Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

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In 1910, flying long distances is still both an untested experience and a new craze. Both for the glory of Britain and for the prestige and profit of his newspaper, the Daily Post, Lord Rawnsley sponsors an air race from London to Paris. Veteran flying pioneers from all over the northern hemisphere - England, France, Germany, the USA, Italy, and Japan - come together, and a lot of competition breaks out even before the race; Germans and French are locked in a (humorous) duel of nerves and national prestige, and the pilots Mays of England and Newton of the US vie for the affections of Rawnsley's free-spirited daughter Patricia.

And when the race finally begins, it is laced with all sorts of hilarious accidents which throw most of the compeditors out of the field. Of 14 contestants, only four actually reach Paris - but who is the winner...?

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Terry-Thomas's plane gets stuck between the carriages of a Paris-bound train (in fact filmed on the single-line track between Bedford and Hitchin). Just before the train plus plane goes into a tunnel you can see the cooling towers of Bedford's Goldington Power Station (circa 1960) behind TT's head.



In the beginning of the movie there is a reference to a Frenchman who had crossed the Channel by plane in the previous year (1909). The man meant is Louis Blériot, who flew from Calais to Dover in his famous craft 'Blériot XI' in 37 minutes. Again it was a competition race, for a 1000 Pounds set by the London Daily Mail.