The Way to the Stars

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

Quite Twelve O’Clock High-like, except with more civilians, they begin similarly, moving through empty scenes of past glories and thunders, this is less a critique of heroism, because there aren’t quite the bloated hyperboles in British wartime cinema (or in British culture itself) that the Americans were needing to question, not much mention is made of the fact that the Mills character is only an average flying prospect, and though he improves and completes a ton of missions, there’s no indication that he ever became super-heroic or anything, and there’s no need for the indication; the two Johnny deaths seems to be a case of Rattigan front and centre, but then this of course is propaganda, more valedictory than motivatory (we’ve won, let us mourn), and one feels quite strongly that fifty years later we can’t possibly recapture how very much this would resonate among the millions recently bereaved or relieved, there’s an easy rapport between the British airmen in the very effective and economical first scenes, and though the Americans come in too typedly (“Camptown Races”!), the intent is worthy, and so, eventually is the execution: they look friends on set, and we feel so in the audience; Basil Radford is especially good, and the second Johnny, who seems so kindly and earnest that it makes you uncomfortable, Toddy is an intriguing, elusive and pleasant presence, the not-romance between the two of them another interesting example of old days folks feeling and actually resisting (cf. Ambersons, Stanley and Livingston–censor requirements don’t change the importance of what’s going on), Mills too, despite another one of those retrospectively inappropriate regular bloke castings, Stanley Holloway does wonderful things with the type of the obnoxious cockney, more easily as they allow him humanity later on, in pub scenes of palpable fellowship and sweetness that would seem to end all those years of hostility and sorrow on a proper note of homely celebration and effacement of difference within a common humanity