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That droll tidbit is characteristic of the inside reminiscences shared in "The Batjac Story," one of eight featurettes accompanying the DVD release of The High and the Mighty. From it we also learn that a Wayne unit shot "from sunup to sundown"; that the Duke was the egalitarian boss of a tight-knit company wherein relatives, co-workers, and the relatives of co-workers earned advancement by merit; and that the star was shrewd enough and powerful enough to retain full possession of copyright on Batjac films. A short on the career and personality of director "Wild Bill" Wellman includes the revelation that a lot of major stars declined roles in the ensemble movie (probably to their eventual regret), and that Spencer Tracy--originally cast as "Whistlin' Dan" Roman--"ankled" at the last moment ... necessitating Wayne's reluctantly taking on the part that became one of his best-remembered, indeed iconic, roles (the H&M theme music accompanied his final public appearance, at the spring 1979 Oscars). An especially entertaining profile of composer Dimitri Tiomkin notes that he collected the only Oscar among the film's many nominations--for music score, not (as is widely believed) best song. The theme song, a huge popular hit that helped make the movie such a pervasive Event of the '50s, wasn't even in the film as most people saw it; it had been cut in the effort to get the length down, but was cut back in for a week's run in Los Angeles to qualify for an Academy nomination. Nor was it the tune Whistlin' Dan actually whistled during filming; that was George M. Cohan's "Mary"!
Anchored by pop film historian Leonard Maltin, and backed almost nonstop by musical themes recycled from the H&M soundtrack, the featurettes occasionally resemble weekend sports highlight reels designed to keep armchair fans revved up till the main event. The overall tone is nostalgic/reverential, ceremonially befitting the re-emergence of a long-"lost" treasure. Only British film historian and heroic restoration specialist Kevin Brownlow quietly supplies some authoritative critical perspective: The High and the Mighty is not now and never was a great motion picture, but it was an understandably and deservedly beloved movie with "a mystique" unique in its power and endurance. That's well worth celebrating. --Richard T. Jameson
John Wayne sends waves of crowd appeal yet again playing the character of, well, John Wayne.
I had never heard of this film before this viewing. Read more
THE GOOD: This was a CinemaScope production from 1954, and it's as quintessentially '50s as you will find. Read morePublished 18 days ago by C.J. Hustwick
First saw this when it came out. The music and theme song are memorable. After watching it again after all these years, the screenplay causes me to rate this low. Read morePublished 21 days ago by Amazon Customer