US, 1985, 96 minutes, Colour.
Christopher Reeve, Rosanna Arquette, Jack Warden, Sam Wanamaker, Scott Wilson, Tyne Daly.
Directed by George Miller.
The Aviator is based on a novel by Ernest Gann (Soldier of Fortune, The High and the Mighty). It was directed by Australian George Miller (The Man from Snowy River, Cool Change). Locations were filmed in Yugoslavia.
The film is a gentle story, pleasantly acted by Rosanna Arquette as a flibbertigibbet girl of the 20s and Christopher Reeve as an embittered mail pilot. There is support from Jack Warden and Sam Wanamaker, Scott Wilson and Tyne Daley. Music is by Dominic Frontiere.
The film is reminiscent in plot of those 30s films about the ex-World War One pilots who flew the early mail routes, films like Only Angels Have Wings. This film is elegantly made. However, it is not as exciting as was, perhaps, intended, except when the wolves pursue the pilot and the girl who have crash landed.
Of interest as a pleasing story and the work of an Australian director for a Hollywood studio.
1. Interesting and enjoyable film? Characters and situations?
2. The focus on flying: 1918 and the training for World War One, the 20s and the mall routes across the United States? The background of the development of planes in World War One, training of pilots, the early planes and the carrying of the mail, maps, weather, currents and winds, the power of the planes, the skill of the pilots, the exhilaration and the danger? Coping? Crashes and managing? The quality of the aerial photography?
3. The period: Texas 1918 and training? Nevada and the Rockies 1928? The planes? Decor and costumes?
4. The plot and 30s stories about the war and their flying? The hero with the chip on his shoulder, his accident, proving himself, men after World War One, in the backwaters of the U.S., their dedication? The masculine image? Attitude towards women? towards the flibbertigibbet girl? Wealth and marriage? Attitudes and experience? Their training for coping with danger? The possibility of change? A blend of the serious and the comic?
5. The prologue and the focus on Edgar? His ability as a trainer, the landing, the pilot and Edgar's belief in him? The observers? The flight, the pilot's fear, his not letting go, the crash and the inferno, Edgar saved and his scars, blaming him for the death?
6. The 20s and the mail routes, the veterans, their lifestyle, skills? Nevada and Idaho? The primitive headquarters? Moravia and his working with the men, being lame, his affection for them, managing, timetables? The bonds between the men? Male camaraderie? The observation of the men at work, Bruno Hansen and his criticism? Moravia's explanation about the addiction? Stiller and his coming through? Dedication and achievement? Moravia embodying the spirit of the pilots?
7. The squad and their work, the flights, the stages, refuelling, eating, the loners who wanted to carry the mail rather than passengers?) Stiller and his work, his wife and her anxiety, Rose and her love for Edgar? Pressures and dangers? Stiller and his dilemmas, his attitude towards his wife, coming through?
8. Edgar and the accident, his face, his work, alone, bonds with Moravia and the others? The encounter with Tilly and the initial clash, his disapproving of her, her talking and his silence, the meal at Boise, continued clashes? Her direct questions? His answering and revealing something of himself? His character? himself into a stereotype? The short cut, the oil difficulties, coping and decisions, the crash landing, his reaction, comments on the jinx? Tilly and the match? Managing, angry? Her advice and his reaction? The shooting of a rabbit, the attack of the wolves, his injuries and her sewing the stitches? Moving down the cliff, her injury and his carrying her Indian style? Talking together, his mellowing, sharing? The dropping of masks? His affection for Tilly, able to see Suse because of his friendship with Tilly? The plane, the railwayman and his hostility, the wolves' second attack and Tilly saving him? The bond with Tilly, tenderness, opening up? The end and his devotion to Rose?
9. Tilly as the flapper of the 20s, spoilt, her age, wealth, her father and her situation, the seduction, cover-up? Going to school? Her father searching for her, his love for her? Her brothers' present at the end? Her stories, continued talking, questions? Making up stories? Flying, the crash, being hurt, petulant, lighting the match, the accident of the fire, her apology? Having to cope, sewing the stitches? Her fall and injury? Her being carried by Edgar? Coming close to him, being more authentic? The shooting of the wolf? The final talk in the ambulance and their being friends for life, letting each other go?
10. Stiller and his wife, veteran experience, her love, the clashes, the wife relenting? Rose and her devotion to Edgar?
11. The conventional survival genre: the search, the rescue, managing, Edgar's skills, Tilly's mistakes, staying by the plane, fires, food, going down the cliff, accidents, the wolves, the hostile railwayman?
12. The film as a memoir and a tribute? A period of innocence? the symbol of the exhilarated aviator and his flying?