The Way to the Stars (Johnny in the Clouds) (1945)




Director:     Anthony Asquith. 

Starring:     Michael Redgrave (Flight Lt. David Archdale), John Mills (Pilot Officer Peter Penrose), Rosamund John (Miss 'Toddy' Todd), Douglass Montgomery (Johnny Hollis), Renée Asherson (Iris Winterton), Stanley Holloway (Mr. Palmer), Basil Radford (Tiny Williams), Felix Aylmer (Rev. Charles Moss), Bonar Colleano (Joe Friselli), Joyce Carey (Miss Winterton), Trevor Howard (Squadron Leader Carter), Nicholas Stuart (Col. Rogers), Bill Owen (Sgt. 'Nobby' Clarke), Grant Miller (Wally Becker), Jean Simmons (A Singer), Johnnie Schofield (Jones - Penrose's Batman), Charles Victor (Corporal Fitter).

shows how the Battle of Britain affected both the lives of civilians and combatants



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


"This was an airfield.  Now not a soul is here.  Empty.  Empty hangars.  The Control Tower.  Once the very nerve center of the airfield.  And now.  Derelict.  No more happy landings.  Crew Room.  Telephone numbers scribbled on the wall.  A pin-up girl.  A name --  Johnny.  A sign on the floor.  All that is left of people who lived here.  And now sheep are returning to this English field once mentioned in the Doomsday Book.  It was very different in 1940."

Pilot Officer Peter Penrose gets off at the airfield and goes to find his room.  He finds it and knocks on the door.  Since there is no answer he opens the door and walks in.  Penrose's Batman comes into the room and tells Penrose that he is his Batman.  He says his name is Jones.  Penrose hears bombing in Marsden.

Flight Lt. David Archdale comes into the room.  Jones introduces him to Penrose.  Archdale asks Penrose what rating did they give him in training school?  Penrose says average.  Archdale says they will soon change that.  Archdale hears whistles being sounded and says that their Halfpenny Fairfield is now a target.  They run for shelter.  They go under one of the bombers at first, but then head for a bomb shelter.  There Archdale introduces Penrose to the CO (commanding officer). 

When the all clear signal is given, everyone runs out concerned with putting out fires and filling in bomb craters.  Archdale calls over to the Golden Lion to make sure everything is alright.  He is probably concerned with the pretty woman there known as Toddy.  The call is forwarded to the pretty woman.  She reports no real damage to the place and then asks how's the airfield?  Archdale says he will be down there tonight.  His plans, however, are spoiled when the CO tells Archdale that he wants him to go up with Penrose and check him out.  Sgt. Clark will be their gunner.  The CO says the target has not changed.  It's Callay, barge concentrations. 

The mechanic warns Penrose that the port engine is not doing so well, so don't overheat her.  The CO watches Penrose takeoff.  One fellow remarks at least Penrose didn't hit the control tower. 

After the flight is over, Archdale tells Penrose that his landing was "bloody awful". And he won't be rated "operational" until Archdale tells him he's ready. In fact, Archdale says another landing like that and he will send Penrose back for more training in flight school. But then he says he's knows Penrose will make a good pilot.

Archdale takes Penrose over to see Miss 'Toddy' Todd. Then he introduces Penrose to Mr. Palmer, the proprietor. And, finally, Penrose meets Mrs. Winterton and her pretty niece Iris Winterton. Penrose seems to have taken a liking to Iris, so her aunt pulls her niece away saying they should go have their dinner now.

Toddy goes to wash the dishes and Archdale comes in to do the drying. He tells her that the squadron lost their CO on the last mission.

Penrose tries to talk to Iris again, but again the aunt interferes.

Everyone has to go home at a certain time. Archdale chooses to be last to go and he gives Toddy a good hug and a good kiss.

Toddy gets married to Archdale. The siren goes off for a bombing raid and everyone has to get into a bomb shelter. Sitting on the bench inside the shelter, Archdale holds his wife close to him.

1942. The Americans will be taking over at Halfpenny Field. The commander tells the British pilots that the 8th Air Force will be stationed here with their B-17 bombers, aka the Flying Fortresses. (B-17 was primarily employed by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial and military targets. It dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.)

Penrose has completed 43 runs by now. Archdale tells him that's not bad for one tour. A couple more flights and Penrose will have completed his first tour of duty. Then he will take a break, go for some schooling and then come back to begin his second tour. Penrose is mad because he figures that Archdale was the one who suggested this break.

The two men go to the Golden Lion. Archdale visits with Toddy and their little baby boy named Peter. Penrose tries to see Iris. She tells him that her aunt is not going to let her go out with Penrose. Penrose says he will talk to her aunt tonight about his dating her niece. He then tells Iris that he has something he wants to tell her too.

The British bombers start taking off again at 11:00 hours. The mechanics take a break and sit outside by the field. Penrose comes back okay, but they lost Archdale. Penrose is very upset. Someone asks him if he is going to tell Mrs. Archdale about the loss of her husband? He most definitely sasy no. He says he doesn't know what to tell her.  He tells the man go get the Adjutant to write a letter to her.   Then he says of Archdale:  "He got no right to get married and have a kid.  I mean, none of us have."

But Penrose does go to tell Toddy about her husband.  She makes it a lot easier on him by telling him she knows why he came here.  She already knows because her husband never called her, which he always does, after the flight and she saw that one of the bombers was missing on the airfield.  She thanks Penrose for telling her and says she couldn't have borne it if the news came from anyone else. 

