© 1965 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)

It seems there were several big budget spectacles made in the mid-60s depicting the early days of automobiles or aviation. There is The Big Race, Monte Carlo or Bust!, both about car races, and this film, about a London-to-Paris air race during the early days of aviation. It’s hard to say what made these films so popular at the time, but they must have been, since they were obviously made on huge budgets and they kept making them. A common theme between this one and The Big Race is a female character trying to maker her place in a male-only field, something that might have ressonated with audiences during the femminist movement of the ’60s. Although in this film Sarah Miles, playing the daughter of the wealthy Lord who sponsors the race, can only hope to find a man who will agree to take her up in a plane, and the thought of actually pilotting one herself never seems to cross her mind.

Watching this in Japan, it was funny to see Yujiro Ishihara, the late brother of the current governor of Tokyo, representing Japan in the air race. Funny because his overdubbed voice has such an outrageous British accent. And seeing Robert Morley reading “good luck” from a Japanese phrasebook with the worse pronunciation imaginable made me laugh harder than I have in a while. And Terry-Thomas was funny as the British “gentleman” who does everything he can to cheat in the race. I have to make an effort to track down some of his early British comedies.

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“Do you intend to set back American theater 50 years simply because of your mid-Victorian conservatism?”
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