They Flew Alone (Wings and the Woman) (1942) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director:      Herbert Wilcox. 

Starring:     Anna Neagle (Amy Johnson), Robert Newton (Jim Mollison), Edward Chapman (Mr. Johnson), Nora Swinburne (ATA Commandant), Joan Kemp-Welch (Mrs. Johnson), Brefni O'Rorke (Mac), Charles Carson (Lord Wakefield), Martita Hunt (Miss Bland), Anthony Shaw (Official), Eliot Makeham (Mayor of Croydon), David Horne (Solicitor), Miles Malleson (Vacuum Salesman), Aubrey Mallalieu (Bill, the Barber), Charles Victor (Postmaster), Hay Petrie (Old General).

1930's British pioneer aviatrix Amy Johnson

 

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

"Here's the story of a girl from Yorkshire; born to be one of millions, she became one in a million.  This career  -- rather like a rocket out of a match-box --  was her own.  She dreamed it; planned it; lived it; until all that happened to her shouted from headlines."

The head mistress tells Amy's parents that Amy won't wear her school's straw hat.  Her parents tell her to put her hat on.  Amy goes out of the room with her hat on.  But she talks to the other girls and get them to take their hats off while inside the building.  When she goes to her dormitory, she smashes her hat by jumping on it with her two feet. 

When Amy comes to school, she is wearing a non-school hat.  The head mistress asks her how many times has she told Amy to be like the rest of the girls?  Amy says:  "But I am like the others."  The head mistress look out her window and see the young ladies without their hats on. 

Sheffield University, July 4th, 1925.  Amy receives her degree.  She now enrolls in The Hull Secretarial and Business College. She types away but doesn't seem to like it.  Next we see her selling ribbons to women in a store.  She is sick already of waiting on women who can't seem to make up their minds.  She works as a secretary for a lawyer, who thinks she could become a lawyer.  Amy tells the lawyer that the problem is that she just can't think of what she would really like to do.  She is so restless.

At home she tells her mother that she envies the freedom of the seagulls.  There are no four walls around them.  But, she says, now she is learning to fly.  "And when I'm up in the air my restlessness it seems just to disappear.  I  know what it is I've always been seeking.  Well, I feel so free and so happy when I'm flying up there above the clouds."

At the airport, the boss comes over to speak to Amy.  He congratulates her on her flying certificate and notes that she is the first woman to get such a certificate.  He asks her what she does and she says she  has a regular job, plus some work at night, and then she spends most of her time here working on planes or flying planes.     

Amy goes to the newspapers.  She says she wants to do something for aviation.  She wants to fly to Australia.  The editor thinks she's just going to fly to Australia to enjoy a vacation on someone else's dime. 

A letter goes to Lord Wakefield.  It is sent from the Brookes Club, St. James's Square, London.  It says:  "This girl is a cross between Cinderella and Christopher Columbus.  She is a type we want to help."  Amy visits him in his office and he tells her to get hold of a second-hand Puss Moth, get more experience in flying and then come back and see him.  He tells her, however, to give up on that idea of flying to Australia. 

She goes to her father, who usually supports her even when others won't.  But dad says this is a fool-hardy idea and she must give it up.  Amy tells dad that she is going to fly to Australia regardless of who opposes the idea.  Dad can hear the conviction in her voice and he says that he does believe she will do it.  So he writes a check for 600 English pounds for the plane.  Amy is so thrilled that she keesp hugging him until he has to tell her to stop fussing with him. 

Croydon. 4:25 a.m.  May 5th, 1930.  Dad is there to see his daughter off into the wild blue yonder. 

That editor who rejected her now learns the news that Amy Johnson has broken the time record for a flight from London to India.  And now the editor is interested in Amy Johnson.  Her name appears in all the London papers.  Dad gets a call and finds out that Amy broke a world record in her flight to India.  She should be on her way to Karachi by now.  Her parents are thrilled at the news. 

The newspaper headline reads:  "Girl flyer beating Hinkler's record".  She has a long lead at Karachi and Australia prepares to give her a great welcome.  

Amy gets really sweaty flying and keeps having to wipe her face off with a scarf.  Virtually every newspaper in the world carries Amy's story. 

Amy flies from Karachi to Calcutta. She even has to fly through a sandstorm and monsoon rains with an open cockpit. 

"Girl flier missing for 12 hours +" says a Flash Press Daily Herald telegram.  Six hours later and she is missing for 18 hours +. 

The news comes that Amy Johnson is safe after battling with a storm.  She went seven hours through rain and storm. 

She travels on to Rangoon, Singapore and Java.  She nears Australia. 

Port Darwin.  3:55 p.m. May 24th, 1930.  She lands her airplane.  She is so tired she has a hard time staying on her feet.  She has traveled 9,500 miles in 19 days.  The newspaper says that Australia went wild for Amy Johnson. 

Amy takes a flight with an Australian fellow, Jim Mollison, who does the flying.  She's on her way to Brisbane where she will make an appearance at a very posh dinner and dance.  She tells the pilot she wishes he would come to the dinner and he says he will come if he can get two dances with her.  Amy says yes. 

