For The High and the Mighty, director William Wellman made a point of using Cinemascope to heighten the dramatic content of a confined screen space — in this instance, the cockpit of a plane in flight. Copilot Dan Roman (John Wayne) seems a lot more in control of things than Captain John Sullivan (Robert Stack) when the plane loses an engine during a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco. Wellman crosscuts from the tension in the cockpit to the various subplots involving the plane's passengers, among them May Holst (Claire Trevor), Lydia Rice (Laraine Day), Howard Rice (John Howard), Sally McKee (Jan Sterling), Ed Joseph (Phil Harris), and Humphrey Agnew (Sidney Blackmer). Adapted by Ernest K. Gann from his best-selling novel, The High and the Mighty was one of the first entries in the "terror in the sky" genre.

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