The Man in the Sky

The Man in the Sky

Directed by Charles Crichton
Produced by Michael Balcon
Screenplay by John Eldridge
William Rose
Story by William Rose
Starring Jack Hawkins
Elizabeth Sellars
Cinematography Douglas Slocombe
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 24 January 1957 (1957-01-24) (UK[1])
Running time
86 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $486,000[3]
Box office $500,000[3]

The Man in the Sky (released in the U.S. as Decision Against Time) is a 1957 film starring Jack Hawkins and produced by Ealing Films, Michael Balcon's new company, set up after Rank had sold Ealing Studios in Ealing Green, West London, to the BBC in 1955. Balcon, who had run the company on behalf of Rank since 1944, left Rank in 1956 and set up the new company, striking a distribution and production deal with MGM. This was the first Ealing production to be made at MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood, North London.


Test pilot John Mitchell (Jack Hawkins) disappoints his wife Mary (Elizabeth Sellars) by refusing to increase their unsuccessful bid for a house. What she does not know is that the aircraft manufacturing company he works for is in desperate financial straits. Owner Reginald Conway (Walter Fitzgerald) needs to convince Ashmore (Eddie Byrne) to place an order soon or the firm will go bankrupt. Mitchell takes the only prototype of a new aeroplane for a flight, with Ashmore and several others aboard. During testing, one engine catches fire.

Ashmore and the others parachute to safety. Mitchell is able to extinguish the fire by diving the airplane but loses half of his aileron control in the process. Then, despite Conway's order and the urgings of others, he decides to try to land the aeroplane rather than crashing it into the sea. However, he has to fly back and forth for half an hour to use up fuel, shifting the center of gravity in the aircraft away from the dead engine to make the landing more feasible. Ashmore is convinced of the aircraft's value by its performance in the dive and expresses confidence in Mitchell's ability to land it.

During the tense wait, after all the others have rejected the idea as serving no purpose, office worker Mrs Snowden (Megs Jenkins) takes it upon herself to notify Mitchell's wife by phone anyway. Mary goes to the airfield and watches as her husband manages to land safely. Later, at home, she demands to know why he risked his life when everyone told him to bail out. He explains that while he felt it was his duty with the company's fate hanging in the balance, he took the risk out of love and concern for the welfare of his family. Then he phones their real estate agent and agrees to the seller's price.


Production notes

The main location for filming was in Wolverhampton. The aircraft portraying the "Wolverhampton Freighter" was Bristol Freighter G-AIFV of Silver City Airways, a type that had actually been flying since 1946. During filming the aircraft overshot the runway, damaging the nose and wing. After filming the aircraft returned to service with Silver City Airways until May 1962, when it was scrapped.


The film premiered in London at the Empire, Leicester Square on 24 January 1957,[1] and the reviewer for The Times called it "an Ealing film with a difference".[4]

According to MGM records the film earned $150,000 in the US and Canada and $350,000 elsewhere.[3]

See also


  1. 1 2 The Times, 24 January 1957, page 2, first column: Picture Theatres, Empire, The Man in the Sky Linked 2015-08-29
  2. BBFC: The Man in the Sky - runtime Linked 2015-08-29
  3. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  4. The Times, 28 January 1957, page 12: An Ealing Film With A Difference Linked 2015-08-29

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