Light Up the Sky! (film)

Light Up the Sky! (also known as Skywatch) is a 1960 British comedy drama film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Ian Carmichael, Tommy Steele and Benny Hill. The film also features Dick Emery in a minor role.[3] [4][5]

Light Up the Sky!
British quad poster by Stevens
Directed byLewis Gilbert
Produced byLewis Gilbert
Written byVernon Harris
Based onPlay:Touch It Light by Robert Storey
StarringIan Carmichael
Tommy Steele
Benny Hill
Music byDouglas Gamley
CinematographyJohn Wilcox
Edited byPeter Tanner
Distributed byBryanston Films (UK)
Continental Distributing (USA)
Release date
  • 4 December 1961 (1961-12-04) (Denmark)
Running time
90 mins.[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom

Light Up the Sky! was based on Robert Storey's West End play Touch it Light.[6][7]


During the Second World War, Lt. Ogleby (Ian Carmichael) is the troop officer in charge of a number of soldiers assigned to a searchlight and gunnery unit, somewhere in England. Ogleby visits only occasionally to check up on the unit, and in his absence Lance Corporal Tomlinson (Victor Maddern) is in charge, but he struggles to maintain some kind of order over the other men, and he frequently turns a blind eye to their lack of discipline and even their local thieving.

Camp comic Syd McGaffey (Benny Hill) tries to keep up with the romantic antics of his younger brother Eric (Tommy Steele) who comes back from a short leave and announces that he has got married, but then soon takes up with a local girl and gets her pregnant, falling foul of her father. Ted Green (Sydney Tafler) is a widower with a son serving overseas and he eagerly maintains a correspondence with him. Leslie Smith (Johnny Briggs) is lovesick and unhappy over a misunderstanding with his girlfriend and eventually goes AWOL to get to see her. Roland Kenyon (Harry Locke) is the unit's cook and a father of six children, and he has ambitions to get a posting to a catering unit.



Light Up the Sky! was based on the play, Touch It Light which premiered in 1959.[8] Producer and director Lewis Gilbert liked it and arranged for it to be filmed. "There have been countless films featuring heroic officers and I feel it is time the ordinary private is given his due," said Gilbert.[9][N 1]

Light Up the Sky! was Tommy Steele's first dramatic role. Lionel Bart who wrote songs for Steele's first three films, wrote a song for this film called, "Touch It Light" which Steele performs with Hill.[9]

Criterion Film Productions provided £22,500 of the budget and Tommy Steele deferred £7,500 of his fee.[10]


Box Office

Light Up the Sky! earned Bryanston a small profit of £4,466.[10]

Critical reception

The Guardian called Light Up the Sky! "small, sensible and somehow touching film with a whiff of authenticity about it".[11] The Radio Times dismissed it as a "hackneyed theatrical hand-me-down".[12] Eleanor Mannikka at Allmovie called it an "unexceptional comedy".[13] TV Guide called it "pointless", but noted that "Comedian Hill exhibits the form that would later make him a popular television star in both the UK and US" and admitted to finding the film "occasionally amusing".[14] Film Threat called it "A great little wartime drama" and asked "Why isn't this gem better known?"[15] Film reviewer Peter Burnett noted that "for British nostalgia fans and cineastes in general, it will be a fabulous treat".[16]



  1. Victor Maddern and Harry Locke play the roles they played on stage.[9]


  1. "Releases: 'Light Up the Sky!'." British Board of Film Classification (}, 2019.
  2. Petrie, Duncan James. "Bryanston Films: An experiment in cooperative independent production and distribution." Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 2017, p. 7. ISSN 1465-3451.
  3. " Reviiew: 'Light up the Sky!' (1960).", 2019.
  4. "Li, p. 114.
  5. "Synopsis: 'Light Up the Sky!'." Moviefone, 4 April 2012.
  6. Reid 2006, p. 146.
  7. "Production of Touch It Light." Theatricalia (
  8. Author's genuine sentiment"'Touch it Light'." The Guardian, 9 September 1959, p. 5.
  9. Nepean, Edith. "Review: 'Light Up The Sky!'." Picture Show; London, 26 March 26, 1960. p. 6.
  10. Petrie 2017, p. 8
  11. "Our Film Critic: A case of bigotry." The Guardian, 9 July 1960, p. 3.
  12. Parkinson, David. "Review: 'Light Up the Sky!'." Radio Times, 2019. Retrieved: 12 May 2019.
  13. Mannikka, Eleanor. 'Synopsis, Characteristics, Moods, Themes and Related: 'Light Up the Sky!' (1960) - Lewis Gilbert." AllMovie, 2019.
  14. "Review: 'Light Up The Sky!.", 2019.
  15. "Why isn't this gem better known?" Rotten Tomatoes, 2019.
  16. Burnett, Peter. "Review: 'Light up the Sky!' (1960).", 2019


  • Reid, John Howard. America's Best, Britain's Finest: A Survey of Mixed Movies. Morrisville, North Carolina:, 2006. ISBN 978-1-41167-877-4.
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