PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Featured: Top of Home Page

In the Clouds: 'The Way to the Stars'

(T)his exercise in restrained sentiment (rates) below David Lean and Noel Coward's In Which We Serve, though not far below.

The Way to the Stars

Director: Anthony Asquith
Cast: John Mills, Michael Redgrave
Distributor: VCI
Rated: Not rated
Year: 1945
USDVD release date: 2011-5-3

In their own ways, the WWII propaganda movies of America and Britain reflect a national image. American dramas are about fighting units of democratic individuality, as expressed by various (white) ethnicities, united for a common goal. British films emphasize the stiff upper lip of little people unfussily carrying on in the face of death and destruction. The commanders are upper class types with the proper accent, while those supporting them have comic-relief working class tongues. The Way to Stars, written by Terence Rattigan and directed by Anthony Asquith, offers both types in the same movie by telling the story of an air base that in turn serves both the RAF and the USAF.

First comes the English newbie pilot (John Mills), whose commanders are Trevor Howard and Michael Redgrave. We never see what happens on their bombing missions, since we never leave the base or the village. But we hear about those who never come back, and then everyone shows great restraint and utters such lines as "Terribly sorry" and "Bad show." To shed a tear would be indecorous and in frightfully bad taste. Then the Yanks arrive, stereotypically loud and cocky, led by the quiet Douglass Montgomery and the brash Italian Bonar Colleano Jr. There are also the women (Rosamund John, Renee Asherson) who quietly do their duty and wait for the men to pluck up the courage for a kiss. Young Jean Simmons appears to sing a lively song at a dance.

The whole thing is presented as a flashback from war's end, when the base is a collection of abandoned buildings and the airfield is a sheep meadow. The camera shows us what's left behind, and we travel back to witness the fleshing out of details. The film is proud and elegiac in its nostalgia for rural England, its quirky characters who can even be tiresome (Stanley Holloway, Joyce Carey), and the quiet resolve of its modest folk who never beat their breasts or toot their own horns. I rate this exercise in restrained sentiment below David Lean and Noel Coward's In Which We Serve, though not far below.

This United Artists print looks very sharp. It's 104 minutes, not the 109 minutes stated. Maybe nothing's missing, and that's the difference of conversion from PAL to NTSC, or maybe it was always 104 minutes. However, apparently the film's original title was Johnny in the Clouds, so perhaps this is a reissue version. Since Felix Aylmer's Reverend is prominently credited for a role that's only an eye blink, and yet the character is referred to several times, I wonder if he once had more scenes; it's a topic for further research.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.