Transocean Air Lines 1946 - 1960
The $2 million production starred John Wayne with actors Robert Stack and Phil Harris, and
actresses Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, and Jan Sterling. The film's characters were on board a
flight from Hawaii to the mainland, little dreaming of the trouble in store for them. The aerial
photography was accomplished in two TAL DC-4s flown by Captains Bill Keating and Bill Benge,
with Benge also serving as technical advisor.
Benge spent two weeks working with Wellman's special effects department preparing for the
cockpit scene and building removable doors on both sides of the plane's fuselage so that either
side could be removed for filming.
The High and the Mighty
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The High and the Mighty is a 1954 disaster film
released through Warner Brothers. The film starred
and was co-produced by John Wayne, directed by
William A. Wellman, and written by Ernest K. Gann,
who also wrote the novel (The High and the Mighty)
on which the film is based.
The movie company moved to the Oakland/San Francisco area for the final landing scene at San
Francisco Airport. Runway 28 Right was closed for one night while photographic shots were being
taken on the ground and in the air for the landing scene. Fire trucks sprayed large amounts of
water on the approach of the aircraft to make it appear that it was a rainy night. During the filming of
this sequence Director Wellman kept ordering Keating to take the DC-4 lower and lower during a
series of landings in an attempt to get the best shots. Keating came in low enough to wipe out five
rows of approach lights before Wellman was finally satisfied. Transocean received a bill for eight
hundred dollars for the damaged lights; Wellman picked up the tab.
"The High and The Mighty" was one of the most successful films of the fifties. It grossed over ten
million dollars during the first three years after its release.
Regarding The High & The Mighty aircraft identification, Captain Bill Keating flew all the DC4
flights operated in conjunction with the movie production. From his pilot’s logbook the following
flights were flown for The High and The Mighty in aircraft N-4665V on these dates:
11-16-1953 OAK-SFO 18 min.
11-16-1953 SFO-OAK 1 hr. 23 min.
11-17-1953 OAK-OAK 3 hrs. 8 min.
11-18-1953 OAK-SFO 20 min.
11-18-1953 SFO-OAK 55 min.
11-19-1953 OAK-OAK 2 hrs,
11-20-1953 OAK-OAK 1 hr. 24 min.
11-20-1953 OAK-OAK 1 hr,
11-22-1953 OAK-OAK 46 min.
11-22-1953 OAK-OAK 2 hrs. 34 min.
11-30-1953 OAK-BUR 2 hrs. 3 min.
11-30-1953 BUR-OAK 2 hrs. 6 min.
TAL mechanics had
installed the engine
in the record time of
3 hours. When the
midnight, the men
engine in 3 more
made its film debut,
and in less than
eight hours was
back in service.
Dimitri Tiomkin earned an Academy Award for his score, and the film's theme ("The High and the
Mighty") was nominated for an Oscar. The High and the Mighty was one of the first all-star disaster
films, which paved the way for the Airport films (and eventually the parody, Airplane!, whose cast
included Robert Stack, a star player in The High and the Mighty).
John Wayne on the set, photo by Bill Keating
The film explores the personal dramas and
interactions of the seventeen passengers --
and professional conflicts and doubts of the
five crew members -- aboard an
unpressurized DC-4 flying as
Trans-Orient-Pacific ("TOPAC") Flight #420
on an overnight hop from Honolulu (T.H.) to
San Francisco in what proves to be a tense,
nerve-wracking, and ultimately life changing
ordeal for all.
In November 1953, "The High and The
Mighty" was filmed with Transocean
providing technical advice, pilots to fly the
airplanes, and mechanics to accomplish the
job of installing the drooping engine called
for in the script.
The movie, which was only the fourth picture
to be made in cinemascope and color, was
shot at various locations. The departure
scene was made at the Flying Tigers hangar
at Burbank, California, supposedly Honolulu;
the scene depicting an engine fire was filmed
at the airport at Glendale, California. The
design for tilting the "fire damaged" engine at
a 30-degree angle, as called for in the script,
was produced by Al Macedo, Transocean's
chief engineer and accomplished by Hangar
28 mechanics. They also blacked out the
propeller with paint so it wouldn't show in the
movie. When they were in the process of
changing the "damaged" engine, a large
amount of oil was accidentally dropped onto
the side of the cowling. The effect of the oil
spill on the reattached engine caused the
make-believe damage to look authentic.
"Wellman thought we were the greatest
artists in the world," said Bill Benge, "and it
was all due to a screw-up!"
Robert Stack on the set, photo by Bill Keating