At the dinner Amy says she hopes her accomplishment will inspire others to fly.  She impresses her audience with her talk.. 

Jim tries to get to Amy, but a general stops him from doing so.  So she goes looking for him.  Amy is handed a telegram from the King and Queen of England congratulating her upon "her wonderful and courageous achievement".  So she never hooks up with Jim. 

A crowd of some 5,000,000 people await the arrival of Amy Johnson at the airport in London.  Her parents are there to greet her.  The Mayor of London receives her and congratulates her. 

In the hotel Amy receives a telegram from Jim telling her that she still owes him two dances.  She now goes to Buckingham Palace.

Meanwhile, Jim decides to fly from Australia to England. 

Port Darwin. 11:55 p.m. May 21st, 1931.  Jim takes off for London.  The plane is very over-weighted and he can't get above the telephone wires before he crashes into them.

Mollison sends a telegram to Lord Wakefield saying:  "Plane quite broken; heart nearly broken; please give me another chance."

Jim does get another chance and he breaks all existing records.  When he lands, he asks about Amy.  He learns that Amy has set a record on her flight to Tokyo.  Poor Jim. 

Jim gets a nice dinner to honor his achievement. 

On board a ship, Amy receives a telegram from Jim:  "You take the low road and I'll take the high road and I'll be in Cape Town before you.  Don't forget you owe me two dances."

Mollison breaks the record on his flight to Cape Town.  Amy is there to receive him.  He is so exhausted that he walks right past her.  She keeps on talking and he turns around to go to her, but collapses before reaching Amy.  After he has had some rest, Amy calls his room and speaks to him.  They make a dinner date for 7 p.m.  Jim asks where she is and she says she's staying at the same hotel where he's staying.  Jim gets tied up celebrating with the guys at the bar and doesn't arrive at Amy's hotel room until late.  Amy's woman friend tells him that Amy is out for the night.  Jim returns to his hotel room.  Amy is back on a ship. 

Amy returns home to her mother and father.  Jim calls her there saying he's in Paris.  He will fly over and meet her for dinner at 9 p.m. 

They both manage to show up on time for dinner at the same place.  They order their food and drinks.  Jim asks her if she likes him?  She says she doesn't really know, so he says why not marry him and find out if she likes him?  They go out  on the dance floor and dance.  She asks him why did he say what he said?  He says:  "I mean it.  Now it's your turn to say something."  She and he return to the table.  Jim asks her:  "Well?"  She replies:  "I'll take a chance."   Jim immediately calls for the wine list and Amy laughs. 

St. Georges Hanover Square, July 29th 1932.  Jim and Amy marry.  The crowd is huge on the square.

On the honeymoon Jim brings up the idea of flying east to west from London to New York.  Amy is concerned for him because the winds are against planes heading west to New York. 

The couple name Jim's plane The Heart's Content.  Amy gives her husband a kiss and he starts his journey. 

At dinner with a friend Amy worries a great deal about Jim, because she knows all the problems that can occur on such a long flight.  A waiter comes over to tell her that her husband has landed at his destination.  Amy is so relieved that she laughs. When the other guests at the restaurant learn about the accomplishment they stand up and clap for Amy and her husband. 

In her room, Amy has a hard time getting Jim on the telephone.  When she finally does get him on the phone, he is a bit drunk and surrounded by beautiful women.  Amy gets upset when she hears the band playing and the sounds of women laughing.  She hangs up the phone. 

Jim returns to England.  Amy tells Jim that the hotel has cooked up a Jim Mullison Night for him.  And again Jim is surrounded by pretty girls.  Amy is still upstairs getting ready to come down .  She answers a telephone call from a girl named Queenie who wants to speak with Jim.  She tells the girl that she is speaking to Mrs. Mullison.  That ends that conversation.  Jim comes into the room.  They go downstairs to the restaurant.  Jim tells her that they should go on a nice vacation, but Amy tells him that she has to get some sleep.  Tomorrow she is flying south to Cape Town and back.  He wonders why Cape Town?  She says she will break his record and then fly back to see him. 

In the newspapers the headline is: "Lone airwoman beating husband's record".  Another headline says that Amy is long overdue on desert hop  Her husband and parents wait anxiously for news.  At home Jim indicates he's not upset by having his record beaten by his own wife.  He says she's a great girl and if anyone was going to beat his record, he's happy it was Amy.  

Amy arrives at Cape Town.  A reporter asks if she wants to speak to anyone and she says she wants to talk to her husband.  Amy is a bit mean to her husband.  She says:  "Hello, Jim.  This is Amy.  I've broken the record by seven hours.  I want you to be the first to know."  She hangs up on him. 

When Amy gets home she apologizes to Jim about that telephone call.  She notes that he doesn't look happy to see her.  He says this is just another visit between the two of them as one or the other is always flying off somewhere.  When reporters speak to the couple Amy says that was her last long-distance, solo flight.  Her next flight will be to America with her husband. 

The couple take off for their flight in a plane called the Seafarer.  The flight should take about 40 hours.  When they make it across the pond, Amy will be the first woman to cross the Atlantic east to west.

