Spirit of St. Louis, The (1957): Billy Wilder’s Biopic of Charles Lindbergh Starring Jimmy Stewart

On May 21, 1927, the world literally changed, when “Lucky Lind” (Jimmy Stewart) landed safely outside Paris.  People who previously talked about the limitations of air travel suddenly dreamed of its limitless possibilities.

“The Spirit of St. Louis” is six-time Oscar-winner Billy Wilder’s recreation of the struggles and success of Charles A. Lindbergh, the pioneering flyboy who, like test pilots and astronauts to follow him later, had the “right stuff” of aviation heroism.

Wilder co-penned the screenplay with Wendell Mayes, but in his effort to make a salutary homage, the film lacks Wilder’s characteristic humor, irony, and cynicism, all manifest in his best work.

Lindberg fan Stewart, himself a pilot with a WWII track record, sought the role but was initially turned down by Wilder, who thought he was wrong for it.

Stewart was 48 when the film was made and Lindberg was almost half his age (25) in 1927, when most of the film is set.  To look younger, Stewart underwent a diet and dyed his hair blond.

Nonetheless, his persistence paid off, as He was able to add Lindy to his gallery of indelible portrayals of American heroes.  Stewart and Wilder together manned the cockpit of a stirring and exciting epic entertainment.

Not one of Wilder’s best features: The movie is too much of a one-man show, and the few secondary characters are not that interesting.

The film is shot in CinemaScope by ace lenser Robert Burks, who was Hitchcock’s most favorite photographer.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Special Effects

Oscar Awards: None


Oscar Context:

The winner of the Special Effects Oscar Walter Rossi for “The Enemy Below,” which actually won for sound effects

In 1963, the Academy divided the Special Effects category into Visual and Sound Effects subdivisions.

DVD special features

New digital transfer from restored picture and audio elements;

Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1;

Vintage Joe McDoakes comedy short, “So Your Wife Wants to Work”;

Theatrical trailer;

Classic cartoon, “Tobasco Road”;