Turner Classic Movies ran Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines on Thursday. I didn't realize until too late, but still manage to catch a lot of it. This was always one of my favorites of the big epic all-star cast comedies that were made in the 1960s, the best of which (for me) were the first two -- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Word and this one. Later ones included its sort-of sequel, Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies; The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming; and The Great Race.
The Great Race might well have been the most successful, and I liked it very much -- and liked them all, to varying degrees. But what I particularly liked about Those Magnificent Men when I saw it in the movie theaters was that they played it pretty straight forward, for a comedy, as realistically as possible. The Great Race, as funny as it is, is intentionally an over-the-top spoof of those kinds of movies and the silent comedies. Terry-Thomas -- who is the antagonist in Those Magnificent Men -- shows how it's done without intentionally hamming it up, but rather playing it for real. Sort of. It's not for nothing that he was also in the other of my two favorites here, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Side notes: Those Magnificent Men got nominated for one Oscar -- Best Original Screenplay, co-written by by Jack Davies and director Ken Annakin.
Also, I had reason to meet Sarah Miles, who has the female lead, a few times not terribly long ago, related to a film project that never came to pass. I will note that from this great, historic occurrence I was able to introduce her to the dish, mee krob, at a Thai restaurant, which was a revelation to her.
There are two other things I absolutely love about Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines -- neither of which have much to do with the movie, yet help create a lasting impression that many people have of it. One are the great drawings by the brilliant artist Ronald Searle that were used for the credits. And the other is...that theme song. Oh, dear, Lord, I love that song, which is also used as background music throughout the film.
The words and music are by composer Ron Goodwin, though the story is more than that. Before there was any music, the first two lines were written by Lorraine Williams, who was the wife of Elmo Williams, then the European Managing Director of 20th Century Fox. It was that couplet that convinced studio head Darryl Zanuck to give the film its name.
And here it is. The first image you'll see, by the way, is a Ronald Searle drawing. (In fact, the one above.) The other cartoon illustrations that are inserted later have nothing to do with the movie, but the person who uploaded the clip added them on his own.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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