Amy comments that she wishes this fog would lift.  Jim gets very sleepy on his turn flying.  The weather turns very bad with heavy winds and heavy rain.  The plane goes up and down, up and down.  The fog horn in Nantucket has been blaring out for 24 hours straight. 

The couple disappears from contact for awhile, but flies over a radio station right on time.  Some of the sailors on the Aquitaine marvel at the skill of the two pilots given the horridness of the weather.  If they arrive at 12, they will have flown by dead reckoning for 40 hours.  Jim is getting very sleepy again while flying.  Amy writes a note to him saying:  "Iceberg."  Jim thinks that means they are too far north.  They then see a large flock of birds and figure they must be near land.  They reach Newfoundland.  Jim shouts:  "Hello Broadway!  Here we come!" 

Amy tells Jim that they are running out of fuel and should land in Boston to refuel.  Jim says that they are flying to New York!   It's dark out now.  Amy asks how long to New York?  Jim says they're just a few minutes away.  The plane starts sputtering.  Jim says they have to put the plane down.  It's hard for them to see anything on the ground because of the fog.  Jim is going to try to land the plane where there is a string of lights.  The plane crashes.  Amy gets out of the plan okay.  She yells for Jim.  He's been tossed out of the plane.  They have landed in Connecticut. 

Amy's parents turn on their radio to listen to a comment by Amy.  Amy speaks to the reporters and then the reporters turn to speak to Jim.  Amy tries to tell the reporters that Jim was hurt much worse than she was and has 107 stitches in his head.  Jim rambles along with a few words and then forgets what he was saying.  He gets angry at the reporters and grabs the microphone from one of them.  All the reporters are now chased out of the room.  The broadcast is stopped.  Father Johnson tells his wife that things just don't seem right between Amy and Jim.  He says it was inevitable.  Both are geniuses in a way, but they have to work alone.  They just tried to force themselves together in the east to west trip and this is something that can't really be done.

President Roosevelt sends flowers to Amy and Jim in the hospital.  Amy and Jim have a ticker tape parade in New York.  People advise them not to rush into their next flight until they are completely recovered.  But soon Lord Wakefield receives a telegram from Jim and Amy saying that they broke the flight record to India.   

Now the couple takes an extended vacation.  Amy tells Jim that they are running low on money.  She also says she is sick of the vacationing and wants to get back to work.  And now Amy tells Jim she wants to fly solo again.

The headline in the local newspaper is that Amy divorces Jim. 

Sunday, September 3rd, 1939. 11 a.m.  World War II has just started.  Amy tries to enlist in the armed services as a flyer, but she is turned down.  There are to be no women pilots in the war.  Then Jim tries to join up, but they refuse to take him too.  They say Jim is too individualistic and their fliers travel and fight in a pack. 

Amy drives trucks for the army.  Her friend Pauline sees her and tells her that she is in a group of 25 women who ferry planes all over England. 

Christmas time, 1939.  Amy is accepted into the group of 25 women flying planes.  She pays a visit to her parents.  Amy says she loves her new job.  Every time she flies, she flies in a different airplane.  It's a constant challenge.

Air raid sirens go off.  Bombs start dropping.  An older man pays a visit to Jim saying they rejected him too at first, but now after they lost so many pilots they jumped at his wanting to fly.  Jim immediately jumps up out of bed and starts shaving his face.

Pauline tells Amy that Jim has joined the men's section of the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary).  She wanted her to know, because she's sure to bump into him.  And one day Jim and Amy do run into each other.  He tells her he is going to fly large planes to North Africa.  She tells him so long and he does the same. 

January 5th, 1941.  Amy is ferrying a plane to a new location.  A new weather report says that the weather will soon be unsuited for flying as a heavy fog is rolling in.  Amy flies right into the fog.  She has a hard time seeing anything through the thick fog.  She almost hits a blimp.  The ATA women start calling around to find out if anyone knows anything about Amy and her flight.  Amy is getting low on petrol.  She starts running out of gas and the engines stop.  She prepares to jump out and does so.  Her parachute opens up for her.  She lands in the water.    She dies in the water. 

There are many scenes of women in military uniforms marching along. 

"And to all the Amy Johnsons of today, who have fought and won the battle of the straw hat  --  who have driven through centuries of convention  --  who have abandoned the slogan 'safety first' in their fight for freedom 'from fear -- from want--  from persecution' --  we dedicate this film."

 

This is a celebration of the accomplishments of the English girl Amy Johnson in the field of aviation.  She and her husband kept the papers filled with news about having old flight time records being broken.  Amy said she wanted to do something for aviation and she did.  She married too quickly.  Her and Mullison's interests were very similar and Mullison is said to have proposed marriage to her within 8 hours of meeting her.  He gave her a challenge and she took a risk.  Obviously, they were both big risk-takers.  But marriage should not be based on taking risks.  Their similar interests made it so that they rarely saw each other.  This arrangement doomed the relationship.  Anna Neagle (as Amy Johnson), Robert Newton (Jas im Mollison) were both good in their parts. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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