The Sound Barrier (1952) Movie Script

# Daddy wouldn't buy
me a bow-wow, bow-wow
# I've got a little cat,
and I'm very fond of that
# But I'd rather have a
bow-wow-wow-wow-wow... #
Well, do you like it?
- What?
- Well, the parting, you clot.
- What's the matter with it?
- Well, it's on the other side.
I don't know, I... thought it gave
me a sort of intellectual look.
It conceals the incipient baldness.
- I thought Sue was on leave.
- No, she's due back this evening.
Hello. It looks like you've been
jumped on by a 20-plus flock of wolves.
- I tried to pull out of a flat-out
dive just now. - Oh, good show.
The damn stick needed Carnera to move it.
The harder I pulled, the
more the nose went down.
It felt for a moment as if
the controls were reversed.
- And were they?
- Of course not, you clot, or I wouldn't be here.
There was a lot of buffeting too. It was
almost as if I'd suddenly run into a...
a solid sheet of... water, or something.
Why don't you marry her?
You know, all prospective
father-in-laws are a bit frightening.
- After all, mine was.
- Yours wasn't the great John Ridgefield.
- What, because he makes a few aeroplanes?
- A few aeroplanes?
He owns a hundred ruddy acres of
factory, he's a millionaire twice over
and Sue's his only daughter.
Anyway, heiress of not, I'm meeting her train,
I shall take her for a quiet little drive
and ask her to marry me
simply, firmly and directly.
What's the matter?
Oh, I don't know, I just thought it
was a good place to stop for a breather.
Oh, how nice.
Sue, what do you think of me?
- As a driver?
- Er, no.
As a man.
Oh. Well, I...
I told you, I...
I think I prefer you with your
hair parted on the other side.
- Sue, I...
- Yes?
- Sue...
- Yes, Tony?
Tony, I've got my answer ready. In fact,
I've had it ready for an awful long time.
Oh, gosh.
Is that all you can say,
Tony? Just, "Oh, gosh"?
- You have looked at this from every angle?
- I haven't left an angle out, I promise you.
- I mean, you know the sort of chap I am.
- I know the sort of chap you are.
- Not on your level at all.
- Miles above.
Oh, gosh.
Please, Tony, stop saying "Oh, gosh".
Can't you think of anything else to say?
I love you so very much.
I shan't be a tick.
It's time this came off.
Give it to me, I'll keep it as a souvenir.
Mrs Garthwaite.
Mrs Garthwaite.
Mrs Garthwaite? Mrs Garthwaite. I suppose if
I say it often enough, I shall get used to it.
- Hello, Eddie.
- ? Tony, you old basket.
- Got anything going to Ridgefields?
- Sure, we're bound to have.
Why Ridgefields, though?
- Because I went and married a Ridgefield.
- You don't say? - I'm off to get
the once- over from her old man.
Well, I'll have to treat
you with respect from now on.
- Oh, congratulations.
- Thanks.
You're welcome.
An Anson here, takeoff 14:30.
- Fine.
- Sign here.
There you are, darling. Ridgefields.
- And it's all your
father's? - Mm-hm.
We're landing.
Hi. Susie!
- Your father?
- No, Will Sparks, our chief designer.
- Oh, Will!
- I saw you from the office windows.
Susie, darling!
- How are you?
- Very well, thank you, Will.
- What have you done? You're thinner.
- Oh, I've gone on the wagon.
- Will, why?
- With all these Americans about, you can't get it.
I hate beer! Though I'll be
off it tonight in your honour.
- So this is the gent.
- This is the gent.
I've heard a lot about you.
I've heard a lot about you. I'm glad
you had the sense to pick a flyer.
For a moment, I thought
you were my father- in-law.
- Glad to meet you and welcome to Ridgefields.
- Thank you.
Oh, your dad's at a board meeting. I was asked
to tell you he won't see you before dinner.
- Are you coming to dinner?
- I haven't been asked.
- Oh.
- Well, I suppose he wants to keep it family.
But you are family, Will.
- Of course, I am coming to the do tonight.
- Oh dear, is there a do?
Slap-up. Champagne, the
whole board of directors.
- How are you, Mason?
- Very well, thank you, Miss Susan.
I'll come as far as the office block.
I wish I worked union hours.
- How many people work here?
- Twelve thousand.
- Twelve thousand?
- Yes, we've got another 8,000 over at Hillbank.
- What's that? -
Top-secret, sir.
Those are test-beds, aren't they?
- Is this top-secret going to win the war, Will?
- A good deal more than that, if you ask me.
- Hello, Factor, how are you?
- Very well, thank you, madam.
- This is my husband.
- Welcome, sir.
He called me madam. I realise now
I've been "Miss" for far too long.
I simply love being madam.
However hideous your threshold,
do you know what my duty is?
- No, what?
- I'll show you.
- Tony, no!
- Hang on to your hat.
- This could be quite a drop.
- Tony!
Tony, drop me. You're not strong enough.
- Not strong enough?
- No, you're not.
- Which way?
- This way, sir.
- Right, here we go.
- This way.
Take my cap off.
This way, sir.
- How are you, darling?
- Hello, Sue.
- Meet your new brother-in-law. - How
do you do? I've heard a lot about you.
- I suppose it's too late to say congratulations.
- Not at all.
- Oh, Chris, what is that?
- It's the RAF badge.
You get it when you pass the interview.
- Oh, I thought you were going into the navy.
- I've changed my mind.
- Did you get my present?
- Oh, darling, thank you so much.
- It was lovely. We adored it, didn't we?
- Oh, yes, rather. We adored it.
Good. Er, let's have a drink.
- What was it?
- Paperweight.
- When are you going in?
- About six months, I think.
In the meanwhile, I'm learning to fly. Dad's
got one of his ex-pilots teaching me at Hillbank.
Tiger Moth.
- Darling, how exciting. Have you gone solo yet?
- Not yet. I think I may tomorrow.
- Whisky?
- No, thank you, darling.
Not for me, thanks. No, it's too early.
- Since when have you been swigging whisky?
- I'm not at school now, Sue, I'm in the RAF.
Well, practically, anyway.
- Cheers.
- Cheers.
- Good luck tomorrow.
- Thank you.
- How many hours dual have you done?
- Rather a lot.
- Fourteen.
- Oh, that's not too bad.
I knew a fellow who did 20 before he passed.
