Follow TV Tropes


Characters / Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines

Go To

Character sheet for Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.

    open/close all folders 

Rawnsley family

    Lord Rawnsley
"The trouble with these international affairs is that they attract foreigners."

Played by: Robert Morley

A British newspaper magnate who owns the Daily Post in the 1910s, and the father of Patricia. He offers £10,000 (around £1,300,000 in today's money) to the winner of an air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain is "number one in the air".

  • Blue Blood: He's a Lord.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: He forbids Patricia to fly, and being The Patriarch, he's certainly not the kind to take her secret suffragette activities very well.
  • Overprotective Dad: He absolutely forbids his daughter from riding in a plane, getting angry at anyone who even suggests it. Considering how primitive — and dangerous — planes were at this time, it's hard to blame him here.
  • Patriotic Fervor: He organizes the air race because he wants to prove the superiority of Britain in the air, and wants Richard to win to do so. Which is somewhat strange considering Richard pilots a Antoinette IV, which is a French plane.

    Patricia Rawnsley

Played by: Sarah Miles

The daughter of Lord Rawnsley. She dreams of flying, and the big race her father organizes is the ideal occasion for her to do so, since her almost-fiancé Richard Mays is too afraid of her father to grant her this.

  • Beehive Hairdo: She sports the Edwardian era variant of such a big hairdo at the beginning, when accompanying Richard to see her father and when the race is decided upon.
  • Clothing Damage: Played for Laughs. She loses her skirt twice due to Orvil's antics.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: Save for her onscreen introduction, she's clad in a veritable cornucopia of elegant Edwardian Era fashions.
  • Proper Lady: Her father wants her to be one and she puts on the act in public, but deep down she wishes she was more of a Lady of Adventure.
  • Rebellious Spirit: She doesn't care about what her father thinks of her dreams to fly, and wants to fulfill them at any cost. She has a secret hideout on her father's estate, in which she hides her motorcycle, suffragette posters and photos, as well as her tomboy clothes.
  • The Suffragette: Considering the "Give Women the Vote" poster she has in her secret hideout.

Air race competitors

    Richard Mays

Played by: James Fox

A young British army officer and pilot, and (in her father's eyes) Patricia's fiancé.

  • Ambiguously Gay: He's oddly hesitant to marry Patricia despite her being attractive, intelligent, upper class, and interested in him. He also notes how handsome Orvil is before Patricia... while talking to Patricia. He doesn't mind her getting with Orvil at the end in the slightest.
  • Cool Plane: He pilots a French monoplane, the Antoinette IV.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: He doesn't take Orvil's more and more obvious flirtations with Patricia very well until the race starts.
  • Disposable Fiancé: He gradually emerges as one for Patricia.
  • Grease Monkey: He works on fixing/maintaining his plane by himself, although he wears a smock doing so, unlike Orvil.
  • Innocent Innuendo: He would like to take Patricia "up". Her father is okay with that... until Mays reveals that he means physically flying with her in his plane.
  • The Rival: A rivalry between him and Orvil Newton erupts the second Patricia takes interest in Orvil for the latter can be the one who will take her in the sky.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: He's a classic stoic British officer.
  • Worthy Opponent: He and Orvil eventually develop respect for each other after fighting over Patricia.

    Orvil Newton

Played by: Stuart Whitman

A rugged and cowboy-ish American aviator.

  • Cool Plane: He pilots a (British-made) Bristol Boxkite biplane (inaccurately referred to as a "Curtiss"), which he named The Phoenix Flyer.
  • Cowboy: He surely has the attire, hat and denim wear included.
  • Grease Monkey: Having no mechanics, he fixes/maintains his plane all by himself, but doesn't wear anything to protect his casual clothes unlike the smock-wearing Richard.
  • Nice Guy: He has rugged looks, but he's a nice, helpful and even heroic fellow overall. Case in point, he always jumps in to help whenever another pilot is in danger.
  • Nice Hat: His white cowboy hat.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: He is named after both flight pioneer Orville Wright and physicist Isaac Newton (who's mentioned in the film's Theme Tune).
  • The Rival: A rivalry between him and Richard Mays erupts the second Patricia takes interest in Orvil for he can be the one who will take her in the sky.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: He ends up letting Richard win the race as he takes it upon himself to save the life of Emilio Ponticelli in mid-air. The resulting cheering he gets from the crowd for this heroic and selfless action overshadows Richard's victory, although the latter takes this well and even shares the prize with Orvil. Then there's the cherry on the cake: he ends up winning Patricia's heart.
  • Worthy Opponent: He and Richard eventually develop respect for each other after fighting over Patricia.

    Sir Percy Ware-Armitage

Played by: Terry-Thomas

A dastardly and sneaky British aviator who wants to win the race at all cost, and that includes cheating his way and sabotaging other competitors.

