Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines – an early aviation race, among multiple nations, with zany flying, sabotage, and romance!
- Stuart Whitman (The Story of Ruth) … Orvil Newton. The rugged American cowboy pilot. He falls in love with Patricia. And makes a romantic triangle between them and Mays.
- Sarah Miles (Ryan’s Daughter) … Patricia Rawnsley. Lord Rawnsley’s would-be aviatrix daughter, and suffragette.
- James Fox (Sherlock Holmes 2009) … Richard Mays. The young army officer and (he thinks) Patricia’s fiancé. He conceives the idea of an air race from London to Paris to advance the cause of British aviation. And his own career. He and Patricia persuade Lord Rawnsley to sponsor the race as a publicity stunt for his newspaper.
- Alberto Sordi … Count Emilio Ponticelli. The Italian would-be aviator. He buys various aircraft from designer Harry Popperwell. And promptly wrecks them in test flights.
- Robert Morley (The Alphabet Murders) … Lord Rawnsley. The Pompous British newspaper magnate. He forbids his daughter Patricia to fly. But he sponsors the race for newspaper sales.
- Gert Fröbe (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) … Count Manfred Von Holstein. The by-the-book, monocle-wearing Prussian officer. He becomes the victim of Dubois’ various pranks.
- Jean-Pierre Cassel (The Three Musketeers 1973) … Pierre Dubois. The French pilot, who survives a duel with Holstein. One of only two pilots to actually complete the race.
- Eric Sykes … Courtney. Ware-Armitage’s bullied servant and consipirator.
- Terry-Thomas (Make Mine Mink, Munster Go Home!) … Sir Percy Ware-Armitage. The an unscrupulous British flier. He believes in sabotage and cheating. No matter how many times it backfires on him!
- Red Skelton (The Clown) … The Neanderthal Man / Ancient Greek Flyer / Medieval Flyer / Winged Bicycle Rider / Winged Car Rider / Jet Pack Tester / Ornithopter Pilot / Passenger in Airport. He book-ends the movie with the history of aviation, in series of funny vignettes.
- Irina Demick … Brigitte / Ingrid / Marlene / Françoise / Yvette / Betty. A series of flirts who are all pursued by the French pilot.
Editorial review of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, courtesy of Amazon.com
An air race from London to Paris provides the premise for this marvelous comedy, which features thrilling aerial photography and some stupefying stunt flying. It’s set in 1910, when the (lovingly re-created) airplanes of the period were likelier to sputter and crash than they were to go in a straight line. The international contest requires an international cast, including Stuart Whitman as a cowboy American interested in the ladylove (Sarah Miles) of an English ace (James Fox). Alberto Sordi and Gert Frobe represent the Italian and German nations; Terry-Thomas plans frightful sabotage for race day.
From the jaunty opening song and the great opening-credits drawings by Gerald Searle onward, the movie has a pleasingly breezy tone that sits well with the meticulous flying sequences. This is a delightful example of a certain kind of internationally flavored film of the period, somewhat similar to The Great Race, released the same year (1965). —Robert Horton
Trivia for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
- The beginning and ending sequences marked the final feature film appearances for Red Skelton.
- According to the book “Creating the Filmation Generation”, Filmation was interested in producing an animated series based on the film. They held a presentation in 1969 with art inspired by Ronald Searle’s opening titles. The concept failed to sell, but that same year competitor Hanna-Barbera debuted a similar show, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.