The Sky's the Limit (1943)

89-90 mins | Romantic comedy | 1943

Director:

Edward H. Griffith

Producer:

David Hempstead

Cinematographer:

Russell Metty

Editor:

Roland Gross

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Carroll Clark

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Lookout Below . Although pre-production news items in HR place Marcy McGuire and Ella Mae Morse in the cast, they do not appear in the viewed film. A Jul 1943 news item from Down Beat notes that Morse performed the song "Harvey the Vitory Garden Man," but it was cut from the released picture. Other news items in HR yield the following information about the production: Norma Drury, who plays the role of a female riveter, was a famous concert pianist and the widow of director Richard Boleslavski. This was Dorothy Kelly's first part at RKO and the studio expanded her role because of her performance. Producer David Hempstead ordered the restaurant scene changed from a full course meal to Joan munching hamburgers because he feared that a large dinner would alienate an audience suffering from food shortages imposed by the war. RKO rented Paramount's New York street set because it was already tarpaulined for night scenes and RKO did not possess enough canvas, a material in short supply because of the war, to drape its own set. The "My Shining Hour" musical number required an elaborate lighting set-up that outlined each instrument with neon lights. That song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song and the score was nominated for Best Score. Sunburst lights were also placed into a section of frosted glass flooring to create special dimming and flashing effects. Background shots were filmed in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California.
       A Sep 1943 HR news item notes that after the picture ... More Less

The working title of this film was Lookout Below . Although pre-production news items in HR place Marcy McGuire and Ella Mae Morse in the cast, they do not appear in the viewed film. A Jul 1943 news item from Down Beat notes that Morse performed the song "Harvey the Vitory Garden Man," but it was cut from the released picture. Other news items in HR yield the following information about the production: Norma Drury, who plays the role of a female riveter, was a famous concert pianist and the widow of director Richard Boleslavski. This was Dorothy Kelly's first part at RKO and the studio expanded her role because of her performance. Producer David Hempstead ordered the restaurant scene changed from a full course meal to Joan munching hamburgers because he feared that a large dinner would alienate an audience suffering from food shortages imposed by the war. RKO rented Paramount's New York street set because it was already tarpaulined for night scenes and RKO did not possess enough canvas, a material in short supply because of the war, to drape its own set. The "My Shining Hour" musical number required an elaborate lighting set-up that outlined each instrument with neon lights. That song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song and the score was nominated for Best Score. Sunburst lights were also placed into a section of frosted glass flooring to create special dimming and flashing effects. Background shots were filmed in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California.
       A Sep 1943 HR news item notes that after the picture was released, writer Rowland Brown sued RKO for $220,000, alleging that the studio based this picture on a story he wrote as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers at the request of David Hempstead. The disposition of that suit is not known. The Sky's the Limit was Astaire's first film for RKO following his split with Ginger Rogers in 1939. Modern sources note that Astaire took over direction of the dance sequences after his friend, choreographer Hermes Pan, left RKO for Twentieth Century-Fox. The musical number, "One for My Baby and One More for the Road," in which Astaire angrily destroys a bar, is one of his most famous solo dance numbers and is frequently included in retropsectives of his career. Modern sources also note that in order to acquire the services of Joan Leslie for this picture and John Garfield for The Fallen Sparrow , RKO traded its rights to The Animal Kingdom and Of Human Bondage to Warner Bros. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Jul 1943.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jul 43
p. 3.
Down Beat
15 Jul 43
p. 8.
Down Beat
1 Oct 43
p. 7.
Film Daily
13 Jul 43
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jan 43
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 43
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jan 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Feb 43
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 43
p. 36.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 43
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 43
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Sep 43
p. 8.
Motion Picture Herald
17 Jul 1943.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
13 Feb 43
p. 1162.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
17 Jul 43
p. 1425.
New York Times
3 Sep 43
p. 15.
Variety
8 Sep 43
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Orig scr, Orig scr
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dances created and staged by
SOURCES
SONGS
"My Shining Hour," "I've Got a Lot in Common with You" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)," music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, arranged by Phil Moore.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Lookout Below
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 September 1943
Production Date:
13 January--early March 1943
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
21 August 1943
Copyright Number:
LP12322
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
89-90
Length(in feet):
8,080
Country:
United States
PCA No:
9927
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Upon completing another successful mission, Flying Tigers Fred Atwell, Richard Merlin and Reginald Fenton are given a hero's welcome and a ten-day leave. The three pilots are then sent cross-country on a personal appearance tour, but when Fred tires of the acclaim and attention, he jumps off the train in a small western town, dons a cowboy hat and boots and hitches a ride to New York City. At the Colonial Club, Fred becomes infatuated by nightclub photographer Joan Manyon. Bored with snapping celebrity photographs, Joan begs her boss, magazine publisher Phil Harriman, for a war-related assignment. To get Joan's attention, Fred pops into her shots and then follows her to a diner after she finishes work. Reluctant to discuss his feats, Fred introduces himself as Fred Burton and receives a lecture from Joan about the seriousness of the war. After following Joan home, Fred rents a room in her apartment building, and the next morning, she awakens to find Fred cooking breakfast in her kitchen. Joan delivers another lecture to Fred about his lack of commitment, and then leaves for work. There Fred visits her later that afternoon, and Joan agrees to join him for dinner if he will talk to Harriman about a job the next day. That night, Joan insists upon going to work at the Canteen, where she and Fred are drafted to fill in for a dancing act. After completing his performance, Fred sees Reg and Richard at the Canteen and begs them to keep his identity secret. The next morning, Reg visits Fred at his apartment with orders to report to duty ... +