  • Bad Boss: He treats his henchman Courtney like dirt.
  • Butt-Monkey: Quite a lot of unpleasant shit falls upon him before the race even begins (and literal shit too when he ends up crashing in the sewage farm).
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: He does everything he can to sabotage the race to his own profit, and his plane ends up wrecked after landing on a train that entered a tunnel.
  • Cool Plane: He flies on a Avro Roe IV triplane.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: He is gleefully representative of this trope with his cowardly cheating schemes and mustache.
  • Dirty Coward: He has so little confidence in his flying skills that he arranges for his plane to be secretely ferried across the Channel in the night while the other aviators are sleeping, with the race reprising the next morning.
  • Evil Brit: As British as he's wicked.
  • Jerkass: Quite an unpleasant fellow overall, treating most people, and his henchman Courtney above all, with disdain.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A large part of the unpleasant things happening to him are a direct result of his jerkassery and cheating schemes.

    Oberst (Colonel) Manfred von Holstein
"There is nothing a German officer cannot do."

Played by: Gert Fröbe

A by-the-book Prussian officer who's in charge of the German team.

  • A Cappella: Has the strange habit of beat-boxing a brass and drum fanfare that plays "Berliner Luft", one of the music pieces that was the most associated with Berlin in the first half of the 20th century.
  • Blue Blood: His surname starts with "von" and at one point, he is referred to as a baron.
  • But I Read a Book About It: Von Holstein believes a German soldier can do anything as long as there's a manual for it. Eventually, he attempts to teach himself how to fly by reading the German Army handbook on piloting while he is flying. He does surprisingly well... until he drops the book.
  • Butt-Monkey: Between the French pilot's pranks, bad luck and lack of foresight due to always following the manual of instructions, he ends up in embarrassing situations more than once.
  • Cool Plane: He ends up flying on a British Billing Tractor biplane for the race.
  • Fat Comic Relief: He is overweight, and some gags play on this.
  • Flag Swimwear: When going at the beach in Dover, his swimsuit has Imperial Germany's flag's colors (black, white and red).
  • Germanic Efficiency: Spoofed with his over-reliance on the manual of instructions. Following the manual of instructions and nothing else leads to much trouble for the Germans during the test/training phase before the race.
  • High-Class Glass: He always wears a monocle.
  • Kaiserreich: Serving the Kaiser? Check. Monocle? Check. Pointy helmet? Check. Upward-pointing mustache? Check. Prides himself in Germanic Efficiency? Check. Rivalry with those pesky French? Check. Brass and drum fanfare marching? Check — it's not physically there, so he beat-boxes it instead.
  • Large and in Charge: He is quite overweight, and Rumpelstoss and the soldiers/mechanics follow his orders.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: He's supposed to be Prussian, but Gert Fröbe couldn't disguise his Saxon accent. Nobody minded.

    Captain Rumpelstoss
"But... how will I learn to fly?!"

Played by: Karl Michael Vogler

Von Holstein's aide and the designated aviator to represent Germany in the race.

  • Artistic License – Awards: Rumpelstoss is shown wearing the Iron Cross, Germany's most iconic military decoration. However, he's visibly too young to have served in the Franco-Prussian War, the last time it was awarded prior to World War I.
  • Flag Swimwear: When accompanying von Holstein at the beach in Dover, his swimsuit is adorned with the Prussian eagle.
  • High-Class Glass: He has a monocle just like von Holstein.
  • The Klutz: He's pretty clumsy in his handling of planes, although it's entirely due to von Holstein appointing him as pilot to represent Germany in the race despite the fact that he has zero experience of planes to begin with, and the sacrosanct manual of instructions doesn't help a lot.
  • Oh, Crap!: Has such an expression on this face when von Holstein designates him on the spot without discussion to fly at the race, as he doesn't know how to pilot a plane.
    • He also gets several of them as his plane becomes uncontrollable on the ground after losing its tail and nearly crashes into other planes.
  • Potty Emergency: Has one as a result of Sir Percy Ware-Armitage's Laxative Prank, which takes him out of the race and forces von Holstein to pilot the plane instead.
  • Yes-Man: He's basically this to von Holstein, never discussing the latter's orders no matter how stupid they can end up being and being his clumsy military subordinate.

    Pierre Dubois

Played by: Jean-Pierre Cassel

A Frenchman who's as interested in aviation as he's an insatiable skirt-chaser.

  • The Casanova: He always bumps into ladies of different nationalities who somehow have all the same face (that of actress Irina Demick, who played them all as a Running Gag). And bar the painter's model (Did They or Didn't They? might be at play here), he always ends up seducing them.
  • Cool Plane: He always pilots a Santos-Dumont Demoiselle No. 20 monoplane. It is notable for having the pilot's seat below the wing.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: He can't resist the sight of a gorgeous woman, which nearly kills him when he's introduced flying over a beach and being too busy getting an eyeful at a painter's nude model on said beach to notice the bushy dune he's flying straight into.
  • The Prankster: He's rather playful and prone to prank others just for fun.
    • Being French and this being the heyday of revanchism right before World War I, he and his buddy can't resist pranking the German team several times in a row.
    • He also messes a bit with fire chief Perkins by grazing the firemen's tower with his plane.

