Spitfire (The First of the Few) Reviews
Poignantly it was one of Leslie Howard's last films before the plane in which he was travelling was shot down.
R.J. Mitchell was a brilliant aircraft designer, who in his early 20's designed a racing aircraft for the British firm Supermarine, that would eventually win them the Schneider Trophy, a very coveted seaplane race award in the early part of the 20th century. His design was revolutionary and far ahead of its time, and when the threat of another world war began to loom, his design was transformed into the legendary fighter aircraft, the Spitfire, which many credit as being the godsend Britain needed to defeat the German Luftwaffe in their bid to bomb England into submission.
Basically this film tells his story, through the eyes of his friend and trusted test pilot, Geoffrey Crisp, portrayed by David Niven, telling a squadron of Spitfire pilots the history of their aircraft right there in the field, literally in between scrambles. In this movie R.J. Mitchell is portrayed by actor Leslie Howard, who also produced and directed. Apparently Mitchell's wife and son were on the set for most of the production of the film.
The facts are bent slightly, to make Mitchell's contribution seem more patriotic than they actually were, which was unneccessary. He was suffering from colon cancer, and had already had one operation to try to cure it when the cancer surfaced again, and the second time it was fatal. The film shows him working himself to death, trying to get the Spitfire fighter right before he would be too ill to continue, but that is not what really happened. He had already completed the final Spitfire design long before his death, and was in fact working on a new bomber aircraft in the last years of his life. In the movie his illness is never named, and the doctor even tells him that if he rests and stops working he will live, which again was untrue. The man had cancer, had an operation to try to stop it, and the cancer recurred - those are the facts. Mitchell died in his 40's.
Despite its flaws, this is a fascinating film which shows the development of one of the most revolutionary and beloved aircraft of the Second World War, and one which certainly did save Britain from the yoke of Nazi tyranny.