Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, Or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 Hours 11 Minutes
I loved this movie from the fist time I saw it, in Detroit where I was working during the summer after high school graduation. Right from the jaunty little tune at the beginning, and the old footage of insane would-be airmen coming to grief in amusing ways, and the fantastic artwork of Ronald Searle, which I hadn’t seen before, it had me. The plot is negligible and some of the running jokes are silly, but it was the airplanes, those magnificent machines, that enthralled. What courage (or foolishness, take your pick) it took to leave the ground in those pitiful little wood and fabric and paper box kites, certain that you would return to the ground, the only questions being, how fast and how hard. It is the perfect illustration of just how hard man has always yearned for flight. The producers were fanatical about reproducing these wobbly death machines. They were authentic except for the engines, which were usually the source of the biggest problems in 1910. Modern engines can be pretty much counted on to keep running. 1910 engines could be pretty much counted on to kill you, eventually. It is a joy to watch them.