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Way to the Stars, The (1945)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

In 1940, during the Battle of Britain, Peter Penrose, a recently qualified flyer with the RAF, joins a squadron based in the Midlands. He quickly makes the acquaintance of Flight Lieutenant David Archdale, who is courting 'Toddy', the manageress of a local hotel and pub. At her hotel he meets two of the residents, Iris and her domineering aunt. When the Commanding Officer is killed, David is made the acting C.O. He and Toddy are soon married and have a son, who they name after Peter.

By 1942 the aerodrome is handed over to American flyers of the 8th Air Force. Peter is still courting Iris, who is unable to get out from under her aunt's thumb. After 43 missions, David removes Peter from active duty, as he is obviously suffering from the strain. Peter is to be sent on an Air Controller's course. Later that day Peter goes to the Hotel to inform Toddy that David has died while on a mission. He gives her some of David's belongings, including a poem that he had written, entitled 'For Johnny'. Peter decides that it would be unfair to continue his relationship with Iris. The British flyers leave the base, but Peter remains to work as Controller.

After some initial tension and resentment, the American flyers start to be accepted by the British ground crews and villagers. Peter finally receives a posting to fly Lancasters, and leaves the base without explaining to Iris why he has broken off their relationship. Johnny Hollis, one of the American flyers, is befriended by Toddy. At the hotel he comes across her copy of 'For Johnny'. Toddy tells him that David wrote the poem, something which no one else knows. She gives him David's good-luck charm, a lighter, which he forgot to take on his last mission. She invites him to come back again to talk about his wife and child back home in America.

By 1944 Johnny is told that he will be able to go home to work as an instructor, but he has grown so attached to his crew and to Toddy and her son that he elects to remain and finish his tour. Joe Friselli, an American flyer, has become interested in Iris and asks her out to a station dance. Peter happens to be passing through the base and meets Iris again. The next day she decides to leave her Aunt and join up. Toddy convinces Peter that she has never regretted her marriage to David and that if he loves Iris he should propose to her. Peter and Iris decide to get married.

Johnny returns from a mission with a bomb caught in the bomb bay. He tries to land the plane safely after his crew has bailed out, but is killed in the attempt. Joe substitutes for Johnny at a children's party. While there, Toddy gives him her copy of David's poem to read. When he returns it, they both agree that it could have been written for their departed friend Johnny. After saying goodnight to the guests, Toddy watches as aircraft fly past on another bombing raid.