Appointment in London (1952) 

 

 

 

Director:  Philip Leacock.

Starring:  Dirk Bogarde (Wing-Commander Tim Mason), Ian Hunter (Group Captain Logan), Dinah Sheridan (Eve Canyon), Bryan Forbes (Pilot Officer Peter Greeno, The Brat), Walter Fitzgerald (Dr. Mulvaney, Group Medical Officer), Bill Kerr (Flight Lieutenant Bill Brown), William Sylvester (Major Mac Baker, U.S. Observer), Anne Leon (Mrs. Pamela Greeno), Charles Victor (Dobbie, Innkeeper), Richard Wattis (Pascal, Signals Officer), Carl Jaffe (German General, Intercept Operations), Sam Kydd (Ackroyd, the Brat's Mechanic), Terence Longdon (Dr. Buchanan), Michael Ripper (Bomb Aimer, Brown's Ship), Campbell Singer (Flight Sergeant, Chief of Ground Crews).

air war seen through eyes of a wing commander of a British squadron of Lancaster bombers

 

Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

1943. A Lancaster bomber is getting ready for take-off. Going up is Wing-Commander Tim Mason and Flight Lieutenant Bill Brown. All planes are airborne by 23:33 hours.

In the morning three Lancasters are seen returning to the airfield. Tim says that the flight was a success but the rear gunner has been wounded.

Doctor Buchanan thinks that Tim has done too much flying. He is all worn out. So the doctor goes in to see Tim. He tells Tim that the rear gunner will be alright. Tim has done eighty-seven sorties. Only 40% percent of the men even reach 30 sorties. So the doctor asks Tim: "Why donít you pack it up now?"

General Wanneberg telephones Major Mac Baker, U.S. Observer, that he is not to be flying planes. He is not allowed to fly. The general tells him to make sure he remains non-operational.

Pilots Bill Brown and Peter Greeno are notified they will receive the DFC medal. They all will be heading for London in a monthís time. The guys take a ride down to the local pub, their hang-out place. They stop for a stranded motorist, the pretty Eve Canyon. They fix her car and one pilot drives her car following the other car to the pub. Tim talks a lot with Eve. She is actually Mrs. Eve Canyon and works in Whitehall, London. She is a Mrs., yes, but she says she has been a widow since Dunkirk. She asks Tim if he is married and he says no. Tim says come to the party with them and she accepts.

The next day the bomb crews meet for a damage assessment of their handiwork over Germany. Much to Timís surprise, Eve Canyon, in uniform, is in charge of the assessment.

When Tim talks with Eve at the party they go outside and listen to the Lancaster bombers taking off. The bombers have been going out every night for the past three weeks. Tim says he will be in London in a month. Eve gives him her address, 49 Mount Square, and tells him to come see her when heís in the city.

Lancasters land at the airfield. Mac tells Tim that heís got a date with Eve Canyon tonight in London. Tim seems disappointed. Some in the crew believe that the skipper has got a jinx on him.

Peter Greeno has a habit of sending a telegram every time he comes back from a mission. This comes to the attention of the security police. The police contact Tim about the matter. Tim has a talk with Peter about the possibility of his compromising the security of the squadron. And Peter not only telegrams, he does so in code. Tim reminds Peter that German fighters were waiting for them on the Meitheim raid.

Peter says that a girl gets the telegrams. Tim asks if Peter really thinks the telegrams are worth risking the security of the squadron? Peter is pretty subdued and quiet. Tim yells at him some more and then tells him to wake up!

Mac goes to see Eve. She asks him howís Tim Mason? Mac asks her why are they talking about Tim? Eve says: "You like him, donít you?" Sure, but he doesnít want to talk about him. He is looking for a good time out on the town. But Eve has to give him the bad news that she is on duty tonight until early the next morning. When Eve gets off work, Mac is right there waiting in a chair for her to take her out.

The flight schedules are being changed so that the pilots will be flying two nights in a row. At the flight briefing Tim sees Peter coming in late to the briefing. He is not pleased. On duty at night Tim speaks to Greenoís flight mechanic and he asks about Peter. The guy says he thinks Peter is a good pilot.

Something has gone very wrong on the latest flight. The target was obscured by haze. One of the returning pilots says that everything seemed to go wrong from the start. A crash landing is reported to be coming in. The pilot has been wounded and it is hard for him to fly the plane. As the plane descends onto the grass near the air strip, it blows up with no survivors. To make matters worse, Greeno is missing.

Dr. Mulvaney, the Group Medical Officer, adds his two cents to the near unanimous opinion that Tim is flying too much. Mac sees Eve again. He says that he started seeing her just for fun, but now itís becoming serious. He says that the United States is not all that far away from London. But Eve doesnít want him getting too "serious". Mac tells her that he will see her next time heís in town and Eve replies: "I hope so."

