Island In The Sky (1953)

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    Photo with the courtesy of lasbugas

    Information from IMDb

    Plot Summary
    A transport plane crash-lands in the frozen wastes of Labrador, and the plane's pilot, Dooley, must keep his men alive in deadly conditions while waiting for rescue.
    Summary written by Jim Beaver

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Capt. Dooley
    Lloyd Nolan .... Captain Stutz
    Walter Abel .... Col. Fuller
    James Arness .... Mac McMullen, pilot
    Andy Devine .... Willie Moon, pilot
    Allyn Joslyn .... J.H. Handy, pilot
    Jimmy Lydon .... Murray, Dooley's navigator (as James Lydon)
    Harry Carey Jr. .... Ralph Hunt, Moon's co-pilot
    Hal Baylor .... Stankowski, Dooley's engineer
    Sean McClory .... Frank Lovatt, Dooley's co-pilot
    Wally Cassell .... D'Annunzia, Dooley's radioman
    Gordon Jones .... Walrus
    Frank Fenton .... Capt. Turner
    Robert Keys .... Maj. Ditson
    Sumner Getchell .... Lt. Cord
    Regis Toomey .... Sgt. Harper
    Paul Fix .... Wally Miller
    Jim Dugan .... Gidley
    George Chandler .... Rene
    Louis Jean Heydt .... Fitch, pilot (as Louis Heydt)
    Bob Steele .... Wilson, Moon's radioman
    Darryl Hickman .... Swanson, McMullen's radioman
    Mike Connors .... Gainer (as Touch Connors)
    Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer .... Sonny Hopper, Stutz' co-pilot (as Carl Switzer)
    Cass Gidley .... Stannish, pilot
    Herbert Anderson .... Breezy, Stannish's co-pilot (as Guy Anderson)
    Tony De Mario .... Ogden
    Dawn Bender .... Murray's wife (uncredited)
    Gene Coogan .... Stutz's Navigator (uncredited)
    Ann Doran .... Moon's wife (uncredited)
    John Indrisano .... Mechanic (uncredited)
    Tom Irish .... Dusty, McMullen's co-pilot (uncredited)
    Fess Parker .... Fitch's co-pilot (uncredited)
    Richard Walsh .... (uncredited)
    Michael Wellman .... Mike Moon (uncredited)
    Tim Wellman .... Jim Moon (uncredited)
    Phyllis Winger .... Margaret, Girl in flashback (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Ernest K. Gann also novel

    Original Music
    Emil Newman
    Hugo Friedhofer (uncredited)

    Archie Stout

    Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
    Andrew V. McLaglen

    The little yellow radio shown in the movie was a actual radio. Its design is based on a WWII German emergency transmitter. It is a BC-778/SCR-578/AN-CRT3 emergency transmitter (it could not receive) affectionately called 'Gibson Girl', a name taken from the narrow-waisted female drawings of 1890s fashion artist Charles Gibson. Its shape allowed the operator to hold it between the legs while cranking it the necessary 80 RPM to produce enough electricity to operate. It could be set to automatically send an SOS signal or switched to send Morse Code signals. Early models transmitted only on 500kHz, later models also could transmit on 8280kHz (later modified to 8364kHz). It was notorious for being tough to crank.

    The general plot is based on a true story that the author, Ernest Gann related in his 1961 autobiographical book about his flying career, "Fate is the Hunter". He and other pilots searched successfully for a lost fellow pilot in the wilds of northern Canada during World War II.

    * Continuity: The stranded crew had arranged branches in the snow into the shape of a cross so the planes could spot it. Then they rearrange the branches to spell out a message when they fly over. The planes fly over one more time, and the branches are back in the shape of a cross.

    * Revealing mistakes: When the crewman is lost in the blizzard, you can see some white fabric in the "snowbank" behind him flapping in the wind.

    * Factual errors: As the plane begins its crash landing on the lake three crew members - not the pilots - are standing up behind the pilots looking out the windows. Under no circumstances would the non pilots be there. They would be in crash position in the rear area, not standing in the cockpit.

    * Miscellaneous: Just before their plane goes down, when Wayne and the co-pilot look out the windows, the wings are covered in ice, and the fuselage and windows are covered in snow - the camera then pans to a full view of the plane and there is no snow or ice anywhere. After the plane lands there is only a small amount of snow on it.

