Bryan Forbes James Fox POW movie poster

“This is not a story of escape. It is a story of survival. It is set in Changi Jail Singapore, in 1945. The Japanese did not have to guard Changi as a normal prisoner of war camp. The inmates of Changi had no friendly Swiss border or any other neutral country within reach. They were held captive not so much by high walls, or barbed wire, or machine-gun posts, but by the land and sea around them – and the jungle was not neutral, nor was the ocean. They did not live in Changi. They existed. This is the story of that existence.”

Continue reading “King Rat (1965) Kentucky Fried Rat In Mi Prison What Am I Gonna Do?”

Hannibal Brooks (1969) Ollie The Elephant Goes On World War 2 Road Trip

Hannibal Brooks (1969) oliver reed michael winner lucy the elephant michael j pollard

I love the way Oliver Reed can go from the pure brute force anger filled badboy roles to lighthearted comedic sweet roles, Hannibal Brooks is by far the latter. Ollie plays reluctant soldier, Stephen ‘Hannibal’ Brooks, a captured prisoner of war,  imprisoned at the Stalag VII-A camp near Munich. Brooks gets the chance to help out at the local zoo, feeding and shuffling poo, giant poo at that. The bringer of said big poo is Lucy the Elephant (Aida). Brooks is shocked by the sight of Lucy but it’s not long before the two become great friends. Lucy quickly warms to Brook’s sweet, calming nature and obeys every word he says. It’s not long before these two friends will be spending a lot of quality time together.

Hannibal Brooks (1969) oliver reed the elephant world war 2

Continue reading “Hannibal Brooks (1969) Ollie The Elephant Goes On World War 2 Road Trip”

Tunes of Glory (1960) Kilts, Whisky And A John Mills And Alec Guinness Dance Off

Tunes of Glory (1960) Alec Guinness John Mills Whisky Kilts and Bagpipes

Who’d of thought a film about bag piping and dancing could be so completely captivating. Featuring Alec Guinness as the most Scottish man to ever grace the Inner Hebrides, or Outer Hebrides or anywhere in the whole of bonnie Scotland for that fact. With his fiery orange hair and matching mustache, commanding officer Major Jock Sinclair slams back whisky in eager, boisterous fashion. He might ask for a wee nip here and wee dram there but Jock loves his whisky like he loves the sound of the Highland bagpipes. Like air and water, these are the essential life force for our Jock, well you can also add dancing to that list. Continue reading “Tunes of Glory (1960) Kilts, Whisky And A John Mills And Alec Guinness Dance Off”

The Night My Number Came Up (1955) Dreams, Omens & Final Destination

Digital StillCamera

Opening with that distinct, recognisable voice of Paddington BearCommander Lindsay (Michael Hordern) worriedly confronts an air traffic control officer with news that a Dakota airplane has crashed landed at a certain point over Japan.  The control room officer is convinced that no distress warnings have come in or the fact that the Dakota isn’t even on that flight path. “How do you know this?” he asks, “I can’t say but if I did you wouldn’t believe me but please believe me I know something has happened!” replies the Commander. Continue reading “The Night My Number Came Up (1955) Dreams, Omens & Final Destination”

Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) Val Guest, Stanley Baker And Rumpole Of The Bailey

Yesterday's Enemy (1959) val guest world war 2 movie poster stanley baker

Val Guest just impresses every time as I work my way through his varied directed filmography. Enjoying picking around the vast collection of stories he has tackled in his long career. Making sure I hit all the goodies first before I contemplate watching some of the less desirable sounding ones like, well Toomorrow? Also fun fact, can you believe it was Val who started off the cheesy sex comedy series Confessions of a Window Cleaner. Luckily he only made the first one, though he had ventured into saucy land a few years earlier with a slightly naughty one called Au Pair Girls. Continue reading “Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) Val Guest, Stanley Baker And Rumpole Of The Bailey”