I don't suppose his name
was Ridgefield, though.
How many hours dual did
you do before you went solo?
Tony's an exceptional case. One
of the great geniuses of the air.
Like Dad.
He went solo after only
two-and-a-half hours dual.
Would you like to know something
rather shocking? I get airsick.
- You shouldn't worry, you'll soon get over that.
- Yes?
- What the heck is that?
- Dressing gong.
Chris, give me a quarter of an hour for
my bath and then come up and talk to me.
- I won't be a
second. - Mm-hm.
- Approve?
- Terrific.
He's just been telling me about
that do on the Gestapo prison.
You must have used a thumbscrew
to get that out of him.
I had to, practically.
It was a wonderful thing, Sue. They came in
at 50 feet and flew slap down the main street.
But of course you'll know it all.
I'll be able to shoot a line
about my new brother-in-law now.
Looks as if I'll need one.
You're a bit unhappy about
it all, aren't you, darling?
Oh, no. Not really.
Why don't you reapply for a ground job?
- What do you think Dad would say if I did that?
- Well, does it matter?
You know it does.
Anyway, I don't want to let him
down, Sue. Heaven knows I don't.
- Chris.
- Hm?
Would you let me talk to him?
No, thanks awfully, Sue. If anyone's
got to talk to him, I've got to.
As a matter of fact, I half thought
I might tackle him about it tonight.
Not about a ground job, I mean RAF ground
job, but, well, commandos or something.
- Commandos?
- I've got to show him it isn't a matter of guts.
Look, you're either born to fly or
you're not. I'm not. I'm really not.
Darling, you go downstairs and
give yourself another whisky,
then take him aside and
tell him how you feel.
- It's going to be jolly difficult.
- Well, I'll be there behind you.
Darling. I'd almost forgotten.
Come on, you two.
Here's to you both.
- To us.
- To us.
- Tell them that from me.
- Father.
I don't like it, JR. We may find the
Ministry will never agree to it at all.
If they want, we stop
production on the 696 altogether.
- Nervous?
- Nervous? I'm scared stiff.
- That'll be the second. Good night.
- Good night, JR.
Hello, Father.
Hello, Susan.
This is Tony.
So, this is Tony.
The DFC and Bar I know
about. What's the AFC for?
Oh, just for bumbling around.
They don't usually give that for bumbling around.
Well, I'm very glad to meet you at last, Tony.
I must say, I'm surprised
at Susan falling for a flyer.
Christopher, I've just had Fletcher on the
phone. He says he hopes you may go solo tomorrow.
- Yes, Dad, I know.
- Well done.
Who knows, we may make a pilot of you yet.
- What time is it to be?
- At 10:30.
Hm. Well, let's go in.
You sit here, will you,
Tony? Place of honour.
- Quite a room, eh?
- Yes, quite a room.
I hope you like the pictures.
There's some of them quite well known.
Of course, Susan hates them all, I know that.
Yes, I sent her to Oxford to get an education
and all she comes back with is a passion for
donkey-tailed doves and modernistic music.
Where she gets her tastes from, I don't
know. Certainly not from me or her mother.
Mother liked modern music very much.
First I've heard of it. If she
did, she didn't let on to me.
- No.
- This is lobster Dominique,
a sort of speciality de la maison.
No, not for Mr Christopher.
He's flying tomorrow.
Fletcher says young Jackson's
gone solo after six hours.
Yes, he's rather good.
Is this fellow running a sort of
flying kindergarten over there, sir?
Just the two boys.
Jackson, that's my head of airframes,
his son's waiting to go into the RAF too,
so I've let Fletcher take him on as well.
Won't do them any harm
to get a start, eh, Tony?
No, you'll probably shatter your RAF
instructor by going solo in about 20 minutes.
That's right, something like that
won't look so bad on the record.
14 hours wouldn't have been so good.
That's the noise we heard this afternoon.
It comes from the test-beds, doesn't it?
Yes, I heard you were asking questions.
Well, I tell you what. I'm giving
this party down at the works,
and on our way, well, you're
a member of the family now.
I don't suppose it'll do any harm for
you to have a look at our little secret.
I think it's the most
exciting sound I've ever heard.
It isn't only the sound
that's exciting, Tony boy.
- Evening, Joe.
- Good evening, JR.
- How's the missus?
- That stuffs done her good.
- Told you it would. Good evening, Mike.
- Good evening, JR.
Hm. Put up the lights.
- What the heck is it, sir?
- It's the aircraft engine of the future.
- Where's the propeller?
- There is no propeller.
- How does it keep the aircraft in the air, then?
- By propulsion.
- Propulsion?
- Yes. Jet propulsion.
Come on, I'll show you.
You two had better stay there.
- By the way, don't call me sir.
- What do I call you?
Susan calls me father, Chris calls
me Dad. You can take your choice.
Now, this is something quite extraordinary.
Like all great inventions, from the
wheel to radar, perfectly simple.
Yes, I know it looks complicated,
but the beauty is how little there is
to it and how much power comes out of it.
Now, there's a fan here in
the front which draws in air.
- The air's heated here with paraffin.
- Paraffin?
Ordinary paraffin.
Hot air blows out here at the end.
It comes out at such terrific force
that that alone drives the aircraft.
- Who invented it? One of your men?
- No, a chap called Whittle.
- Whittle? Englishman?
- Yes.
We aren't the only firm working on them.
De Havilland and Rolls are ahead of us.
Excuse me.
Well, Susie, how do you like our new toy?
- What did you think of that, Chris lad?
- Wizard, wasn't it?
- Wizard, Dad.
- Come on, we'll be late for the party.
- Good night, Joe.
- Good night, JR.
- I'll get out now. Are you ready for the joyride?
- Yes.
- Sure you wouldn't like another circuit with me?
- No, thanks.
You'd rather not have me bawling
in your ear, eh, I suppose?
- Are we in time, Chris?
- Bang on.
Thanks for coming.
Is that your rival?
Good approach.
- Good morning, Fletcher.
- Morning.
- Come and have some food with us afterwards.
- I'd love to.
- All set?
- There's nothing to it.
All the best, darling.
By the way, Ridgefield, just for once
you can make any sort of landing you like.
I'm going to have a drink. Only try to get
her down in one piece, there's a good chap.
A very bad turn.
Hm, better.
Hasn't he learned anything at all?
