The Last Flight of Noah's Ark

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The Last Flight of Noah's Ark
Poster of the movie The Last Flight of Noah's Ark.jpg
Directed by Charles Jarrott
Produced by Ron Miller
Jan Williams
Written by Steven W. Carabatsos
Sandy Glass
George Arthur Bloom
Story by Ernest K. Gann
Based on The Gremlin's Castle (story)
by Ernest K. Gann
Starring Elliott Gould
Geneviève Bujold
Ricky Schroder
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Charles F. Wheeler
Edited by Gordon D. Brenner
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • June 25, 1980 (1980-06-25)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $11,000,000

The Last Flight of Noah's Ark is a 1980 American family adventure film produced by Walt Disney Productions starring Elliott Gould, Geneviève Bujold and Ricky Schroder. The film was released by Buena Vista Distribution on June 25, 1980. A full-scale Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber was featured in the film as the "ark".[1]


A jaded pilot named Noah Dugan (Elliott Gould) is unemployed and owes a large amount of money due to his gambling. He goes to an old friend, Stoney (Vincent Gardenia), who owns an airfield. He is offered a job flying a cargo of animals to a remote South Pacific island aboard a B-29 bomber, a large plane well past its prime.[Note 1] Bernadette Lafleur (Geneviève Bujold) is the prim missionary who accompanies him. Bernadette has raised the animals at an orphanage and is close to two of the orphans, Bobby (Ricky Schroder) and Julie (Tammy Lauren).

As the aircraft prepares to taxi for takeoff, Bobby is concerned about Dugan's treatment of the animals, and decides to stow away aboard the bomber so that he can make sure his special friends are properly cared for. Julie follows Bobby aboard. During the flight, the bomber goes off course, and Dugan is forced to crash-land on an uncharted island that Bobby has spotted with his keen eyesight. While on the island, the group meets two elderly Japanese holdout soldiers who have lived there alone for 35 years. Dugan treats them as enemies, as the soldiers are unaware that World War II is over. However, Bernadette wins their friendship and trust. They are able to communicate because the mother of one of the soldiers had spent time in America, and she taught her son how to speak English. She even named him "Cleveland", after her favorite place there.

The soldiers convince Dugan and Bernadette that there is no hope of rescue should they stay on the island, as the two had been there for decades with no one coming to repatriate them. They propose a plan to turn the old aircraft into a boat to sail back to civilization. This requires flipping the B-29 upside down, as this will be a more stable and watertight configuration. Bernadette needs to construct a sail for the boat, so the soldiers give her their battle flag of the Japanese Empire, which she uses as the primary fabric for the sail. She tells the soldiers that she will sew it in the top position as a symbol of respect.

Noah and Bernadette (or "Bernie", as he calls her) fall in love. The two had resented each other at first. Bernie paints the name "Noah's Ark" on the converted boat-plane. Dugan tells her that he does not like his first name, but as she starts to remove the paint, he says he is okay with it. The animals are also brought on board at Bobby's insistence. Bernadette keeps a Bible close to her. After many days at sea, she tells Dugan that she has been inspired by the story of Noah's ark in how a dove was sent to search for a sign of hope. They decide to send their duck with a message attached, telling of their need for rescue. The duck flies westward, away from the direction of Hawaii, and hope dwindles. Bobby has been resentful of Dugan (since his first mistreatment of the animals), but the two eventually develop a close bond, especially after Dugan saves Bobby's life when the boy falls overboard when they try to fish for food while a big shark is circling them. They are rescued by a United States Coast Guard cutter. Aboard the cutter is the duck. The Ark is towed to Oahu.


P2B-1S, Bureau Number 84029, Fertile Myrtle's forward fuselage now on display at Fantasy of Flight, Florida


Charles Jarrott had previously directed Geneviève Bujold in Anne of the Thousand Days, which had earned them Academy Award nominations. Both Gould and Bujold were making their first film for Disney.[2]

The main story for the film, "The Gremlin's Castle", was written by Ernest K. Gann, who also wrote the classic aviation novels The High and the Mighty and Fate Is the Hunter, which were also turned into films.[3]

Location photography included scenes at a desert airfield near Victorville, California, Kauai and Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, with interiors shot at the Disney Studios sound stages. The scrapped airframes from four B-29 aircraft that were located at the US Navy's China Lake Facilities were used. Two of the scrapped aircraft were used in Hawaii, while the other two were shipped to the Burbank studio for interiors. Extensive modifications were made in order to have a fuselage that could float. After filming, all the aircraft remains had to be returned to the US Navy.[4] One additional aircraft, the former US Navy P2B-1S long-range-search version of the B-29 Superfortress, named Fertile Myrtle, actually flew in the film.[5]


The Last Flight of Noah's Ark was released to many drive-in theaters on a double bill with One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film's promotional slogan was "treat your family to a Disney summer". The feature received a mixed reception from critics. Roger Ebert's review was particularly harsh. "Walt Disney's 'The Last Flight of Noah's Ark' is a dreadful movie, bankrupt of creative imagination—an Identi-kit film, assembled from familiar pieces but with no identity of its own. It's so depressingly predictable that in the last half hour we're sitting there thinking: Let's see…the raft has put out to sea, so there has to be at least one shark attack and one bad storm before they're rescued. There are."[6] Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin dismissed the film as "…typical Disney sentimentality; somewhat effective."[7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers bore the brunt of U.S. bombing raids against Japan decades earlier during World War II.
  2. ^ Tammy Lauren was director Charles Jarrott's stepdaughter.


  1. ^ Wilkinson, Stephan. "Movie Stars with wings.", March 8, 2012. Retrieved: November 17 2015.
  2. ^ O'Leary 1980, p. 58.
  3. ^ O'Leary 1980, p. 59.
  4. ^ O'Leary 1980, p. 57.
  5. ^ Bevil, Dewayne. "Fantasy of Flight attraction to close." Orlando Sentinel, March 4, 2014. Retrieved: November 17, 2015.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Reviews: 'The Last Flight of Noah's Ark'"., July 15, 1980. Retrieved: November 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Maltin 2009, p. 772.


  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide 2009. New York: New American Library, 2009 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-22468-2.
  • O'Leary, Michael. "The Last Flight of Noah's Ark". Air Classics, Volume 16, Number 4, April 1980.

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