On the way out, Penrose runs into Iris.  He says he's sorry but he has to go and can't stay and see her.  He should have told her about Archdale, but somehow he couldn't get the words out. 

The British pilots are leaving Halfpenny Field so the Yanks can move in.  The Brits that are staying at Halfpenny wonder what these Yanks will be like.  The American flag is raised up on the flagpole. 

Penrose is staying but he has to give up his room for the Yanks are moving in.   He's staying because he's the controller.  He gets to meet some of the Yanks that will be taking over Penrose's room.  One of the Americans is real talkative, maybe too much so.  He's Joe Friselli.  There's a real nice fellow there too, named John Hollis. 

The Yanks start playing baseball.  There are lots of funny interactions between the men of two different cultures. 

The news is that for the fourth night running, British Lancasters and Halifaxes have bombed Bremen, Germany.   The American Joe Friselli asks when are the Americans going to get into the battle?  They've been waiting around here for two months now.  The answer is that it will be sooner then he expects. 

Penrose sits at a table at the hotel alone.  Auntie asks Iris isn't that the chap that she used to know?  Yes.  Iris doesn't look too happy with Penrose. 

Joe Friselli is way too loud for the British.  Toddy does not like him, because he's too bold and brash.  But the fellow with him, John Hollis  is very nice, as nice as Friselli is brash.  He tries to soothe things out between Toddy and Friselli.  The British like the not-Friselli guy, but don't care for Joe Friselli at all.  Toddy and Hollis have a nice private conversation about their respective families.  Penrose likes the fellow too and tells him he wouldn't suggest that they stay out too late tonight.  So the fellow decides not to go to the movies tonight.

Iris talks with Penrose and then she asks him if there's a chance that they can see each other soon?  Penrose puts her off saying he is so busy.  She keeps on saying "It's perfectly alright."  He can see she is very disappointed and is upset by that, but he still won't say he will go out with her. 

August 17.  The American bombers start to take off.  The next day the headline in the newspaper is that the Yanks carry out their first air raid on the Nazis.

Penrose hangs out in the hotel tavern with Johnny Hollis and Joe Friselli and the rest if the air crew. He tells the group that he will be flying again. Lancasters. Later in the evening he tells Toddy that he has "been posted away" and this will probably be his last visit with her. She asks him what's wrong between Iris and him? Penrose doesn't say anything definite, but he does ask Toddy to say goodbye to Iris for him.

1944. Johnny Hollis is being sent home. Back in the states, they need an instructor with combat experience and Johnny's commanding officer selected him. Johnny is excited about going home.

Johnny plays with Toddy's child Peter again.  Joe Friselli is now going out with Iris.  Iris tells him that she doesn't have a boyfriend, either American or British.  Penrose sees Iris dancing with Joe Friselli and she has a big smile on her face.  But when Iris sees Penrose, she tells Joe that she wants to go home.  Johnny sees Toddy at the dance and he dances with her.  Later he walks her home.  He tells her that he is going home.  She says she is happy for him. 

Now Johnny doesn't want to go home.  He's too happy being around Toddy.  He goes on another bombing mission. 

Iris blows up at her bossy auntie and she she is striking out on her own.  Toddy tells the aunt that she is happy that Iris decided to leave her.  And she wants the aunt to leave the hotel too.  Toddy now grabs Penrose and tells him that he has just a little while to make a very important decision.  Does he or doesn't he want to marry Iris?  He hems and haws.  Toddy says Iris is coming by.  She pushes Penrose to go talk to her, but she just ignores him and goes out of the hotel.  Toddy now sends Penrose out into the street after Iris.  She gets in a taxi and he climbs in with her.  He starts calculating how much money he makes per day and then mentions that there is a marriage allowance.  Would she like to take on a marriage allowance? 

Penrose tells his best friend that he is getting married to Iris.  His friend is very happy for him. 

Johnny gets into a bad predicament.  He only has three of four engines working, his rudder is shot up and he has a 500 pound bomb stuck in the bomb door.  Johnny lands on the airfield and the bomb explodes killing him. 


This film focuses on the life of Pilot Officer Peter Penrose.  He reports to his combat assignment being only an average pilot.  His roommate checks out Penrose's flying abilities and he finds significant problems.  One of the worst things was the landing of the craft which was "bloody awful".  Thinking maybe he was a little to hard on Penrose, Archdale tells him that he is confident Peter will become a good pilot.  And over time Penrose does improve significantly. 

Penrose watches his roommate marry the local office worker named Toddy at the hotel in town.  Meanwhile, Penrose has found a woman to his own liking, named Iris.  Things are going along pretty sweetly for Penrose and Archdale. 

Then Archdale is killed in aerial combat.  Penrose has to be the one to tell her of her husband's death.  And by this time Toddy has had a son they named Peter.  He feels very sad about her husband and worries so much about Toddy and Peter that he starts to lose contact with Iris.  Finally, Toddy sees that she will have to intervene in Penrose's life if there is to be even some happiness in life his life.  She nearly coerces Penrose to talk seriously with Iris and turn things around for the both of them. 

Michael Redgrave (as Flight Lt. David Archdale), John Mills (as Pilot Officer Peter Penrose), Rosamund John (as Miss 'Toddy' Todd) and Douglass Montgomery (Johnny Hollis) were all good in the film. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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