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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Those Magnificent Gifts Under the Tree

This Christmas Santa brought me several films on DVD – Ok, I ordered a bunch from the TCM site. Either way, I couldn’t be more pleased with the bounty of gifts I found under my tree.

First on the list is an all-time favorite of mine. Perhaps it is the music, or Stuart Whitman whom I have always adored, but the movie, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (a terrific choice yet to play at the TCMFF) is high on my list of favorites. It has such an ensemble of character parts, and such a treasure of a cast. From some classic Red Skelton bits to film clips of ancient flying machines right out of the archival vaults, this comedy really touches at every human’s fantasy to fly like a bird. I do now prefer to buy a ticket and let a major airline do the lifting, but I remember when wanting to learn to fly was on my to do list.

This light farce is full of classic bits of visual comedy, and no one (on or off the screen) escapes being poked fun at. Perhaps because of who actually was flying – or trying too – in the depicted era the scenery is very European with Japan thrown in for good measure. Naturally, there is a women’s equality lean to the female lead part, and a jibe or three at the pragmatic English, but all nations come in for a bit of genial teasing in a way that is good natured and appreciable by the target in a way that makes it understood that we are all laughing WITH each other and not AT one another’s expense.

Terry Thomas, who wore his split tooth grin in dozens of comedies, (including It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World & How to Murder Your Wife) is the villain whose comeuppance comes at his own hands, which is of course a karmic lesson for the greedy and deceitful. The Italians and the French are, each in their own special ways, lustful. The American is a strong, outrageously handsome homespun sort with both daring and selfless bravery (the previously mentioned, hunk of handsomeness, Stuart Whitman). The Germans are organized, precise, and pompous, and the Japanese are organized, precise, and polite. Stereotypes, all, but extremely humorous!

The music is light and lifting yet still grand and epic in nature thanks to the talents of Ron Goodwin who also brought us the scores for Where Eagles Dare and Battle of Britton. This perfectly compliments the breadth of comedic styles; everything from giggles to guffaws. Which is exactly what makes this the kind of film you can watch with the family and have everyone satisfied. The Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines is a really fine way to spend an afternoon anytime of the year. It’s good entertainment with no deep thinking required. It really is Hollywood escapism at its finest. What more could you possibly want for Christmas?

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