    * Factual errors: Hearing an incorrect latitude reading, Dooley says it could put them in Paris, Vladivostok, or Bangor ME, "all on the same latitude". The last two cities are at latitudes 43.1° and 44.8° north, which might be considered roundly the same, but Paris is significantly farther north at 48.8°. As a pilot with experience on Atlantic flights, Dooley would certainly know this.

    * Continuity: When Lovatt died, he had curled up into a fetal position. He would have frozen in that position. When the crew buried him, he was straightened out.

    Memorable Quotes

    Filming Location
    Donner Lake, Truckee, California, USA

    Watch the Trailer:-

    Island In The Sky

    Previous Discussion:-
    Island In The Sky

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 14 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • Island in the Sky is a 1953 American aviation adventure drama film
    written by Ernest K. Gann based on his 1944 novel of the same name,
    directed by William A. Wellman, and starring and co-produced by John Wayne.
    It was released by Warner Bros.
    Due to its realism depicting the events
    surrounding an actual aircraft crash,
    it is considered one of the "classic" aviation films.

    Great realistic movie with Duke outstanding.
    Well supported by strong performances of
    Lloyd Nolan, Walter Abel
    James Arness
    and Andy Devine

    Also look out for a young Fess Parker
    and Duke 'Pals'
    Harry Carey Jr. as Ralph Hunt, Moon's co-pilot
    Paul Fix as Wally Miller
    Bob Steele as Wilson, Moon's radioman

    User Review


    Can't Forget It
    27 June 2004 | by Bruce Gilliland (Birmingham, AL)

    I saw Island in the Sky in 1953 as a 6-year-old. I've never seen it again, but I still remember scenes from the movie. Like The Searchers, which I saw when it first came out in 1956, some of John Wayne's work stays with us. His movies had an impact that carries over generations.
    I think The High and the Mighty, which came out a year later, overshadowed Island in the Sky. It was a bigger production and it has been shown on TV.
    When AMC and other cable networks do their John Wayne retrospectives, they ought to include some of his earlier, lesser-known films such as Island in the Sky. All they ever show are his 1960s westerns and an occasional war film (I saw In Harm's Way last night).

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 2 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • We did a search for Island in the Sky through this message board's search engine, and came up with 551 references. Many of them are in the threads about The High and the Mighty.

    Anybody who wants to go back and sift through this "ancient history" can check HERE.

    Because of last year's much anticipated release of this film, it is very available, from all the "usual" internet sources, as well as every store that sells DVDs. :lol:

    Chester :newyear:

  • Hi Jim and Sue,
    Thanks for your post, and it underlines, once again,
    that all this fragmentation, was not helpful.
    Now at least, we can now have all this, in one forum.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi all,
    I watched Island in the Sky several times and with audio commentary too, but still have some technical questions. For the firse about this ice. Why it was so dengerous and why they didn't take nessesery precoutions? I remember when I flew at December aierfield crew put something at the winds I think it was against freesing.
    And I was also surprised that this area was uncharted. I thought that in 20 century almost everything was put on maps.
    It is interesting that in this movie there is strong religios theme. Duke two times is reading the pray our Father, once from the beginning to end and he didn't stop it even when radioman came with importaint news.
    And I absolutly love this final line of him about the 6 kids. He at the time of filming had 3 I guess.
    Senta :rolleyes:

  • Vera;

    You ask about Ice and the Aircraft in the Film? In the days before Jet Aircraft most Aircraft of that time could not go much above 20,000 Feet unless they were Turbo Super Charged. The B-29s that I flew in the early 1950s were Turbo Super Charged and we could go up to about 35,000 Feet but the Aircraft that was in the Film could Not go High enough to get above the bad Icing Weather. :stunned:

    In The Film "Island in the Sky" they did a good job on making the Film and showing how Ice on the Wings Effects the Wing of the Aircraft . :) If you watch the Film again You will see when the Plane is Icing Up you can see Duke breaking up the Ice on the front of the Wing with what are called Deicing Boots that are Black in color. They are made of Rubber and expand with Compressed Air and Break some of the Ice off of the Front part of the Wing. :fear:

    If the Ice builds up to much on the Wing you loose the Lift on the Wing, and there is no other place to Go But Down! :fear2:

    After the Jet Age Began, they had all the Heat from the Jet Engines that they needed to Heat the Front of the Wing with Hot Air and this is called a "Hot Wing." :jump:

    And in Very Bad Weather sometime they Spray Anti-Icing Liquid on the Wings and the Tail of the Aircraft.

