3 July 2007 | bkoganbing
John J. Montgomery 1858-1911
Depending on whether you believe the plot of Gallant Journey verbatim or not, John J. Montgomery may have been the first man to make a heavier than air flight and he did it in 1883, twenty years before the Wright Brothers did their thing at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Whether you do or not there is no denying that Glenn Ford gave a wonderful performance as the earnest young man, consumed as so many were at that time of the dream of manned flight. Janet Blair played the ever helpful and supportive wife of Ford and does it well.
The film is directed by William Wellman, one of many he did in his career combining his two great loves, film and aviation. Of course Wellman reached the pinnacle of his aviation success with the first Academy Award winning Best film, Wings.
The film is narrated by Charlie Ruggles to a group of post World War II kids and he's Montgomery's brother who has outlived him by a considerable period. Montgomery when he wasn't doing his aviation glider experiments, earned a living teaching science at Santa Clara College where a couple of supportive priests are played by Arthur Shields and Charles Kemper. Best in the supporting parts in the film however is Jim Lloyd who plays the balloonist daredevil who helps pilot Ford's experiments when an inner ear problem forces him to stop doing the actual flying.
Aviation historians still debate Montgomery's actual contributions to the saga of manned flight. But I think Montgomery himself would have been well pleased with how Bill Wellman and Glenn Ford told his tale.