He'll be all right. You
can't get hurt from those.
- Chris!
- Sue! Sue, stay here!
What about that?
Oh, that's fantastic.
- This the future 901?
- That's it.
- What's her landing speed?
- It's high at the moment, but we're working on it.
Well, I have to go to the works at 1:00
so I shan't be back before your train goes,
so I'll say goodbye now.
Goodbye, Tony, it's nice to have
you in the family. Especially now.
Well, it's nice being in the family.
- Come and see me again soon.
- I will.
You... You know how I feel
about this awful business.
Fletcher on the phone today said he'd not have
caught fire if he hadn't forgotten to switch off.
- Heaven knows he had plenty of time.
- Here, I'm awfully sorry.
- What are your plans for after the war?
- Plans?
I only ask because if you've nothing definite in
mind, there's always a job at Ridgefields for you.
Well, what sort of a job?
- You mean... test pilot?
- Well, that's the thing I had in mind.
Well, don't say anything now. Think it over.
You've plenty of time.
- Well, goodbye, Sue.
- Goodbye, Father.
Write to me and let me know.
- Would you like a drink, darling?
- No, thank you.
Ridgefield Tower, this is Glass Jar 1
- 0.
I've just crossed the coast at
Seaford Head, descending through cloud.
Approaching the airfield.
Roger, 1-0.
Climbing through clouds,
full throttle, ASl 320.
- Will, she's a
beauty. - Roger, 1-0.
30,000, I'm levelling out.
Auto-observer on.
I'm starting dive now. If I get
any buffeting, I'll throttle back.
Here we go. This is it.
Thirty thousand.
Twenty-five thousand.
Mach 0.7.
I'm getting buffeting now.
Air brakes open, throttling back.
OK. Coming down to land now.
Ridgefield Tower to 1-0.
Clear to join circuit and land.
Runway 3-0.
- Call downwind.
- Roger.
- I said use 3-0, not the control tower.
- Your message received and understood.
- What-ho.
- What-ho.
- How was the wonder kite?
- What do you think?
- Can I take her out tomorrow?
- No, Windy. She's my baby.
- I've nothing on AM.
- Oh, yes, you have. I've got a job for you.
I promised to deliver a
Vampire for De Havilland.
- Where to?
- Cairo.
Cai... Cairo! Ooh, whizzo!
Er, don't tell the wife.
Hello, darling.
Yes, just a few minutes
ago. Hey, what's for dinner?
No. Piece of cake.
No, really.
I shan't be long.
- Here, Windy, let's have that back.
- Here, I say...
I remembered there's a type I know in
Cairo and I could do with a little sun.
- But...
- You have a nice quiet weekend at Shoreham.
- Well, how was it?
- All right.
- Did you take her flat out?
- No, nothing like.
- Pity.
- Why pity?
I thought our intrepid air ace might be
the first man through the sound barrier.
There ain't no such thing.
You ought to check up on your supersonics,
not to mention the popular press.
What's so ruddy peculiar
about the speed of sound?
We all know exactly what it is, don't
we? 750 miles per hour at ground level.
If we go slower than that,
we can hear ourselves going,
and if we go faster, we
can hear ourselves coming.
It's a mere matter of acoustics.
- Hello, Miss Mitchell.
- Good afternoon.
19,000, Mach 0. 7.
Slight buffeting commencing on wings.
18,500. Buffeting increasing.
17,500. Mach 0.8. Buffeting's rather bad.
- She's shaking to pieces. She's disintegrating.
- Don't do that. You'll give me heart failure.
- I'm throttling back and pulling out.
- What an exquisite voice I do have, to be sure.
- Coming for a drink?
- No, got too much work to do.
How's the 902 coming along?
I want JR to find a name for her. Something
that would suggest the highest speed yet flown.
- How about the line shoot?
- There won't be any line shoot about her.
- She'll do it, all right.
- Do what?
The speed of sound.
What would happen if you put
the wings on back to front?
Oh, go away. Go away.
- Well...
- What?
- Seriously?
- Uh-huh.
Apart from the buffeting and heavy controls
and general wanging about and
other little things we know about...
what exactly does happen to an
aeroplane at the speed of sound?
I don't know. And shall I
tell you something, Tony?
- What?
- No one else in the world does either.
- Darling?
- Hoo!
- How was it?
- Piece of cake.
It's always a piece of cake.
- Sherry?
- A little one.
- What was your day like?
- Pretty good.
- Tony?
- Uh-huh?
- I've got the most wonderful news.
- Have you?
Two bits of wonderful news, in fact.
Only one's not quite so wonderful as the other,
so I'll start with the less wonderful, shall I?
You know that little house at
Andrew's Corner, Broom Cottage?
- Mm-hm? - I think
we can have it.
- But that belongs to that fellow Franklin.
- Mm, but he's leaving.
- Oh. But this place isn't so bad, is it?
- No, of course not.
But don't you see what a difference it would
make if we had a place that belonged to us?
Oh, I see all that. But the old
man will hate us leaving him.
- He'll hate you leaving him.
- Hate you leaving him too.
Oh, darling, don't you yet know after two years
what Father and I really feel about each other?
- Well, I know you don't exactly see eye to eye...
- Eye to eye?
He's always despised me
for not being born a son.
- Darling...
- It's true.
Just as later he despised Chris for not
turning out the sort of sort of son he wanted.
Well, I can't despise him in
return, because I admire him.
I admire him tremendously for what he's done.
As for what he is... Well, all I can say,
it's best I should live out of his house.
What was the other wonderful piece of news?
It'll keep.
Were there any other symptoms
besides this buffeting?
Well, I noticed that the controls got...
hard at Mach 0.85, in rather a funny way.
- What height was that?
- 18,000.
Hm. There's no doubt about it, we're
just on the fringe of the problem.
- Father?
- Mm?
- What problem?
- Supersonics.
- The sound barrier?
- Yes.
- That's a newspaper phrase.
- And like most of them, pretty misleading.
- You mean there isn't a barrier?
- Oh, there's a barrier all right.
But it's... spread out, on
either side of the speed of sound,
from roughly between Mach 0.85...
Mark? What mark?
You see, it's a way we have of
measuring the speeds at which we fly.
We no longer fly at miles per
hour, we fly at Mach numbers.
Now, Mach One is the speed of sound.
But why sound?
What makes a barrier? Is it sound?
- It's a combination...
