Thursday, March 5, 2015
THE CROWDED SKY
While Captain Dick Barnett (Dana Andrews) and his bitter co-pilot Mike Rule (John Kerr) fly an airliner, a small Navy jet piloted by Dale Heath (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) is heading in the same general direction. Heath notes to his passenger McVey (Troy Donahue) that there are "2000 near-misses each year." As the audience tenses itself for the disaster to come, the movie features flashbacks showing the back stories of several of the characters, including crew and passengers. Rhonda Fleming [While the City Sleeps] is Heath's bored and unfaithful wife; Anne Francis is a stewardess in love with Rule; Barnett has a poor relationship with his son, Dick Jr. (Ken Currie); and so on. The Crowded Sky manages to maintain suspense not just over the plane situation, but also over the various characters' inter-relationships. Some of this is soap opera, but it is generally interesting to watch. Keenan Wynn flirts with a passenger, Jean Willes [Desire Under the Elms], whom he jilted years before and whom he doesn't recognize, while Patsy Kelly is an agent for actor Tom Gilson, both of whom feature in scenes of -- on one occasion -- inappropriate comedy relief. Joe Mantell plays the likable navigator, Louis, whose grotesque death is pretty much forgotten (shockingly) by the other characters. There is evidence that much footage was left on the cutting room floor, as Troy Donahue's role practically amounts to a bit, and another major character's death is also not given any kind of moving post script, making it all seem a rather callous exercise. One suspects there's a much better movie left somewhere, but The Crowded Sky is still quite entertaining. Freida Inescort shows up briefly as a woman who may or may not be Kerr's mother. The acting in this is perfectly okay but nobody really stands out as anything special. Pevney also directed The Strange Door.
Verdict: Stay on the ground. ***.