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Reach for the Sky

Original theatrical poster of Reach for the Sky
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Daniel M. Angel
Written by Paul Brickhill
Lewis Gilbert
Vernon Harris
Starring Kenneth More
Muriel Pavlow
Lyndon Brook
Lee Patterson
Alexander Knox
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Jack Asher
Distributed by Rank
Release date(s) United Kingdom 10 July 1956 (London)
United States 30 April 1957 (NYC)
Running time 136 Minutes

Reach for the Sky is a 1956 British biographical film of aviator Douglas Bader, based on the 1954 biography of the same name by Paul Brickhill. The film stars Kenneth More and was directed by Lewis Gilbert. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film of 1956.



The film tells the story of Douglas Bader, a pilot who lost both legs in a flying accident in 1931. He persuaded the RAF to let him re-join the service at the start of World War II and fought in the Battle of Britain. He was taken prisoner in 1941 after being forced to bail out over France, and was later imprisoned in Colditz Castle. Despite his disability he made so many attempts at escape the Germans threatened to take his prosthetic legs away. The film continues to his release in 1945 when Bader is again able to lead his men in a flypast commemorating the war's end.


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):

Actor Role
Kenneth More Douglas Bader
Muriel Pavlow Thelma Bader
Lyndon Brook Johnny Sanderson
Lee Patterson Turner
Alexander Knox Mr. Joyce
Dorothy Alison Nurse Brace
Michael Warre Harry Day
Sydney Tafler Robert Desoutter
Howard Marion-Crawford 'Woody' Woodhall
Jack Watling Peel
Nigel Green Streatfield
Anne Leon Sister Thornhill
Charles Carson Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
Ronald Adam Air Vice-Marshal Leigh-Mallory
Walter Hudd Air Vice-Marshal Halahan
Basil Appleby Crowley-Milling
Philip Stainton Police Constable
Eddie Byrne Flight Sergeant Mills
Beverley Brooks Sally
Michael Ripper Warrant Officer West
Derek Blomfield Civilian Pilot
Avice Landone Douglas Bader's Mother
Eric Pohlmann Adjutant at Prison Camp (as Eric Pohlman)
Michael Gough Flying Instructor Pearson

A full cast and production crew list is too lengthy to include, see: IMDb profile. [1]


In order to realistically depict the various Royal Air Force bases, principal filming took place in Surrey at RAF Kenley, and around the village of Bagshot. Studio work was completed at the Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire, England, UK. Available wartime combat aircraft including Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighters were arranged to take on the aerial scenes.


The film fared well with the public, being the most popular film in the UK for 1956. When the film was released in North America, the American release version was slightly altered with 12 minutes edited out.





  • Bader, Douglas. Fight for the Sky: The Story of the Spitfire and Hurricane. Ipswich, Suffolk, UK: W.S. Cowell Ltd., 2004. ISBN 0-304-35674-3.
  • Brickhill, Paul. Reach for the Sky: The Story of Douglas Bader DSO, DFC. London: Odhams Press Ltd., 1954. ISBN 1-55750-222-6.
  • Dolan, Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Hardwick, Jack and Schnepf, Ed. "A Buff's Guide to Aviation Movies". Air Progress Aviation Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 1983.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Richard III
BAFTA Award for Best British Film
Succeeded by
The Bridge on the River Kwai


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