Sunday, July 15, 2012

Those Magnificent Men & Their Flying Machines

Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes is a 1965 British comedy film starring Stuart Whitman and directed and co-written by Ken Annakin. Based on a screenplay titled Flying Crazy, the story is set in 1910, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offers £10,000 to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain is "number one in the air".

Director Ken Annakin had been interested in aviation from his early years when Sir Alan Cobham gave him a flight in a biplane. With co-writer Jack Davies, Annakin had been working on an adventure film about transatlantic flights when the producer's bankruptcy aborted the production. Fresh from his role as director of the British exterior segments in The Longest Day (1962), Annakin suggested an event from early aviation to Darryl F. Zanuck, his producer on The Longest Day.

Zanuck paid for an epic faithful to the era, deciding the name Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines after Elmo Williams, managing director of 20th Century Fox in Europe, told him his wife had written an opening for a song that Annakin complained would "seal the fate of the movie":

Those magnificent men in their flying machines,
They go up diddley up-up, they go down diddley down-down!

However, after being put to music by Ron Goodwin, the Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines song went on to a life of its own, released in singles and on the soundtrack record.

Annakin was born in 1914, just as the era of aviation depicted in this movie was ending, and though the movie is a farce, the behaviour of the various aviators depicts the tensions between the European countries prior to the First World War. This sense of civility between European nationalities is remembered as the Entente cordiale.

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