Broken Journey

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For other uses, see Broken Journey (disambiguation).
Broken Journey
Theatrical poster
Directed by Ken Annakin
Michael C. Chorlton
Produced by Sydney Box
Roy Rich
Written by Robert Westerby
Starring Phyllis Calvert
James Donald
Margot Grahame
Francis L. Sullivan
Music by John Greenwood
Cinematography Jack E. Cox
Edited by Esmond Seal
Distributed by General Film Distributors (1948) (UK) (theatrical)
Eagle-Lion Films (1949) (USA)
Release date
  • 14 April 1948 (1948-04-14) (London)
Running time
89 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £197,000[1]
Box office £118,200 (Dec 1949)[1]

Broken Journey (also known as Rescue) is a 1948 British drama film directed by Ken Annakin and featuring Phyllis Calvert, James Donald, Margot Grahame, Raymond Huntley and Guy Rolfe. The film deals with people struggling to survive after their airliner crashes on top of a mountain, and is based on a true-life accident in the Swiss Alps.


In postwar Europe, while flying over the Swiss Alps, a Fox Airways Douglas DC-3 airliner experiences engine trouble and sends out a distress call. Pilot Captain Fox (Guy Rolfe) and co-pilot Bill Haverton (James Donald) set the aircraft down on a glacier with a minimum of damage, but know that they will not be able to radio for help with run-down batteries and a storm setting in.

Taking stock of their situation, Haverton knows he can rely on stewardess Mary Johnstone (Phyllis Calvert), who is in love with him, but the rest of the survivors present problems. Movie star Joanna Dane (Margot Grahame), opera tenor Perami (Francis L. Sullivan) and iron lung patient John Barber (Grey Blake) are all, in different ways, difficult and demanding passengers. The wrecked aircraft provides them with shelter, as the 13 passengers and crew wait for rescue.

Rescue missions have already been mounted, but when a rescue aircraft misjudges its approach, it crashes and all aboard are killed in a fiery explosion. With limited food supplies, the survivors realize that a rescue in the desolate location is unlikely. A decision to stay and wait for help or leave the shelter of the wrecked airliner to set out in bad weather to try to reach safety, paralyzes the survivors. In the end, some people make sacrifices to allow others to live.



Morane-Saulnier-built version of the Fieseler Storch STOL aircraft, similar to ones used in the actual mountain rescue of the 1946 C-53 Skytrooper crash on the Gauli Glacier.[2]

The plot of Broken Journey closely approximated the C-53 Skytrooper crash on the Gauli Glacier, Switzerland (1946).[3] The improvised operation that eventually resulted in the successful rescue of eight passengers and four crew members, considered the "birth of air-rescue in Switzerland", garnered worldwide publicity and led to the fictionalised account of Broken Journey.[4]

Sydney Box became head of production of Gainsborough Studios in 1946. He commissioned Robert Westerby, who had a reputation for writing contemporary thrillers, to do a script. Westerby wrote a role specifically for Phyllis Calvert, the one of the studio's biggest stars. Calvert was reluctant to make the film but Box managed to persuade her. The movie was shot over 14 weeks.[5]

Principal photography for the film took place in 1947. At the same time, Annikin was completing work on his second feature film, Miranda (1948).[6] [N 1]


Box Office[edit]

The film was a commercial disappointment recording a loss of £63,900.[1] This was attributed in part to the fact that the film came out 18 months after the accident which inspired it and was no longer topical.[5]


Broken Journey was critically received as a disaster film. Reviewer A.W. Weiler of The New York Times observed that the film was effective; "... (an) intelligent script and a uniformly excellent cast serve to make the import a diverting entertainment. And, the rugged, spectacular mountain backgrounds are an added note of authenticity to the yarn which accents character study rather than melodramatics." The reviewer, however, had a caution that "..'Broken Journey', which might have been a top-flight, thoroughly exciting excursion, is simply a meticulously-planned trip in which the travelers are more interesting than the itinerary."[8] Steven H. Scheuer in Movies on TV, 1986-87 noted that the film was "tense, well acted melodrama."[9]



  1. ^ Shortly after making his feature film debut as a director in Holiday Camp (1947), Annikin worked on Miranda (1948), released eight days before Broken Journey.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Andrew Spicer, Sydney Box Manchester Uni Press 2006 p 210
  2. ^ "Some History." Retrieved: 17 August 2014.
  3. ^ Crandell, Hy. "150 88th Div. Men Enter Switz. As Rescue Party: All Passengers Survive Plane Crash; Swiss Troops Effect Rescue." Military History Network (, 29 April 2004 (Originally published in The Blue Devil, Vol. 2, No. 24; 28 November 1946, pp. 1,6). Retrieved: 17 August 2014.
  4. ^ "1946: The beginnings of air-rescue, 1946-1959." Rega. Retrieved: 18 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b Andrew Spicer, "The Apple of Mr. Rank’s Mercatorial Eye": Managing Director of Gainsborough Pictures
  6. ^ "Annakin, Ken (1914-2009)." BFI Screenonline. Retrieved: 17 August 2014.
  7. ^ Baxter, Brian. "Ken Annikin Obituary." The Guardian, 25 April 2009.
  8. ^ Weiler, A.W. "Broken Journey (1948); At the Trans-Lux." The New York Times, 26 May 1949.
  9. ^ Scheuer 1986, p. 86.


External links[edit]