Upon completing another successful mission, Flying Tigers Fred Atwell, Richard Merlin and Reginald Fenton are given a hero's welcome and a ten-day leave. The three pilots are then sent cross-country on a personal appearance tour, but when Fred tires of the acclaim and attention, he jumps off the train in a small western town, dons a cowboy hat and boots and hitches a ride to New York City. At the Colonial Club, Fred becomes infatuated by nightclub photographer Joan Manyon. Bored with snapping celebrity photographs, Joan begs her boss, magazine publisher Phil Harriman, for a war-related assignment. To get Joan's attention, Fred pops into her shots and then follows her to a diner after she finishes work. Reluctant to discuss his feats, Fred introduces himself as Fred Burton and receives a lecture from Joan about the seriousness of the war. After following Joan home, Fred rents a room in her apartment building, and the next morning, she awakens to find Fred cooking breakfast in her kitchen. Joan delivers another lecture to Fred about his lack of commitment, and then leaves for work. There Fred visits her later that afternoon, and Joan agrees to join him for dinner if he will talk to Harriman about a job the next day. That night, Joan insists upon going to work at the Canteen, where she and Fred are drafted to fill in for a dancing act. After completing his performance, Fred sees Reg and Richard at the Canteen and begs them to keep his identity secret. The next morning, Reg visits Fred at his apartment with orders to report to duty in two days. After Reg leaves, Fred goes to keep his appointment with Harriman and, after admitting that he is not interested in a job, begins to question the publisher about his intentions toward Joan. When Harriman discloses that Joan has refused his marriage proposal, Fred offers him advice about how to woo her and suggests that Harriman invite her to a romantic dinner at his apartment that night. Following Fred's advice, Harriman invites Joan to dinner, but when he realizes that she has fallen in love with Fred, he tells her that Fred is waiting for her at the apartment. That night, Joan proposes marriage to a surprised Fred and insists upon introducing him to Harvey J. Sloane, the founder of Sloane Aircraft, so that he can ask for a job. The night before Fred is to rejoin his squadron, he accompanies Joan to a banquet honoring Sloane. When Fred insults Sloane about the performance of his aircraft, Sloane tells Joan, who angrily walks out on Fred. Harriman then invites Fred to join him at his favorite bar, where he discloses that he knows Fred's true identity. Fred confides that although he loves Joan, he is unable to make a commitment to her because of the risky nature of his calling. After Harriman leaves, Fred continues drinking and destroys the bar in an angry dance. The next morning, Harriman commiserates with Joan over Fred and assigns her to photograph a squadron of American bombers flying to Australia on a mission. Joan hurries to the airport, where she sees Fred in uniform, readying to board his plane. After the two embrace, Fred promises to come back to her and proclaims his love. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.