FEATURES: THE STORY BEHIND REACH FOR THE SKY

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Reach for the Sky original print advertisement

KenenthMore.com takes a closer look at Kenny’s most iconic film role.

Reach for the Sky is the true story of Douglas Bader who overcame the tragic loss of both legs from a flying aerobatics disaster to become one of England’s most successful fighter pilots during World War II, even taking part in the famous Battle of Britain. He would later be captured behind enemy lines, escaping on several occasions before being interned at Colditz for the rest of the war.

Copy of Reach for the Sky sheet music owned by Kenneth More

Bader’s story was published as a biography in 1954 by Paul Brickhill, and was adapted for the screen by Lewis Gilbert, who also directed. Bader disagreed with Brickhill over the biography, as well as with the filmmakers over the film, subsequently refusing to attend the film’s premiere. Bader would eventually see the movie on television, but not until eleven years later.

Incidentally the part of Bader was initially offered to Richard Burton, who turned it down to star in Alexander the Great.

First edition of Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill

First edition of Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill

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Kenny’s relationship with Douglas Bader was very different. They first met each other at Gleneagles in Scotland, when More had secured the part. Having read the book on holiday in the South of France Kenny felt he was the only actor who could play the part, stating why in his autobiography, More or Less.

“Bader’s philosophy was my phlopsophy. His whole attitude to life was mine.”

Kenneth More from his autobiography, More or Less

Reach for the Sky original film artwork

More and Bader played a round of golf together with Bader thrashing More on the course. They met again for dinner on a few occasions, with Kenny’s friend Ronald Squire. Bader warmed to More instantly and was pleased he had been cast in the role. Kenny was thrilled Bader had taken to him so easily but decided to keep his distance during filming in order to not caricature him too much. The pair stayed friends throughout their lives, with Bader a guest at More’s Variety Club luncheon at the Savoy in 1974, celebrating Kenny’s 40 years in showbusiness. When Kenny passed away, Lady Bader attendee his memorial. Incidentally Douglas Bader had passed away 2 months after Kenny.

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Reach for the Sky became a smash hit upon release and the most popular British film of 1956, as well as winning a BAFTA for Best Film. Playing Bader also garnered a Best Actor award for Kenny from the major cinema publication of the day, Picturegoer magazine. The film did something greater for his career, it showed British audiences that Kenny was not just a happy-go-lucky comic actor, he had range as a leading man in a dramatic performance.

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Kenneth More's flying hat and goggles from Reach for the Sky. Image courtesy of Sarah More

Kenneth More’s flying hat and goggles from Reach for the Sky. Image courtesy of Sarah More

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