    In 1978 I got myself into a Bad Icing Condition coming back from Oregon up by where Chester is Going when He retires. :wacko:

    If you would like to Read the Story that was in the "Flying Magazine" you can go to


    Bill :cowboy:

  • Well that was a scary one Bill.

    Did you guys have to change your britches later? :fear2:

    Do you still have your Bonanza?


    "I have tried to live my life so that my family would love me and my friends respect me. The others can do whatever the hell they please."

  • Tbone;

    I know that I did not have to change my pants, :D But I do not know about the Young Instructor that was with me, ;) and he Quit Flying after that Flight and went to work for the Local Police Department and stayed on the Ground!!! :fear2:

    Bill :cowboy:

  • Hi Bill,
    thank you very much for the post and fashinating story. What experience you have! Excuse me that I don't know much about planes and flying but I'm sure like to watch movies about that and hear stories.
    If I finally came to the 26 Bar ranch will it be possible to fly with you at your plane. Or if don't seat a little at the cokpit of it?
    I remember that at our airport they put some kind of anti-icing spray on wings. Interesting why? You write that modern jet planes are flying higher then freezing.
    In Island in the Sky there is real great cinematograpty of planes. It is hard to imagine that it is all real planes and big ones flying so beautifully.
    You remember Andy Devine talking to Harry Carey Jr. about knife, that he had to go out and clear up. Is he joking or means that he really must go through the window?
    Regards and thanks,
    Vera :rolleyes:

  • Vera;

    You get as far as Arizona and I will Fly You to the 26 Bar Ranch. :D

    I meant that the Jet Aircraft can go over most of the Bad Weather and most of the time you must be in the Clouds or Freezing Rain to Ice up the Wings and the Tail of the Aircraft. :(

    Bill :cowboy:

  • My father was chosen by Ernie Gann to fly in Island In the Sky. He wrote some interesting accounts of making the movie. Is there someone who might be interested in this? I've transcribed his journal into WORD and could attach it if anyone's interested. Let me know.

  • Hi Tabitha,

    First of all a big

    WELCOME to the JWMB

    I am sure you will meet many friendly and knowledgeable
    folk here, on this great Board.

    What you posted is very interesting, and I feel
    sure, lots of our members would be interested.

    Is it possible you could copy and paste, your
    fathers accounts, here in this thread?

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Tabitha,

    We, too, welcome you to the John Wayne Message Board!

    I can't imagine there would be anyone here who wouldn't be interested in your father's account, and think Keith's suggestion of perhaps cutting and pasting into this thread is a good one.

    Welcome, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Chester :newyear: and the Mrs. :angel1:

  • Quote

    Originally posted by Tabitha@Oct 26 2006, 11:54 PM
    My father was chosen by Ernie Gann to fly in Island In the Sky. He wrote some interesting accounts of making the movie. Is there someone who might be interested in this? I've transcribed his journal into WORD and could attach it if anyone's interested. Let me know.


    Hi Tabitha,
    May I add my welcome to the board too. It's a fine place and it will be really great if you can put you fathers memories here.
    Thanks a lot for letting as know about it,
    Senta :rolleyes:

  • I havent actually seen this JW film although I am familar with the storyline of the movie. I have just bought of so on arrival I will give it a screening and give you my synopsis soon

  • DukePilgrim, I agree, its better than High and Mighty. I found the passengers in H&M a little over the top...all of them except Paul Fix were basket cases. Then the end of H&M was a little anti-climatic...after all they went through in the air....the plane lands. They stand around, they go home.

    I just found the Island in the Sky to be a much richer plot, with Wayne in the role of protecting everyone, and looking out for everyone. They talked about the other crew's families etc., and then at the end, oh by the way, Dooley has a wife and six kids.


    "...all of this and General Price that baby sister makes it back to Yell county" --Rooster Cogburn, True Grit.

  • Hi GSP

    I know I was nearly expecting Robert Newton to go into a Long John Silver impersonation at some point. LOL Also,when they all arrive you think it was
    a film premiere.