Another I saw when it came out in 1953, and there are parts I still recall. It’s Island in the Sky, featuring John Wayne, Lloyd Nolan, James Arness, and Andy Devine. William Wellman directed, a significant figure in Hollywood, having also done The Public Enemy, The Ox-Bow Incident, The Story of G.I. Joe, and Battleground, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. This was distributed by Warner Brothers. I caught it this week on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.
“Island in the sky” refers to the airplane, which is a pilot’s island in the sky, a safe haven in the best of times, not so friendly at other times. In this case a crew of five is headed for a landing in Canada, obviously during the winter. Winter is not the best time to be in Canada. Anyhow, this is all about how they lose their way and have to land on a frozen lake. John Wayne is pilot Captain Dooley.
A lot of the story involves fellow pilots, friends of the lost crew, and their coming together to search and rescue the downed airmen. Here is one of these hearty fliers, coming alive in the morning after spending the night with the window open. He does not even look. He pulls an icepick from a cork board by the sink and starts chipping at the frozen water in the pitcher. People, this is cold.
James Arness, who would shortly become most famous as Marshall Matt Dillon in the Gunsmoke TV series, is one of the rescue pilots.
Adding drama, one of the crew becomes lost in the blowing snow, freezing to death beneath the tail of the airplane.
The remaining four are located by their pilot friends, who drop survival rations. Eagerly opening one of the packages, a crewman discovers it’s a block of Spam. He hurls it into the snow. That’s the part I recall most about this movie.
The problem with this production is the dialog is often droll and predictable, but there are moments of brightness, as mentioned. Wellman’s narration attempts to convert this into a documentary and tends to be preachy. There is some deep introspection and moralization in what needs to be a tense dramatic presentation.