Bailout at 43,000

Bailout at 43,000 is a 1957 American drama film directed by Francis D. Lyon and written by Paul Monash. The film stars John Payne, Karen Steele, Paul Kelly, Richard Eyer, Constance Ford and Eddie Firestone. The film was released on May 1, 1957, by United Artists.[1][2]

Bailout at 43,000
Directed byFrancis D. Lyon
Produced byHoward Pine
William C. Thomas
Screenplay byPaul Monash
StarringJohn Payne
Karen Steele
Paul Kelly
Richard Eyer
Constance Ford
Eddie Firestone
Music byAlbert Glasser
CinematographyLionel Lindon
Edited byGeorge A. Gittens
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • May 1, 1957 (1957-05-01)
Running time
78 minutes
CountryUnited States

It was the last film from Pine-Thomas Productions then known as Pine-Thomas-Shane.[3]


United States Air Force Colonel William Hughes (Paul Kelly) asks Major Paul Peterson (John Payne), who has been called back to active service, to join a team at the Air Research and Development Command conducting tests on a downward ejection seat for bombardiers in the new Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber. The first tests used articulated dummies, but human test subjects are needed. Besides Colonel Hughes, German scientist Dr. Franz Gruener (Gregory Gaye), also is in charge of the test program, working directly with the test subjects. Captain Jack Nolan (Richard Crane) is also assigned to the project.

The first volunteer, Captain Mike Cavallero (Eddie Firestone), suffers a broken neck when his parachute opens too early. He survives the test but is hospitalized. The next subject is Lieutenant Edward Simmons, to be followed by Paul. When Mike is suddenly rushed to hospital with an appendicitis attack, Paul moves up. Worried because he has a wife and son, Paul is reluctant to go, but then finds out that Captain Nolan has been killed in a B-47 crash, and as the bombardier, he might not have been able to escape the aircraft.

His wife (Karen Steele) begs his commanding officer to release Paul from his commitment. When Paul shows up to take the test, he finds Colonel Hughes suiting up. Imploring him to reconsider, Paul makes the case for doing the test to prove that a bailout is possible from the high-speed jet bomber. Flying with Dr. Gruener, Paul ejects, but when the ground observers ask him to indicate he is well by spread-eagling, he does not respond. On board the rescue launch, they pick up Paul and find he is fine; he was simply concentrating so hard that he forgot to spread-eagle. After he is cleared by the medics, Paul is greeted by Carol and his son Kit (Richard Eyer) and, with their blessing, decides to continue with the project.


Original TV Play

Bailout at 43,000 Feet was an episode of the Climax! dramatic anthology television series. The episode played on season 2 as episode 15, airing on December 29, 1955, directed by John Frankenheimer, produced by Martin Manulis, hosted by William Lundigan and starring Richard Boone and Bart Burns.[Note 1]



Carl Dudley originally expressed interest in buying the screen rights to the TV play.[4] Eventually Bill Thomas of Pine-Thomas-Shane Productions got them.[5]

In adapting the episode for the screen, Bailout at 43,000 was slightly revised, with tension heightened in the interaction between a former Nazi scientist and pilots engaged in the bailout tests.

In August 1956 it was announced Boone would reprise his TV role.[6] 7 Aug 1956: 19.</ref> However in October he was replaced by Paul Kelly.[7]

Star John Payne was winding up his film career with Bailout at 43,000, while Paul Kelly made his last film appearance, ending a long career that began in 1911 as a child actor in silent films.[8] Karen Steele was borrowed from Sam Goldwyn Jr.[9]

The film was made with the full cooperation of the United States Air Force and featured a number of airfield and aerial sequences with Boeing B-47 Stratojet bombers.[10][Note 2]

Filming started 1 October 1956.[13]


Bailout at 43,000 was burdened by both its television episode origin and a B-movie budget, making it little more than what film critic Leonard Maltin called, "Routine material" "... not enhanced by flight sequences or romantic relief."[14]

The New York Times called it a "tedious film".[15]

It was the last film from Pine-Thomas Productions.



  1. Nancy Reagan appeared in one of the bit parts.
  2. The aircraft used in the film was B-47B-25-BW, serial number 51-2057, that was converted to the YRB-47B standard, and redesignated a TB-47B, flying with the 340th Bombardment Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri in 1955–1962.[11][12]


  1. "Overview: 'Bailout at 43,000' (1957).z" Turner Classic Movies ( Retrieved: November 13, 2015.
  2. "Bailout At 43,000." TV Guide. Retrieved: November 13, 2015.
  3. Merchant Marine Tale in Super Class; Charles Vidor Replaces Huston Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 4 Apr 1957: B13
  4. Three-Way Partnership Formed on Coast To Make TV Film Series on Gen. Fremont New York Times 23 Dec 1955: 35
  5. Murphy May Star in Film of 'Underdog,' Chicago Daily Tribune 19 Jan 1956: c9.
  7. TODD IN DISPUTE ON WRITER CREDIT New York Times 1 Oct 1956: 30.
  8. "Paul Kelly (I) (1899–1956)." IMDb. Retrieved: November 13, 2015.
  9. Drama: Graham Greene 'Joan' Scripter; Alberghetti, Ben Cooper to Costar Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 1 Aug 1956: C9.
  10. Pendo 1985, p. 259.
  11. Decker, Nathan. "Boeing B-47 Stratojet series." Archived 2012-12-06 at the Wayback Machine Forgotten Jets, 2015. Retrieved: November 13, 2015.
  12. Broyhill, Marvin T. "340th Bombardment Wing." Strategic Air, 2015. Retrieved: November 14, 2015.
  13. "Production Pulse". Variety. 17 October 1956. p. 17.
  14. Maltin, Leonard. "Leonard Maltin Ratings & Reviews: 'Bailout at 43,000'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: November 13, 2015.
  15. The Screen: 'Bailout at 43,000' Is New Film at Palace New York Times 8 June 1957: 13.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
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