- It's air.
You see, Sue, there's a limit to the
speed at which air itself can move.
Now, this rule's travelling
at... 30 mile an hour, let's say.
You can hear the air whistle
as it moves out of its way.
But if it were travelling at 750 mile
an hour - the speed of sound, Mach One -
the air could no longer move out of its
way, because it just can't move that fast.
It'd pile up in front of the rule, or the
aircraft, making, if you like, a barrier.
Now, we don't exactly know what happens to an
aircraft when it gets into these conditions.
Tony knows it buffets
as he gets near to them.
Some say the craft would go right out of
control, others that it'll break up altogether.
Now, I don't believe that, Sue.
I believe with the right aircraft and the right
man, we can force our way through this barrier,
and once through, there is a world.
A whole new world, with speeds
of 1,500 to 2,000 mile an hour,
within the grasp of man.
And Tony here may be the first
man to see that new world.
Well, let's go, shall we.
- Do you think the Americans will beat us to it?
- They may,
but we're two years ahead
in jet-engine development.
I think it's between ourselves,
Vickers and De Havillands at the moment.
It's a pity De Havillands will
have their 108 up before our 902.
Oh, by the way, Will wants a
name for her. Got any ideas, Dad?
- Yes. Prometheus.
- Prometheus? Who was he?
- He was a Greek god.
- Who stole fire from heaven.
Oh, yes, I remember. Came
to a sticky end, didn't he?
He did. But the world got fire.
How long before I can have a crack at it?
Not long, but you've got quite a bit of homework
to do first. You'd better get started right away.
"A theory of supersonic shockwaves.
" I shan't understand a word of this.
There's nothing to understand.
That fellow spends 50 pages
telling us he doesn't know a thing.
- But you'd better read it, all the same.
- I shall need you to do some explaining.
You go up to the observatory,
I'll be with you in a minute.
- How's the new telescope working?
- It's good, but it might be better.
I think one day I'll build myself a
proper observatory out in the park.
- Father, answer me a question, will you?
- Yes?
Is the ability to travel at 2,000 miles an
hour going to be a blessing to the human race?
Well, I'd say that's up to the human race.
Well, as a member of it, I
can't feel unduly optimistic.
In fact, if that's all that
lies beyond this barrier,
what purpose is there in
risking lives to pierce it?
Well, I could talk about national security,
beating the potential enemy bomber;
flying to New York in two hours,
but that's not the real point.
The real point is, it's just got to be done.
What purpose did Scott have
in going to the South Pole?
I wish I knew.
I really wish I knew.
This coffee's bitter.
Yes, I got it at Weymouth's
in the high street.
Franklin tells me you've
been looking at his house.
Yes, Father, I made him an offer.
That house is not suitable either for
my daughter or my chief test pilot.
Franklin won't accept your offer.
- How do you know?
- For, my dear Susan,
Mr Franklin likes his present job very much.
And I have no doubt, no doubt at
all, he'll be anxious to keep it.
Good night, darling.
- Tony?
- Mm?
Will you try not to use piece
of cake talk for a moment?
I'll try not to.
How dangerous is it going to be?
Well, exploring the unknown must
always be a little... chancy.
Yes, I see.
I did go and see the doctor this morning.
- End of December.
- Oh, how clever of you.
We'll save money on birthday presents.
Certainly not. Even if arrives on
Christmas Day, he will still get two lots.
- We might give him a false birthday in June.
- That's right, darling. Say "him".
Say "him" whenever you think about it.
A psychologist I know says
there is something in that.
- Tony?
- What?
Must it be you? This sound barrier?
- Must it be you?
- Yes, darling, I'm afraid it must.
- Couldn't someone else?
- No, Sue, it's my pigeon.
I promised myself when you took this job
that I'd never nag you about it, Tony,
and I really wouldn't have done if
you'd just gone on testing aeroplanes,
but I find now I'm married not only to a
test pilot but married to an explorer as well.
It's a bit unfair, Tony, really it is.
Darling, I hate it.
I'll think about it, darling, I promise you.
I'll think most awfully hard about it.
- Hey. Do you remember Philip Peel?
- Of course.
Like to fly with me tomorrow
and have lunch with him?
- Fly... Hey, will he be all right?
- According to modern theory, yes.
- He'd like to very much.
- Good.
Now, it's strictly unofficial, so
not a word to anyone. Not even Dad.
And we should be back by dinner.
- All right?
- Yes.
- Where are we going, Tony?
- Cairo.
- Funny, I thought you said Cairo.
- Oh, I did say Cairo.
Oh, silly.
You all right?
Ridgefield Tower from Glass
Jar 1-0, clear for takeoff?
1-0 clear for takeoff. Have a good time.
We're starting to climb now.
We use too much fuel down here.
- How high are we going?
- About 40,000.
Eight miles.
- Is our engine all right?
- I think so. Why?
I can hardly hear it.
Glass Jar 1-0, this is Ridgefield
Tower. Transmit for a fix.
Ridgefield Tower, this is Glass
Jar 1-0 transmitting for a fix.
On course, 156, altitude 25,000 feet. Over.
Your position is Dover.
Darling. France.
Cap Gris-Nez.
Belgium, and Holland on the horizon.
There you are. See the Arc de Triomphe
and all the avenues branching off it?
- I can't see the Eiffel Tower.
- Well, look ahead, you can see the Alps.
We'll go over the top if the weather's OK.
Geneva Tower, this is Glass Jar 1-0.
You'll be able to see Athens in a moment.
The Earth is beginning to look
awfully small and insignificant.
- I don't know that I like it. -
You're being old-fashioned, darling.
Why worry about the poor
old Earth? Look up there.
There's our future. Space. You
can't make that insignificant.
Down there's had it.
Hey. There's the Comet.
- One ladder!
- You're lucky to have one.
- It's good to see you.
- How are you?
- And Sue, how are you?
- Wonderfully well, Phil.
Isn't this exciting?
- Good trip?
- Piece of cake.
I see you haven't widened
his vocabulary much.
- I say, this is the Vampire,
isn't it? - Uh-huh. Night fighter.
I suppose I couldn't take her
on a quick circuit, could I?
No, you certainly couldn't.
I always said you'd get
bored being an oil magnate.
I'm not bored with it. It's just that I haven't
flown anything for 18 months, that's all.
If you want to fly, you'd better take that
job at Ridgefields. The offer's still open.
