Zero Hour!

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Zero Hour!
Theatrical poster
Directed byHall Bartlett
Screenplay byArthur Hailey
Hall Bartlett
John Champion
Based onFlight into Danger
1956 teleplay on The Alcoa Hour
by Arthur Hailey
Produced byJohn C. Champion
Hall Bartlett
StarringDana Andrews
Linda Darnell
Sterling Hayden
Narrated byWilliam Conrad
CinematographyJohn F. Warren
Edited byJohn C. Fuller
Music byTed Dale
Arthur Hamilton
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • November 13, 1957 (1957-11-13)
Running time
1 hour 21 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$400,764.[1] or $650,000[2]

Zero Hour! is a 1957 drama film directed by Hall Bartlett from a screenplay by Arthur Hailey, Hall Bartlett and John Champion. It stars Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell and Sterling Hayden and features Peggy King, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, Geoffrey Toone and Jerry Paris in supporting roles. The film was released by Paramount Pictures.[3]

Today, the film is best known for its 1980 film parodical remake, Airplane!, which uses parts of the original screenplay almost verbatim.


During the closing days of the Second World War, six members of the Royal Canadian Air Force fighter squadron led by pilot Ted Stryker (Dana Andrews) are killed because of a command decision made by him. Years later, in civilian life in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a guilt-stricken Stryker goes through many jobs, and his marriage is in trouble.

Stryker finds a note at home: his wife Ellen (Linda Darnell) has taken their young son Joey and is leaving him, flying to Vancouver. He rushes to Winnipeg Airport to board the same flight, Cross-Canada Air Lines Flight 714. He asks his wife for one last chance, but Ellen says that she can no longer love a man she does not respect.

The routine flight becomes deadly when stewardess Janet Turner (Peggy King) begins the meal service. Meat or fish are the options. When a number of passengers begin feeling sick, a doctor (Geoffrey Toone) aboard determines that there must have been something wrong with the fish.

While attending to others, including Stryker's son, the stewardess and doctor discover that both the pilot and co-pilot have also become seriously ill. Although it stays in the air on autopilot, no one is left to fly the plane. After the stewardess checks with other passengers, she determines that Stryker is the only one with flying experience, but he has not flown in 10 years and has no familiarity with aircraft of this size. Owing to dense fog on the ground obscuring the runway, Flight 714 must bypass Calgary and all other intermediate airports, to continue on to Vancouver.

Stryker's superior in the war, the tough-minded Captain Treleaven (Sterling Hayden), is summoned to Vancouver Airport to give him instructions about how to land the aircraft. Ellen joins her husband in the cockpit to handle the radio. Ordered to remain airborne, Stryker makes a command decision to land the airliner because passengers will die if they do not get to a hospital soon.

Stryker lands the plane, saving all of the passengers and earning the respect of Ellen and Captain Treleaven.




Zero Hour! was an adaptation of Hailey's original 1956 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation teleplay Flight into Danger, starring James Doohan as Ted Stryker.[4] Hailey also co-wrote a novel with John Castle based on the same plot titled Flight Into Danger: Runway Zero-Eight (1958).


Principal photography took place from May 8–28, 1957, with retakes on July 23–24, 1957. The primary filming location was Santa Ana, California.[5] Nightclub and television performer Peggy King made her feature film debut in Zero Hour!, recording the song "Zero Hour" for Columbia Records to coincide with the film's release.[1][Note 1]

John Ashley has a small role appearing on television as a pop star.[6]


The New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther called Zero Hour! an "exciting contemplation of a frightening adventure in the skies" based on a "good terse script ... Dana Andrews as the hero and Sterling Hayden as the captain are first-rate in these roles, keeping them hard and unrelenting."[7] Time magazine, however, called the script a "bloopy inflation of a 1956 television show" and said its "moral struggle comes off fairly well, but the general situation is as patently contrived as one of Walter Mitty's daydreams."[8]

In 1971, the film was remade as a made-for-television movie, Terror in the Sky, a Movie of the Week special with Doug McClure in the Ted Stryker role (renamed George Spencer).[9] Zero Hour! was also used as the basis for the parody film Airplane! (1980). Because Zero Hour! was owned at the time by Paramount Pictures, the makers of Airplane!, also a Paramount feature, were able to use the screenplay almost verbatim, including the hero again being named Ted Striker.[10]

Screenplay writer Hailey went on to write the popular 1968 novel Airport, which revisited the air disaster genre and led to a film franchise that was also spoofed by Airplane! and its own sequel.


An actual mass food poisoning incident occurred on a Japan Airlines flight in February 1975, in which 197 people fell ill. Unlike in the movie, the pilots of the Japan Airlines flight had not eaten a contaminated meal and were therefore able to land the aircraft safely. As a result of the incident, however, rules were implemented requiring pilots to eat different meals prepared by different cooks to prevent the entire flight deck crew from becoming incapacitated.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ At the time, the Los Angeles Times reported that Harrison Reeder of Robert Alexander Productions attempted to purchase the screen rights to the Zero Hour story as a star vehicle for actor Steve Cochran.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "Notes: Zero Hour." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: October 20, 2014.
  2. ^ Lamont, John (1990). "The John Ashley Filmography". Trash Compactor (Volume 2 No. 5 ed.). p. 26.
  3. ^ "Overview: Zero Hour." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: October 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Mankiewicz, Ben. "TCM presentation of "Zero Hour!" Turner Classic Movies, July 17, 2010.
  5. ^ "Original print information: Zero Hour." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: October 20, 2014.
  6. ^ Vagg, Stephen (December 2019). "A Hell of a Life: The Nine Lives of John Ashley". Diabolique Magazine.
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "The Screen: Zero Hour, aviation melodrama at Loew's State." The New York Times, November 14, 1957. Retrieved: March 23, 2011.
  8. ^ "Cinema: The New Pictures." Time, December 9, 1957. Retrieved: March 23, 2011.
  9. ^ Pendo 1985, p. 282.
  10. ^ Tyner, Adam. "Airplane! (Blu-ray)." DVD Talk, September 25, 2011. Retrieved: October 20, 2014.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.

External links[edit]