🎥 Reach For The Sky – 1956
The Story …
In 1928, Douglas Bader joins the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Flight Cadet. Despite a friendly reprimand from Air Vice-Marshal Halahan for his disregard for service discipline and flight rules, he successfully completes his training and is posted to No. 23 Squadron at RAF Kenley.
In 1930, he is chosen to be among the pilots for an aerial exhibition.
Later, although his flight commander has explicitly banned low level aerobatics (as two pilots have been killed trying just that), he is goaded into it by a disparaging remark by a civilian pilot.
The wing tip of his bi-plane touches the ground during his flight and he crashes dramatically, and is clearly badly injured …
Mr Joyce, surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, has to amputate both legs to save Bader’s life. During his convalescence, he receives encouragement from Nurse Brace. Upon his discharge from the hospital, he sets out to master prosthetic legs. Out for a drive with two other RAF pals, they stop at a tearoom, and here he meets waitress Thelma Edwards. Once he can walk on his own, he asks her out.
Despite his undiminished skills, he is refused flying duties simply because there are no regulations covering his situation. Offered a desk job instead, he leaves the RAF and works unhappily in an office. He and Thelma marry at a registry office on a wet afternoon.
As the Second World War starts, Bader talks himself back into the RAF. He is soon given command of a squadron comprising mostly dispirited Canadians who had fought in France. Improving morale and brazenly circumventing normal channels to obtain badly needed equipment, he makes the squadron operational again.
They fight effectively in the Battle of Britain. Bader is then put in charge of a new, larger formation of five squadrons. Later, he is posted to RAF Tangmere and promoted to wing commander.
In 1941, Bader has to bail out over France. He is caught, escapes, and is recaptured. He then makes such a nuisance of himself to his jailers, he is repeatedly moved from one POW camp to another, finally ending up in Colditz Castle. He is liberated after four years of captivity. The war ends (much to Thelma’s relief) before Bader can have “one last fling” in the Far East.
On 15 September 1945, the fifth anniversary of the greatest day of the Battle of Britain, Bader, now a group captain, is given the honour of leading eleven other battle survivors and a total of 300 aircraft in a flypast over London …
- Directed by Lewis Gilbert
- Written by Paul Brickhill (book), Lewis Gilbert (screenplay) and Vernon Harris (add’l scenes)
- Produced by Daniel M. Angel
- Cinematography : Jack Asher
- Edited by John Shirley
- Music by John Addison
- Distributed by The Rank Organisation
- Release Dates : 5 July 1956
- Kenneth More as Flight Cadet (later Group Captain) Douglas Bader
- Muriel Pavlow as Thelma Edwards (later Bader)
- Lyndon Brook as Flight Cadet (later Wing Commander) Johnny Sanderson, who also supplies linking narration
- Lee Patterson as Flying Officer (later Group Captain) Stan Turner
- Alexander Knox as Mr J. Leonard Joyce, surgeon at Royal Berkshire Hospital
- Dorothy Alison as Nurse Brace, Royal Berkshire Hospital
- Michael Warre as Flight Lieutenant (later Group Captain) Harry Day
- Sydney Tafler as Robert Desoutter, prosthetics expert
- Howard Marion-Crawford as Wing Commander (later Group Captain) Alfred “Woody” Woodhall
- Jack Watling as Peel
- Nigel Green as Streatfield
- Anne Leon as Sister Thornhill
- Charles Carson as Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
- Ronald Adam as Air Vice-Marshal (later Air Chief Marshal Sir) Trafford Leigh-Mallory
- Ernest Clark as Wing Commander W. K. Beiseigel
- Walter Hudd as Air Vice-Marshal Frederick Halahan
- Basil Appleby as Flying Officer (later Air Marshal Sir) Denis Crowley-Milling
- Philip Stainton as Police Constable
- Eddie Byrne as Flight Sergeant Mills, RAF Cranwell instructor
- Beverley Brooks as Sally, Bader’s girlfriend
- Michael Ripper as Warrant Officer West, 242 Squadron crew chief
- Derek Blomfield as Civilian Pilot at Reading Aero Club
- Avice Landone as Douglas Bader’s Mother
- Eric Pohlmann as Adjutant at Prison Camp
- Michael Gough as Flying Officer W. J. “Pissy” Pearson, RAF Cranwell flying instructor
- Harry Locke as Bates, Bader’s batman
- Sam Kydd as Warrant Officer Blake, Air Ministry medical clerk
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