Six new fliers arrive for the squadron. They are told they have seven days to prepare for everything, including an actual sortie. Tim learns that Greenoís mother, Mrs. Greeno, is coming to see him. He is not thrilled about the idea. Tim sees Mac and says he will be seeing Eve soon and he hopes thatís alright with him. Mac says he doesnít like it but thereís nothing he can do about it.

Mrs. Greeno arrives to see Tim, but itís not Peterís mother. Itís Peterís wife. She is a bit rude to Tim because she seems to blame him for the loss of her husband. The skipper, surprised, says: "So it was you he was telegraphing." Mrs. Greeno asks Tim if he was there in those fateful three hours in which she lost her husband. Tim doesnít say much.

Tim is upset by the talk with Mrs. Greeno. When he sees Eve he is able to get it all off his chest. Eve tries to console him, but he says he feels guilty because it might have been his fault. After unburdening his mind, he kisses Eve.

At the pub Mac tells a returning pilot that the squadron has had some bad luck lately. The squadron lost five airplanes and two more crashed last week. At the squadron party Mac sees Eve in the crowd and tries to get to her. But as he approaches he sees her deeply engaged in conversation with Tim. He retreats.

Eve talks a lot to Pam Greeno. When she sees Tim again she says that she talked to Mac about him. And she asks him why does he have to fly again? Tim says that he has got to do it because he has set his mind on it and because many people know he has set his mind on it.

Twenty-six Lancasters are going up on the next raid, one to be flown by the skipper. Their new target is to bomb a town that is only one year old and set up by the Nazis. It is to be wiped out completely. Some 650 aircraft are going on the raid. They will be flying to Germany over the Dutch coast.

Tim is ready to fly, but his superior officer informs him that he will not be flying tonight. Tim is disappointed. The superior officer says that the order came from above. Tim is so disturbed that he nearly smashes his car into a tractor. He drives over to the local pub.

At the pub he tells the bartender that he has been pensioned off. The bartender tells him maybe itís for the best. There has been a funny atmosphere around here lately. And everyone seems to be worried about Tim. They think that Tim might not be coming back one of these mornings.

The pilots get onto trucks and are driven out to their Lancasters. A pilot named Steve is asked to check his 4,000 pound bomb because it seems a little loose in its carriage. Steve looks it over but says it looks like it will hold. But it doesnít hold. The bomb starts to slip down slowly. Steve runs to have the planeís engines shut down. He then yells about the bomb. A bunch of men come to try to stop the bomb from dropping to the ground. But at 4,000 pounds thatís a near impossibility. The bomb does drop and it crushes Steveís foot and ankle. He cannot fly. Major Baker will be flying in place of Steve. He tells the skipper that thereís a jinx on the plane. Tim says thatís not true and to prove it he says heís coming along for the ride. In fact both Mac and Tim get on the plane, even though both are under orders not to fly.

At the local pub, Mrs. Canyon and Mrs. Greeno listen to the planes taking off. Eve asks one of the flight crews how she could get a message to Tim. The guy tells her that all she has to do is get in uniform and go down to his office and talk to him.

Eve follow the advice and goes to Timís office. She asks Timís superior officer about Tim and the officer says that Tim is around someplace. Heíll have the skipper called down.

The Germans are getting ready for another night of bombing. They are planning the schedules for their fighter planes. The Lancasters are about half an hour from their target. They get down to eight minutes to go to their target. A Lancaster is hit and goes down. Another one blows up in the air. Then the German fighters arrive and the pressure is really applied to the flight crews. The Germans hit the master bomber in the middle of the attack and it goes down. Tim has to do what he can to act as the master bomber for the group. When he starts talking, Eve recognizes his voice on the radio at headquarters. The skipperís boss says it canít be Tim. But as he listens more closely, he realizes that indeed it is Tim. He disobeyed the order not to fly.

All of the Lancasters still flying have returned except for the one carrying Mac and the skipper. Everyone is upset over what they hope is just a delay. Then the news goes out that the skipper is just landing now. All the pilots rush out to get into cars and trucks and onto buses to get to the air strip. Other fellows have to run out to the air strip.

The skipperís plane is surrounded by vehicles and men. When the skipper pops his head out the doorwell, the men all cheer for him.

Eve, of course, is very happy and relieved to learn the news. Tim arrives and asks her how did she get here so fast. She says she stayed overnight waiting for him. Tim tells her that his boss told him soon he is being transferred to the Far East on assignment. But then he stops talking and kisses Eve.

The men are in London. With Tim is Eve. Mrs. Greeno is also there. She will receive her husbandís DFC medal and Brown will receive his. For the ceremony they go to Buckingham Palace.

"This story is humbly dedicated to all those airmen who were unable to keep an appointment in London."

 

Good movie.  The difficulties of the air war have been largely under appreciated.  After seeing this film the viewer will have a better idea of the dangers inherent in the air war.  The love story part of the film is not that great, but it was alright.  The skipper was a bit stiff around Eve and vice-versa. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D..

 

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