The Fantastic Journey (movie, 1951)

The Fantastic Journey ( No Highway , or No Highway in the Sky ) is a British film directed by Henry Koster released in 1951 .


Theodore Honey (played by James Stewart ) is a heterodox engineer from the Royal Aircraft Establishment who raises his own Elspeth, an early child , as a widower . One day, Honey is dispatched by the Farnborough test center to investigate the causes of the crash , in Labrador , a long-haul type Reindeer . He hypothesizes that the disaster is due to the fatigue ruin of the tail of the aircraft. In order to test this hypothesis, he reconstructs a carcass in the laboratory, subjected to vibration cycles of eight hours a day.

While on a mission to Newfoundland , Honey realizes that he is on board a Reindeer-type aircraft and he understands from the crew’s responses that the aircraft has reached a number of hours of critical flight. Although he has not yet confirmed the accuracy of his hypothesis, Honey believes it is his duty to warn passengers (including the famous actress Monica Teasdale – played by Marlene Dietrich ) and the crew of the risk ran. The Reindeer stops at Gander Airport for a technical check that does not detect anything abnormal. Desperate for the idea that the plane will leave without any other precaution, Honey does not hesitate to sleep the train ofof the aircraft while on the ground, causing the fuselage tocollapse on the tarmac and damage the aircraft. Shocked by this act of vandalism, some passengers ask for his arrest.

But Miss Teasdale and flight attendant Marjorie Corder ( Glynis Johns ) are fond of Elspeth. The actress defends the British expert in front of the authorities, and Miss Corder falls in love with him.

During an interrogation where her mental health is questioned, Honey resigns but continues to defend her theory. At the Farnborough Test Center, the loading test was completed without evidence of fatigue failure after the prescribed number of cycles. As a precaution, the Reindeer is disassembled and reassembled, but at the end of a test flight, the tail detaches itself on landing. Shortly after, the resumption of laboratory tests shows that the ruin was waiting only a few more cycles to occur; only Honey had not thought of taking into account the difference in temperature between the air at altitude and his laboratory, hence a difference in the number of cycles.

Technical sheet

  • Title: The Fantastic Journey
  • Original title: No Highway
  • Director: Henry Koster
  • Scenario: RC Sherriff , Oscar Millard and Alec Coppel based on Nevil Shute novel
  • Production Company: 20th Century Fox
  • Production: Louis D. Lighton
  • Music: Malcolm Arnold (uncredited)
  • Photography: Georges Périnal
  • Editing: Manuel del Campo
  • Artistic direction: CP Norman
  • Costumes: Margaret Furse , Sam Benson (uncredited) and Fred Birch (uncredited)
  • Country of origin: United Kingdom
  • Language: English
  • Format: Black and White – Sound: Mono (Western Electric Recording)
  • Genre: Drama , Thriller
  • Duration: 98 minutes
  • Release date :
    •  UK  London
    •  United States 
    •  la France 


  • James Stewart : Theodore Honey
  • Marlene Dietrich : Monica Teasdale
  • Glynis Johns : Marjorie Corder
  • Jack Hawkins : Dennis Scott
  • Janette Scott : Elspeth Honey
  • Elizabeth Allan : Shirley Scott
  • Ronald Squire : Sir John, Director
  • Jill Clifford : Peggy

And, among the uncredited actors:

  • Niall MacGinnis : Captain Samuelson
  • Michael McCarthy : The bus driver
  • Maurice Denham : Major Pearl
  • Karel Stepanek : Mannheim
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White : Fisher

Around the film

James Stewart and Marlene Dietrich meet for the second time after turning together Female or Demon of George Marshall in 1939.

It should be noted that this film is contemporary with the De Haviland Comet , the first commercial jet plane that was banned from flying after several crashes due precisely to fatigue fractures (pressurization cycles – depressurization), as the fictional reindeer of the film. The Comet entered service in 1949 but structural problems were not clearly identified until 1953.

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