Classics Review: The High and the Mighty

“The High and the Mighty” was officially released in 1954. (same year On the Waterfront came out) It received positive reviews from critics and movie goers alike. In addition to praise, it made enough revenue at the box office. The High and The Mighty won an Oscar for “Best Original Score.” The High and the Mighty became the cornerstone of disaster films inspiring the “Airport” movies, “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno” and last but not least, “Airplane!” My dad and I used to own a DVD collection of John Wayne movies including “Hondo,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “True Grit” and my personal favorite, “Rio Bravo.” I wanna share my thoughts on The High and the Mighty. See if it holds up.

Today’s review contains no SPOILERS. Feel free to read my non-spoiler article.

Ascend & Descend Qualities

Ascend: John Wayne, Robert Stack and the entire cast all did an excellent job for their respective performances. John also produced the movie.

Fun Fact: Spencer Tracy was considered for the role of Dan. He dropped out, because he thought the script was lousy. So, John took over.

Phil Harris (Baloo from The Jungle Book) plays one of the passengers.

Cinematography was shot in CinemaScope. Technically, a large format which predates IMAX.

Ernest K. Gann wrote the book and adapted it on the big screen.

Prior to boarding the plane, we learn about the characters’ lives. Dan’s haunted by a tragedy which causes to suffer a fear responsibility. Dan must conquer his fear to save the lives of the passengers.

Dan often whistles the movie’s theme song.

One of the passengers is a Korean woman. For a movie from the ’50s, it was way ahead of its time.

Dan slaps Sullivan and shouts “Get a hold of yourself.” Remember that slapping scene from Airplane? This is where The Zucker Brothers & Jim Abrahams got the idea for the joke.

If you own a DVD copy, Leonard Maltin presents the movie before it starts. There’s a bonus feature with Leonard providing audio commentary.

Descend: Pacing can be a drab at times. It’ll take a while for the disaster to kick in.

The Final Verdict: A-

From my point of view, The High and the Mighty is my favorite John Wayne non-western/non-war movie. Despite one nitpick, the movie holds up. If you have nothing to do over the week or a John Wayne fan, give this one a shot. I want The Criterion Collection to digitally remaster The High and the Mighty on DVD/Blu-Ray retaining its CinemaScope look.

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