The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)


Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wendell Mayes & Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder is a great director. Period. His track record is too great to deny it, but, sadly, this is only the fourth film by him that I have seen. And sadly, it was also my least favorite, but that is not to say there weren’t aspects that weren’t great. I mean we are talking about the man who directed Some Like It Hot, Sunset Blvd. and The Apartment. In addition, I am a huge James Stewart fan. He is such a likable actor and he too is a Hollywood legend.

The film, if you could not gather from the title, is about the famous trip across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh (Stewart). Back in 1927, Lindy flew from Roosevelt Field in New York all the way to Paris, France…by himself, in a plane. Quite the feat and one that will live in history for a long time. The film surrounds this voyage with tidbits from the life and times of Lindbergh up to that point. They are mostly flashbacks incited by little musings by the lonely Lindbergh while in his claustrophobic cockpit.

Other than Stewart there really aren’t any major characters other than some minor supporting roles. as such, the character of Lindbergh is paramount since the audience is spending so much time with him. Wilder does a fair job, though by the end of the film I did not feel any personal connection to Lindbergh or his feat. There are fleeting moments of greatness sprinkled throughout, like the scene where Lindbergh pitches his idea to the investors and when he goes down in a blizzard during a mail run. Stewart has been better too. I just felt like too much time is spent with him narrating, whether it be voiceover or just talking to himself. After a while it became awkward and tiresome.

The last half of the film, which features the actual flight, was slow and boring with moments of flashbacks that were only mildly interesting. The build up was quite good and worth watching, especially the girl from Philadelphia bit, which is probably my favorite part of the film. Wilder shows again that he is capable of telling a good tale, but as the film concluded I felt more like I was watching a history program, which is great because my degree is in history, instead of a movie. But it is a movie and not a history program. So in conclusion, my time did not feel wasted, but it is a movie that I will probably not be watching again any time soon.

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