I'd better go and check
in at the flight office.
- Look, meet us over there by the Jeep, will you?
- OK.
- What job at Ridgefields, Philip?
- Test pilot.
He mentioned it in his last letter,
but I didn't take him seriously.
I didn't think he was high
enough to give out jobs.
- He is, you know.
- Does he get on with the great man?
- He calls him Dad.
- Oh.
Whew, it's hot.
Oh, Tony, why did you bring that
awful thing? You know how I hate it.
When I got your wire, I
thought you must be tight.
I probably was.
I say, how are you going to get back?
Get back? Oh, I hadn't thought of that.
Why don't you try going by sea? It's
a nice restful trip. Only 15 days.
- Fifteen...? Tony, do you mean to say...
- Don't worry, darling, we'll think of something.
Why not ask Cunningham? He tests the
Comet between here and London most days.
No, rival firm. No, we'll
catch a lift somewhere.
Hey, where are you taking us for lunch?
- An open-air place. Jessie's
meeting us there. - Oh, good.
- It's the best food in Cairo.
- Hooray!
To think you were in England only
this morning. It seems like a miracle.
I can't quite believe it myself.
- I'm so glad, Jess, to meet you at last.
- I can never realise you don't know each other.
- Here's to us.
- To us.
- How are the children?
- Fine, thank you.
Isn't that Cunningham?
Yes, I think it is.
Darling, do you think I ought to swallow
my pride and cadge that lift home?
I certainly do. If we have to go back by boat, I
shall be wearing these trousers for a fortnight.
How much would they pay you as a test pilot?
What? Oh, about 200 a year less
than I'm getting at the moment.
Oh well, I expect we'll manage somehow.
They're off!
Home. In five hours.
Thanks, John, she's a nice steady old crate.
- Who was it said, "Oh, to be in England"?
- Browning. But he wasn't!
- Oh, Tony, it was a wonderful trip.
- I knew you'd love it.
Love it? I shall treasure it
all my life. Every single moment.
Darling, stop a minute, will you?
Thank you.
I remember you telling me once that one
of the reasons you love flying so much
was that you found a sort of peace up there
that you couldn't find anywhere on Earth.
When we seemed to be hanging up
there between heaven and Earth,
I found a strange, secure sort of peace too.
Almost like the feeling one gets in
one of those especially comfy dreams.
I never thought it would be like that.
Darling, will you stop at the office
block? I want to see Dad about something.
Of course.
I've just spoken to them.
- And do they know what happened?
- No more than you read there.
- And what speed?
- The fastest yet achieved anywhere on Earth.
"Disintegrated... Wreckage lies
scattered over a mile-wide area. "
It looks as if it really
had exploded in the air.
- But they must know more than this.
- They don't. There's nothing left to tell.
- They may have hit something.
- Aye, he hit something all right.
He hit the speed of sound.
Well, it looks as if I might
have been wrong after all.
Cos you can't get through this thing. That
was a great aircraft, flown by a great pilot.
- Yes, I know.
- Well...
Do we go on?
Well, that's for you to decide, isn't it?
Yes, I suppose it is.
I wanted to know how you feel about it.
Could we get a full report on all this
and could I look at it? It might help us.
Oh, and if you're sending a wire,
you might put my name on it too.
He was a good bloke, old Geoffrey.
I'd better say it at once. I'm going
on with this sound-barrier business.
Why, Tony?
It's difficult to explain. I... just
feel it's got to be done, that's all.
By you?
Yes, by me.
Was... he married?
Yes, I believe he was.
Is there anything I can say
that will stop you, Tony?
No, Sue. Nothing.
Don't you see, I... I
can't let the show down now.
Let the show down? Is there no thought
in your mind of letting me down, or him?
- Oh, Sue.
- If only I could understand, Tony.
But I can't, you see.
I can only see a great wall in the sky
strong enough to smash an aircraft to pieces.
And beyond it, nothing.
Nothing at all.
I'm sorry, Sue.
I promised to speak to Dad and ask him whether
I mightn't give up this job, but after...
Well, after this, how could I?
Don't you see what he'd
have felt about me if I had?
I've heard those words before, Tony.
Christopher said them to me
the night before he was killed.
He was scared too Father
might think he was a coward.
Oh, it isn't that.
I just don't want him to think I'm ratting on
a job because someone else got killed doing it.
- Where are you going?
- I can't face him tonight.
Oh, darling.
Leave me alone.
Oh, Sue is not feeling very
well. She's not coming down.
You know, when I first started flying,
some people, religious people,
thought what we were doing was wrong.
They thought it was breaking a law of nature.
Sounds funny now, of
course, but they used to say,
"If God had meant us to fly,
he'd have given us wings. "
Now, this sound barrier...
people might feel again that God had
put it there for his own good purpose.
That it can't be broken.
That it would be wrong to try.
Now, I wouldn't blame anyone
who believed that. I...
I wouldn't blame them at all.
- Do you believe that, Tony?
- No, Dad.
If I believe anything,
it's the exact opposite.
Oh, if only I were 30 years younger.
Well, sorry about Sue. We'll
get Factor to send her up a tray.
Let's go in, shall we?
Mummy, somebody at the door.
Yes, dear, I know.
Oh, Sally, don't play on the
stairs, dear. I've told you before.
- Hello, Jess. Am I disturbing you?
- No, of course not. Do come in.
I was shopping and I thought I'd drop in.
- Hello, Bobby.
- I made this.
Oh, isn't that lovely.
Jess, I wanted to speak to
Philip rather urgently. Is he in?
No, but he'll be back quite
soon, I expect. Let's go in here.
Oh, I do think you've done this charmingly.
You know this is the house
I'd set my heart on, don't you?
Why did you want this when you've got
that big house almost to yourselves?
I just did.
Here he is and I haven't got
the pie in the oven. Excuse me.
- Hello, darling.
- Hello, sweetie.
- Look who's here again. Isn't that nice?
- Oh.
I'm just getting lunch.
- Hello.
- Hello. I was passing and I thought...
Well, it was a nice thought.
Come on, come and sit down.
- How was the flight?
- Wonderful. Tony was kind about my flying too.
- No regrets, then?
- None at all.
Why does everyone I'm fond
of have to be a test pilot?
Why can't they sit in offices
like the rest of humanity?
The rest of humanity doesn't
know what it's missing.
