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Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines

Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines

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Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines  In the infancy of aviation in 1910, a British newspaper offers a prize for the winner of a cross-channel air race which brings flyers from all over the world. There are many subplots as the flyers jockey for position and the affections of various women.

Set against an old-time air-race, this is a charming spoof of national characteristics.


Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines  Centred around a London-to-Paris air race early in the 1900’s, this is a wonderful English comedy spoofing national characteristics! You know the sort of thing, the expansive American hero, the fair-playing Englishman, the great French lover, the emotional Italian count, the enigmatic Japanese, the humourless pomp-loving German, and so on.

The casting is interesting, for this light-hearted movie’s principal roles are filled by actors who are far more familiar playing the heavy: Stuart Whitman, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Gert Frobe. And make no mistake, they are superb at it!

Offending no-one of any age, this movie plays out against the back-drop of the air race, with a fantastic array of primitive aircraft. It is fun and full of life, tripping along easily and smoothly from one delightful absurdity to another. The English have made this movie, and while they have considerable fun at the expense of the Frenchman and the German, they cannot resist poking the bulk of the fun at themselves. They do so by augmenting the cast with the shifty Englishman (Terry-Thomas), the confidence man (Tony Hancock), and the foreigner-distrusting representative of the upper crust (Robert Morley).

Since childhood that I always rewatch this flick with pleasure


I first watched this movie in a remote part of colonial Mozambique, brought around by a touring Catholic priest, and projected on a bed sheet, with all the local residents sitting on grass.

Perhaps because most locals had never watched a film before, or seen aircraft, what I remember is people laughing throughout, with some kids (including me) trying to imitate what went on the screen.

I remember finding Gert Frobe and Cassel very funny. Since then, I have watched this movie some four times at different points in my life and I’ve always found it both touchingly absurd and uproariously funny in parts. One can find many loopholes in the story, but that hardly matters in a well-intentioned film clearly determined to get a good laugh out of you.

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