Spitfire

Leslie Howard, who also produced and directed here, made his last screen appearance in this above-average biography with a strong propaganda message. Howard plays R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire fighter plane, the weapon that would foil Hitler's plans to invade England by air. The film opens as a squadron of fighter pilots sits at a base, awaiting...read more

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Leslie Howard, who also produced and directed here, made his last screen appearance in this above-average biography with a strong propaganda message. Howard plays R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire fighter plane, the weapon that would foil Hitler's plans to invade England by air.

The film opens as a squadron of fighter pilots sits at a base, awaiting the next wave of German planes. Squadron leader Geoffrey Crisp (David Niven) begins to tell the men about his close friend Mitchell, the designer of their craft, and the details of the origin of the Spitfire are related in a

lengthy flashback that makes up most of the film's running time. This was Howard's last film before he was shot out of the sky by the Luftwaffe while returning from a semi-secret diplomatic mission in Lisbon. (There are rumors that the Germans knew Churchill was to be attending a meeting in

Casablanca and that Howard's plane was used as a decoy.) Niven was actually detached from the service to appear in SPITFIRE, and his smooth performance is probably the best in the film. Howard's direction is assured and keeps the story from getting bogged down in its message. The score, by

"serious" composer William Walton, is superb.

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