When Tony's flying these days...
I try to go to the cinema.
You can't hear the sound so clearly in there.
How does Jess feel about all this?
Oh, I think she accepts it
just as a job like any other.
I wish I were like Jess. I'm
not very brave, I'm afraid.
When's he testing the
Prometheus at full speed?
I don't know.
You do, I think. But perhaps
it's best you shouldn't tell.
- What's he doing at this minute?
- He's up for half an hour on a routine test.
- Will you stay for lunch?
- Oh, won't that be difficult for Jess?
- Has she enough?
- She'll manage somehow.
Susan, you mustn't worry, you know.
There's no better pilot in this country.
Philip, I believe to have courage,
one must also have understanding.
If only I could understand
the purpose of it all.
You know, I don't think that sort
of understanding comes from up here.
Only from here.
Jess, lay on another place, will
you? Susan's staying for lunch.
- Well?
- Tomorrow at 3:00.
- What, the full test?
- Yeah.
That's good work, Will.
She's still nose-heavy over Mach 9.0.
- Well, give up the test if you're worried.
- Of course I'm worried! Wouldn't you be?
Tony says it's not serious.
He can correct easily.
He doesn't want to wait any longer. Nor do I.
- You need a rest, Will.
- Of course I need a rest!
I've needed a rest for over 35 years.
- Give me a drink.
- You know where to find it.
- Where is Tony now?
- He's over with the new test pilot.
That boy's a good flyer, by the
way. Tony says he's better than him.
That's not true. No one's better than Tony.
Tony hasn't got it up here.
That's what a pilot needs
nowadays. Brains and imagination.
- Isn't that what they've always needed?
- Maybe. Well, here's hoping.
- Well, what is it, Dad?
- A galaxy in Andromeda.
- And how far away is that?
- Oh, about 700,000 light years.
You mean that what I am seeing now is the
way this galaxy looked 700,000 years ago?
That's right.
- I'm looking at the past, then, aren't I?
- In a manner of speaking.
Is there a way of looking into the future?
- Yes.
- How?
Through that telescope. What you see there is
the past, the present and the future, all in one.
The process of continuous creation.
Stars die, stars are born.
No beginning, no end.
Yes, you can see into the
future out there, all right.
- Nice hobby you've got here.
- Passes the time.
- Well, good night.
- Tony?
- You hardly knew Christopher, did you?
- Well, just that one night.
Susan blames me for his death, doesn't she?
Oh, that you needn't answer. I know she does.
I just wondered if you blame me too.
You can tell me the truth, I can take it.
Do you, Tony?
Hm. Well, good night, Tony boy.
Happy landings for tomorrow.
Piece of cake.
Oh, sorry, darling. I
didn't mean to wake you.
- You're very late, Tony.
- I've been gassing with the old man.
Are you flying tomorrow?
Just the usual bumble around.
- What time?
- Three o'clock.
- I'll see that film at the Palace.
- Mm.
It's a good one, I hear.
- Darling?
- Mm-hm?
Do you mind if we call him John?
I think I do.
- Good night.
- Good night, my love.
- Pity.
- What?
- That I didn't meet you ten years ago.
- Why?
I'd have had ten years longer
of being married to you.
- Good night.
- Good night.
Oh, Tony.
Crash crew, this is Control,
testing. How do you hear me?
Roger. Stand by in crash
position on runway 2-0.
- Good afternoon.
- Hello.
Ridgefield Tower from Glass
Jar 1-0. Clear for take-off?
1-0. Clear to go.
Ridgefield Tower, this is Glass Jar 1-0.
I'm going up to 40,000 and dive her first
at a Mach number of about 0.95 or 0.96.
- Roger, 1-0. - Coming
in over the airfield now.
1-0 to Tower. Flying level. 30,000 feet.
Conditions pretty near perfect.
Visibility unlimited.
I'm going up another ten to 40,000.
40,000, straight and level.
Outside air temperature, 50 below.
Revs 12.5, ASl 380 knots.
OK, here we go.
No buffeting, trim correct, increasing speed.
Nine four.
Nine five.
Buffeting, nose-heavy, trimming back.
Port wing dropping. Air
brakes open. Throttling back.
OK. At that speed, nothing serious.
Behaviour normal, apart from nosing down.
Right, I'm going up to 40,000
feet again for the full go.
Hello, Tony, this is Will. Did you correct
that nose-heavy trim before opening air brakes?
All right, Will, you old hen. Everything
you said would happen did happen.
All in order, don't fuss.
What about your nose-heavy
trim? Did you correct?
Of course I corrected. I told you
I was climbing again, didn't I?
OK, 40,000. Straight and level.
All set.
Hang on a minute.
Here we go. This is it.
Buffeting. Nose heavy.
Trimming back.
25,000. Very nose-heavy.
Air brakes open.
The controls don't respond! I can't hold her!
- Still no response!
- Bail out.
It's coming up to Mach One!
Bail out. Bail out.
Crash, square able 7.
Get back!
- Why did you come here?
- I wanted to.
I wanted to.
Here, you'd better sit down.
- Is... Is Father here?
- No.
He was here for an hour
or more, but he's gone now.
Oh, Will.
I don't know what to say to you,
Susie, love. I don't know what to say.
I can't go on, of course. I've had
my fill of designing aeroplanes.
Still I don't know where it
went wrong. I can't fathom it.
Oh, I suppose I've got too old.
What are you going to do?
I don't know. I... hadn't thought.
- I must go somewhere, I think.
- No, Susie love, please, don't.
I'm thinking of JR. I know how things are
between you, but don't leave him alone now.
Not for a bit, anyway.
I must go now, Will.
Please don't blame yourself.
Tony knew... he was up against
something he couldn't beat.
Come on, I'd better take you home.
All set.
Hang on a minute.
Here we go. This is it.
Buffeting. Nose-heavy.
Trimming back.
Down to 25,000. Very nose-heavy.
Air brakes open.
The controls don't respond. I can't hold her!
Nine nine!
Still no response.
- Bail out.
- Coming up to Mach One!
Bail out. Bail out!
- Sue.
- Jess.
Get Dr Peyton, Philip.
Come along, we'll go upstairs.
- It is a boy, isn't it?
- Yes.
Oh, it's Tony.
- Name this child.
- John Anthony.
John Anthony, I baptise you
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost, amen.
Now, smile, please.
