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SOARING MELODRAMA OF 'THE CROWDED SKY' W/ DANA ANDREWS

Karen Green w/ Efem Zimbalist Jr YEAR: 1960
Now this... THIS is an "entirely different kind of flying, altogether..." A classic line, not only from the 1980 comedy AIRPLANE but its low-budget, sky-high thriller ZERO HOUR...

Insert Poster Insert
And you'd think Dana Andrews, the original Ted Stryker, had learned to stay clear of THE CROWDED SKY – but it's ingrained, from returning from Korea in THE FEARMAKERS; heading to England in CURSE OF THE DEMON; and suffering memories in the Post-War drama THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (or dying on a runway plane in MY FOOLISH HEART), he had a cinematic penchant for taking to the skies...

The Crowded Score: ***1/2
And now it's 1960 and he's a legit commercial passenger jet pilot.. Meanwhile, soaring in a jet-fighter plane is Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and his young co-pilot, Troy Donahue...

By the 11th hour, both big and small plane will ultimately, tragically, and for one, fatally meet (which is vice versa in AIRPORT 1975 where Dana flies the unpredictable, totally unexpected small plane and Efrem the commercial passenger plane). But this is much different than most aerial disaster flicks that began with THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, that this movie purposefully compared itself to...

Before the inevitable, nail-biting finale, THE CROWDED SKY plays out not only like miles-high melodrama/soap opera, it spends around 75% of its time in each of the central character's (passengers and crew members) narrating, reflecting, reposeful minds while basking upon their troubles, romances, and even a little happiness...

Efrem Zimbalist Jr and Dana Andrews converge
Beginning with an awkward close-up on child starlet Karen Green as Efrem's daughter: she much prefers her tall military dad to narcissistic mom, Rhonda Fleming...

"He's Dick to everyone"
Other flashbacks include a "He Thinks, She Thinks" of our two young buried leads: grouchy "jerk boyfriend" co-pilot played by John Kerr and blond-haired, optimistic, "she deserves better" stewardess Anne Francis (her and Dana Andrews would return five years later in William Conrad's BRAINSTORM! and the same year he's her dad in THE SATAN BUG)...

Book cover pilot looks like Dana Andrews
The most annoying stories don't include a visual aid, punctuating their overall insignificance — those being: a shunned, slightly-older gal seated beside a suave (not handsome) Hollywood player, letting him woo her and, as we do hear her thoughts, learning they once had a one night stand while he doesn't recognize her at all...

Also on board is an awkward businessman finding the guts to address a middle-aged gal; and a nervous method acting James Dean type (who actually resembles Troy Donahue) attempting to persuade a world-weary New York agent/yenta to represent him. "I can't feel fear... I've never been afraid in my life," he whines... A forced harbinger of what's to come, and Dana Andrews goes right back in ZERO HOUR dead-serious mode...

Holding the gears tight while sweating profusely, and yet he keeps his edge this time around: At which point the near-catastrophe is a relaxing break following all those damn memories – some intriguing, others draining yet all an intricate piece of a bizarre cinematic puzzle that, despite the camp, is an original spin on the plane-in-peril subdivision of the overall disaster film genre, and one that Dana Andrews is a patron saint of.
Some of the quick flashbacks are pretty great... looking, like Rhonda Fleming in THE CROWDED SKY
Dana Andrews is the patron saint of disaster flick pilots, already having flown in ZERO HOUR! w/ Joe Mantell
Dana Andrews as Captain Dick Barnett in THE CROWDED SKY
Nothing cooler than a late 50's early 60's fighter jet, no matter what the stinkin' hippies think
Workmates here, in five years Anne Francis and Dana Andrews would be unhappily married in BRAINSTORM!
And here's proof.... Anne Francis and Dana Andrews unhappily married in BRAINSTORM five years later
Dana Andrews propelled to turn down a proverbial raise since he wants to keep flying
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