A Movie A Day: Quint on THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957) Which way is Ireland? WHICH WAY IS IRELAND?!? Harry Comments!
Published at: Aug. 2, 2008, 7:04 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Mory Jimmy Stewart, this time catching a flick following yesterday’s Hitchcock classic THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. Today is Stewart as Lucky Lindy in THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS.
I know I linked to the individual title up above, but if you’re going to dig into the list and stick with me on some future Jimmy Stewarts and add them to your collection you can either drop $17.99 on THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS above or $22.99 and get the entire Jimmy Stewart Box Set. We’ve already covered FIRECREEK and THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB… I’ve seen FBI STORY, but THE NAKED SPUR and THE STRATTON STORY are both future titles of the list.
I’m going to apologize in advance for this one. The movie was great, enthralling and wonderful, but this will be a bit of a half-assed AMAD installment. I’m due up in a few hours to pack and finally get back home. The last week has been filled with meetings, both for personal projects and interesting AICN stuff and I jumped right into this hectic week from the even more insane week of Comic-Con. So, I’ve been averaging about 4-5 hours of sleep a night and it’s catching up with me.
Unfortunately for THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS it’s hitting me hard right now.
The flick is wonderful, light and entertaining and not at all the stagy drama I had in my brain for whatever reason.
James Stewart plays Charles Lindberg and we get the story of Lucky Lindy’s famous cross-Atlantic flight. Stewart is, as always, magnificent and immediately likable. If there’s a cold-hearted frog-faced sumbitch out there who doesn’t like Jimmy Stewart… well, I’d like to meet him because like leprechauns and genies, he shouldn’t exist. Maybe, he’ll give me a few wishes?
Anyway, the flick very much feels like a precursor to Martin Scorsese’s THE AVIATOR, but without the insanity and brooding feeling of Marty’s movie. Both Hughes and Lindberg share the passion and almost inhuman drive to take risks for the sake of living.
This is Stewart’s movie through and through, but there are some really good character roles, including nice, but brief, turns from Patricia Smith as a girl who gives Lindberg a lucky mirror at a crucial moment, and the late, great Murray Hamilton (Mayor Vaughn FTW) as a fellow stunt flier that we meet during “present day” Lindberg’s constant flashbacks to his past. How else you going to fill 2 hours and 15 minutes where the main meat of the story is a single man sitting in a signle bread.
Final Thoughts: I hate to rush this one because it’s an amazing film from director Billy Wilder that feels just as light-hearted, fun and touching today as it must have upon its initial release. Stewart’s co-star in the film is a fucking fly. No shit. I expected it to get its own credit.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Saturday, August 2nd: VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (1965)
Sunday, August 3rd: CAN-CAN (1960)
Monday, August 4th: DESPERATE CHARACTERS (1971)
Tuesday, August 5th: THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (1972)
Wednesday, August 6th: QUACKSER FORTUNE HAS A COUSIN IN THE BRONX (1970)
Thursday, August 7th: START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970)
Friday, August 8th: >Hell Is A City (1960)
Tomorrow we jump to VON RYAN’S EXPRESS thanks to writer Wendell Mayes. I promise it’ll be more indepth, but I’m literally falling asleep at my keyboard like Lucky Lindy was falling asleep at his controls during the big flight. See you folks tomorrow!
Hey folks, Harry here - I can't resist chatting a bit about THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS - and will not allow, Quint's tiredness, to short you folks a good commentary on this GREAT Billy Wilder movie.
What is it that makes THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS and the story of Charles Lindbergh as played by Jimmy Stewart such an incredible filmic endeavor? To a large degree, it is that Billy Wilder recognized the insane passion and vision that these earlier flyers had for the mad intention of man to occupy the domain of the birds.
There was such a drive in pioneers to wrestle the impossible down to the ground. To beat the tarnation out of it and to school it. Watching lanky Jimmy Stewart as Lindbergh is a classic. There's something impossible about Jimmy Stewart. He looks ill prepared for the land... he plays Chuck as a guy that prefers the air - there's less trouble up there. It's a place where he can talk to himself and not be judged by a passerby. Where he's not going to trip, where he can sit back, relax and just fly.
And what an amazing thing that was. At the time that Lindbergh was doing all this - there weren't that many flyers out there. It wasn't safe, aviators were believed to be insane folks. They had seized upon a manifest destiny though. They knew that through innovation and challenges that they would domesticate the air as man had the land and the sea... and as we continually attempt and WILL live amongst the stars. This is that sort of passion, that sort of insanity. The insanity of living in a world that is wrong and knowing you're right. KNOWING the impossible is just a engineering solution waiting to be undertook.
The film is bliss. Unlike Quint I am not just discovering the film. I've had it on videotape since 1978 when we recorded off of WGN in the pre-HBO days of Cable Television (at least in Austin). I fell in love with Franz Waxman's soaring score.... that used violins as motors to power the Spirit Of St Louis on its fateful flight. His score is the soul of the film, it is the dream of flight, the emergence of passion and the miracles that save him.
The cinematography from the second that Lindbergh takes off for Paris - to his historic landing is my absolute favorite aerial cinematography ever. It isn't about daring divebombings, no loops, just the soaring of a transatlantic flight. Something I've done a good 80 times in my life now. And the first 40 or so transatlantic flights - I actually listened on the flights to Waxman's score. It's magical to look out a window - above the quilted moonlit clouds and hear Franz reminding you of that soaring brushed metal beauty that first made this flight. That dared the world to follow. And EVERY SINGLE TIME I cross over Ireland - I hear my internal Jimmy Stewart scream out, "HELLLLOOOOOO DOWN THERE!!!!! HELLLLOOOOOO!!!!"
THE SPIRIT OF ST LOUIS is about breaking down the impossible into the inevitable - and the dream of a man to do it first so that the world could see that it could be done.
It's what we need more of today. We need more derring-do. We need men of the sort that Lindbergh was. To reinvent a better tomorrow than the today we have. That's the Spirit of St Louis. It is what I see when I set eyes upon the plane in the Smithsonian and the dream that this movie conjures.
Apologies to Quint for taking up space on this magnificent column - but I could not hold my tongue at a half-written deadline driven piece. Billy, Jimmy and Lindy -- and this movie deserve better.
Quint here again...
"How else you going to fill 2 hours and 15 minutes where the main meat of the story is a single man sitting in a signle bread."
WTF? I told you I was tired. That should have been more like "How else are you going to fill 2 hours and 15 minutes where the main meat of the story is a single man sitting in a cockpit on a 40 hour long flight."
I'm in Houston on my layover back to Austin and figured I'd say thanks to Harry for adding more substance to this particular entry. The movie is terrific and worth more than the tired ramblings I gave it. I'll have Von Ryan's Express spinning right when I get back home, so look for a more lucid AMAD later tonight.