He's here. The car's outside.
Oh dear, I hoped he wouldn't.
Oh, don't panic, Jess.
Ah, how do you do?
- Well, hello, Sue.
- Hello, Father.
Hello, young fella.
- Did you christen him Tony?
- No, John.
It was what Tony wanted.
Hm. He's a fine baby.
Yes, isn't he?
- Oh, Sir John, can I tempt you to this?
- Oh, thank you. It's a charming house you have.
Glad you like it, Sir John.
I haven't had a chance yet
of congratulating you, Father.
Mm. Quite a surprise.
- I hear the new airliner's is a great success.
- Mm. We hope so.
Now, here's a small present for... John.
Thank you.
The Chinaman, he says, "Me no likey
plitty lady. Me likey plitty drinky. "
- Hello, Will.
- Hello, JR.
Delighted to see you looking better.
- How was Bognor?
- Oh, very restful, very quiet.
- I'm glad you're back.
- I'm not back.
Well, when you're at Bognor, you might
have a look at this. I'd like your views.
- Byfield's work?
- Yes.
- What's his idea in that?
- To increase stability.
The way I see it, JR, a good aircraft has... It's
got to have something sort of... inevitable about it.
Now, look. This thing could be changed
a hundred different ways. For example...
Do you know what you are,
JR? You're a vile seducer.
Oh, by the way, I hear you've
made a... new Prometheus.
- What's the idea?
- It's too good an aircraft to lose, Will.
It's the best that came out
of England since the war.
- No. It failed, JR.
- It wasn't the aircraft that failed, Will.
Now, you come and see me on Monday.
Well, this may not be the time to tell you,
but I've been watching your work very closely,
and now Makepeace is leaving us, I've
decided to promote you to chief test pilot.
- Oh, thank you, Sir John.
- In the firm, I'm still known as JR.
- Take up the new Prometheus tomorrow.
- Yes, JR.
Take her up every day for the next few weeks.
No specific tests, just get used to her.
- Right.
- Goodbye and thank you. A charming party.
Oh, and Peel? Not above Mach
9.0, until further orders.
- Philip?
- I think so.
Hello, darling.
Come on. Up we get.
- Has John been good?
- Yes. He doesn't seem to mind the noise at all.
- Jess?
- Mm-hm?
You've both been very good to me here. I don't
think you'll ever realise how grateful I am.
Why this all of a sudden?
I think I've got that flat in London.
Oh dear, I'm sorry. We
shall both miss you terribly.
I shall miss you.
Couldn't you find something
a little nearer here?
I don't want him to grow up in
the shadow of his grandfather.
Come on, darling.
- Why not stick the nose on the tail?
- I'll stick your nose on your tail.
- Will?
- What?
Is it possible that at the speed
of sound, the controls are reversed?
At the speed of sound,
Philip, anything's possible.
During the war once, I put a
Spitfire into a flat-out dive.
No particular reason,
just youthful high spirits.
I think now that I hit the sound barrier.
I remember that the more I pulled on
the stick, the harder the nose went down.
- The same thing happened today.
- You're not meant to do a high Mach number!
I know, but I did.
Both times, I felt that if I'd had the guts to
put the stick forward instead of pulling it back,
I could have pulled out
without having to lose speed.
What do you think?
There's nothing in the books to suggest for
one second anything so Edgar Allan Poe-ish.
Rather depends on the
books, doesn't it, Will?
There were books once that
said the Earth was flat.
Oh. He's here.
It's JR, for you.
Peel here, JR.
What, now?
Well, yes, of course.
What have I done? He sounded grim as blazes.
Here's Daddy.
- I'm sorry I'm late, darling.
- We had to start, darling.
I had to see the old man.
- You've got it, then?
- I've got what?
- Well, the rise, of course.
- Oh, blast it. I forgot to ask him.
- You forgot to ask him?
- Yes. I'm sorry darling.
Oh, really! What a husband.
All right. Bobby, go
out and play on the lawn.
- That's it, you come with me. Nice flight, dear?
- Yes, thanks. Wonderful.
I've got something hot for you in the oven.
What does he want?
- You won't tell Jess, will you?
- No.
To take the Prometheus up and reproduce
the conditions under which Tony crashed.
Could I have the bread, please?
- At the same speed?
- Well, faster, if possible.
I shall take her up this
afternoon for a high Mach number,
and if that's all right, full crack tomorrow.
Are you going to do it?
Look, I don't have to, you know. This
was merely a suggestion, not an order.
That's the situation, Sue.
I don't have to, but I must.
- Why must you?
- Well...
It's a bit hard to explain. I only know that
if I don't accept your father's suggestion,
I should never want to fly again.
And as flying, I've now found
out, is my life, well, I...
- There we are, darling. I hope it's still all right.
- It looks lovely.
- Fancy you forgetting to ask for the rise.
- Don't worry. I don't think he'll... object now.
- Is it safe to buy the coats for the children?
- Mm.
Oh, good. Now they'll look smarter
than those stuck-up Harrison kids.
A complaint from one of our most
important customers in Mexico
has revealed to me a possible defect in
the Marlborough Mark 3 engine mounting...
Ah. Oh, Will.
What's the test scheduled
for the Prometheus tomorrow?
- The details are on the sheet.
- There's one quite important detail that isn't.
- At what Mach number is my machine to fly?
- Mach One.
Wasn't Tony enough for you?
We learnt a lot from Tony's crash.
Just enough to know that to fly
at the speed of sound is death.
- Haven't you had enough of that?
- No.
Ever heard of pilotless aircraft?
This problem can't be solved
with pilotless aircraft.
Not in years, anyway.
Well, what are a few
years one way or another?
Important to me. I may
not have so many of them.
Hm. Trying for a peerage now, huh?
You'd better get out, Will.
I'm sorry for you, JR. I don't know
what devil it is that's eating you up.
And it can't make life any too happy for you.
Cable to Mexico City. Your letter received,
and will receive our attention. Stop.
Oh. Good evening, Sue.
Good evening, Father.
Well, you don't often give me the
pleasure of seeing you these days.
- How's my grandson?
- He's very well.
- Father?
- Yes?
- Are you going on with this test tomorrow?
- What's that to do with you?
Did Philip tell you what
happened to him this afternoon?
Yes. I've just been reading his report.
For a good ten seconds, he
was completely out of control.
