Spitfire [1934]

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Ralph Bellamy, Martha Sleeper Robert Young
Genre: Drama
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 88 minutes

Also known by its British title The First of the Few, this 1942 film is an engaging, touching account of R.J. Mitchell's dedicated efforts to design and build the Spitfire, the RAF fighter plane whose superior performance eventually won the air war against Germany in World War II. Actor Leslie Howard produced, directed, and starred in this inspiring drama at a time when England had come to embrace him as a patriotic figurehead. His humbling performance as Mitchell--who sacrificed his health in pursuit of the goal--can't help but merge in one's imagination with Howard's real-life death under Nazi fire while on a still-mysterious RAF mission. Consistent with the theme of heroic selflessness is Howard's extraordinary generosity to costar David Niven, whose own rakish performance as Mitchell's brave, dedicated test pilot is a real star turn. For a movie that is essentially about an inventor working himself ragged night and day while the love of his life helplessly looks on, Spitfire is anything but static, redundant, or soapy. A film with a bright personality, Spitfire is a fitting, final testament to Howard's unique image and gifts. --Tom Keogh

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