What are his chances if
that happens tomorrow?
Well, it might not happen tomorrow.
Please put off the test, Father.
You're prepared to let
Philip go the way of Tony?
Well, we don't know the way of Tony.
That's Philip's job tomorrow,
to find out how Tony was killed.
And Tony was finding out how
Geoffrey de Havilland was killed,
and another pilot will find
out how Philip was killed.
And each time, we'll learn a bit more.
So that one day, Ridgefields will build an
airliner that'll go to New York in three hours.
So a few people who can afford it will
spend an occasional weekend in New York,
and Ridgefields shares will go up and up.
My dear Susan, what kind
of man do you think I am?
I don't know. I... really don't know.
What sort of a man with... two deaths on his
conscience could risk burdening it with a third?
A man whose passionate worship is for a
pile of bricks and mortar called Ridgefields?
My dear Susan, if you were to tell
me that only by giving up Ridgefields
could I find out what happens to
an aircraft at the speed of sound,
I'd say, "All right, Susan,
my girl, it's a deal. "
- I don't believe that.
- That's because you can't understand it!
You make imaginary sacrifices for yourself, but
it's other people's lives you really sacrifice.
You think I felt nothing at Tony's death?
What else can I think, when a few hours after
his death I find you listening to his voice?
Our ways are different in so many things, I
expect our ways of grieving are different too.
Well, I don't suppose
you've any more to say to me.
Yes, I have, Father.
- I'm taking John to live in London.
- Oh. Indeed?
You know why I'm taking your
grandson away from you, don't you?
You want me to think of
you as a man with a vision.
Well, that vision has killed
both my husband and my brother.
And while I'm alive, it's
not going to kill my son too.
There are evil visions as well
as good ones, you know, Father.
That's why I'm taking my baby away.
Thanks, Windy.
- Tell them I'll be out in two minutes, will you?
- OK.
You sent for me, Father.
Well, thank you for coming.
I've... I've got something to say.
1-4 to Tower. Climbing now.
JPTseems a bit high, but
other pressures normal.
Checking. Will call again later.
Erm, before you go off, I... I wanted to
know what school you've got John down for.
Is that all you wanted to say?
No. Good schools are not two
a penny. You've got to think.
But surely there's plenty of time.
I'm climbing to 40,000 feet.
Weather conditions ideal.
I'm going to make my first
run level at full throttle.
I'm still climbing.
- Susan...
- Yes, Father?
Levelling out now. 40,000.
All right. I'm all set.
Starting run now.
Increasing speed.
Revs twelve-five.
Mach 0.88.
0.89. Slight buffeting.
0.90. Getting nose-heavy now. Correcting.
Throttling back.
Run completed.
- I'm sorry, I must go.
- No, don't go! Stay and talk.
Don't leave me alone.
1-4 to Tower.
Still at 40,000. At that speed,
she was quite controllable.
There was a slight port wing
drop, but nothing serious.
Didn't have to use trim,
I corrected on the stick.
JPTnow normal.
Well, what were we talking about? It, erm...
- It was about schools, wasn't it?
- Yes.
Right. Second run.
This time we'll try a dive.
35 degrees.
Here we go again. Starting dive... now.
Maximum revs.
Slight buffeting.
She's pitching a bit. Still buffeting.
0.93. Nose very heavy now.
Trimming back.
Port wing dropping. Correcting.
0.94. Still under control.
Nose still going down.
Air brakes open, throttling back.
Second run completed.
Can a vision be evil, Sue? Can it? Can it?
I shouldn't have said that.
It's a terrible thing to make a man
doubt everything he's ever lived for.
If I've killed them both for nothing.
Well, it can't be true, can it? Can it?
Ridgefield Tower, this is 1-4. 40,000 again.
All right. Third and last, steepest
possible, dive. Full throttle.
Here we go.
Out of control.
25,000 feet.
Air brakes on, throttling back.
Pulling out of dive.
Ridgefield Tower, this is 1-4.
Nose heavy again. I couldn't trim out,
I had to use the air brakes to pull out.
All right. Clear to land now. Runway 3-0.
1-4, negative. I've got an idea I
want to try out. I'm going up again.
Ridgefield Tower, this is 1-4.
40,000 feet.
I think I can beat this nose-heavy
business by reversing the controls.
Anyway, I'm going to try.
I won't be a moment.
All right, here we go.
Increasing speed.
She's out of control.
Mach One!
I'm putting the stick forward.
She's coming up!
Throttling back.
It's sticking.
I did it! I did it!
1-4 to Tower.
On fourth run, Mach meter showed 1...
.. point 01.
Corrected nose-heavy trim
by putting the stick forward.
Have you got that? Stick forward.
I'm landing now.
He's got through.
It's all right. He's got through.
You'll do me a favour, will you?
Of course.
You don't tell anyone what happened
in this office this afternoon.
Do you think I would?
I say. A chap called Sound just looked in.
He's absolutely livid with you, old boy. He
says he's going to bump his speed up next time.
Oh good, I've found you in.
- Hello darling. I...
- Look at this.
- We've got to make up our mind now.
- Look, darling...
Do you think the colour's too much? Cos they've
got a sort of beigey colour with stripes, and I...
Well, it seemed a bit dull to me, but...
Look, darling, pay attention.
This is very important.
- Is it all right?
- Yes, I'm sorry, darling. Yes, it's fine.
Good, that's lovely. I'll
be able to get back in time.
Well, bye-bye, darling. See you at home.
I thought I heard a car. I
wondered if it could be you.
He has the look of Tony.
His eyes.
- What's that?
- It's the moon.
I never knew it could look so unfriendly.
It's an unfriendly universe.
Do you believe that?
Unfriendly only because it's
unconscious of our existence. 12
- That's a depressing conception.
- Doesn't depress me.
In our fight with the universe,
it gives us the advantage.
Must it always be a fight?
Well, I think it must. It wasn't for nothing
we were given so many weapons to fight with.
- Such as?
- Imagination, for one thing.
Which some people call vision, don't they?
Yes, some people do.
And I suppose another weapon is courage.
- Daddy, why didn't you tell me?
- Tell you what?
How alone you must have been.
Even Will had more imagination than...
I am sorry.
You've no need to be.
- I must put John to bed.
- Yes.
- He's no right to be up as late as this.
- And you mustn't keep your car waiting.
The car's gone, Father.
We've come home.