    Count Emilio Ponticelli
"It is a pity that the race will now be won by a Protestant..."

Played by: Alberto Sordi

A boisterous and proud Italian count and aviator, and one of Italy's richest men.

  • 10-Minute Retirement: After yet another crash in a test flight in Italy, he promises his wife that he's done with flying and faints. Then news come at him about the race, and it's enough to wake him up and change his mind, much to his wife's chagrin, then he promises her that he will stop after winning the race. Although he doesn't win the race, he makes good on his promise to call it quits eventually, after his life is saved by Orvil in the sky of Paris.
  • Blue Blood: He's a count.
  • Catch Phrase: First-A Class-A!
  • Cool Plane: He ends up choosing a (British-made) Vickers 22 monoplane for the race after testing a series of failed plane prototypes conceived by Harry Popperwell.
  • The Patriarch: He brought his big family — wife and children — along in Great Britain.
  • Pride: He thinks highly of himself and can't stand having his flight training time slot scheduled after the French team.
  • Rambunctious Italian: Mild example. He's quite a loudmouth, he's a devout Catholic and he's prone to make a scene if things don't go his way, but he's not a jerkass.


Played by: Yujiro Ishihara (voiced by James Villiers)

A Japanese aviator.

  • Cool Plane: He flies on a Billing Tractor biplane that's adorned with Japanese dragons.
  • Japanese Politeness: A rather unusual example as it's usually used for more modern settings than the 1910s.
  • Kite Riding: When we first see him in Japan, he is strapped to a kite and has to be pulled back on the ground to check the news about the air race.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: He is voiced by James Villiers with a perfect Etonian accent.
  • Only One Name: He is never addressed as anything else than "Yamamoto".
  • Same Language Dub: Yujiro Ishihara was dubbed by English actor James Villiers. This is a bit of a surprise since Ishihara spoke Surprisingly Good English.
  • Seppuku: Subverted. When his plane gets destroyed on the starting line due to sabotaging by Courtney on Sir Percy's orders, Yamamoto asks for a knife. The man who hands him the knife starts to believe he wants to commit Seppuku... but then Yamamoto makes it clear it's just so he can free himself from the wreckage's cables.
  • Token Minority: He's the only non-white competitor in the race.

    Harry Popperwell

Played by: Tony Hancock

A British aviator and bungling aircraft designer.

  • Bungling Inventor: He invented plane designs and Emilio Ponticelli tries them. Ponticelli ends up crashing crashing most of them due to them being failed designs. The one exception that did work is the plane Dubois and von Holstein accidentally shot down when Ponticelli flew between them during their air balloon duel.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: He invents bizarre plane designs that don't work and seems oblivious to this fact until he sees Ponticelli crashing them. He ends up flying backwards all the way to Scotland during the race and doesn't seem to notice.
  • Cool Plane: His Dixon Nipper, which he named The Little Fiddler.
  • Honest John's Dealership: He tries selling some of his failed plane designs to Emilio Ponticelli and convinces the latter to try them, although he really does believe they work.


Played by: Gordon Jackson

A Scottish aviator.

  • Bit Character: He isn't one of the main characters, has only a couple of lines and doesn't do anything special.
  • Cool Plane: He flies on a Blackburn monoplane he nicknamed Wake up Scotland.
  • Man in a Kilt: He wears a kilt all the time.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: He is shown making it to Dover, but he is not shown at Calais. Either he crashed on takeoff or landed in the English Channel, but he is the only named aviator whose result in the race is not shown.



Played by: Eric Sykes

The driver and henchman of Sir Percy Ware-Armitage. He helps his boss in his cheating/sabotaging schemes against the other competitors of the race.


Played by: David Kaye

The chief mechanic of Pierre Dubois and his prank partner.

  • Nice Hat: Wears a straw boater when on the beach at Dover.
  • The Prankster: He is Dubois' partner-in-crime for the pranks they do to the Germans.
  • Sidekick: He seems to be Dubois' best bud, and partners with him in his pranks against the Germans.

    Fire Chief Perkins
"Leave my fire engine alone!"

Played by: Benny Hill

The chief of the firemen brigade that's stationed near the training airfields in case of emergency.

  • Cool Helmet: He and his men wear Merryweather brass parade fire helmets.
  • Emergency Services: He's stationed near the airfields in case there are accidents during the training phase before the race. And sure enough, these happen.

    Brigitte / Ingrid / Marlene / Françoise / Yvette / Betty 

Played by: Irina Demick (all of them)

Women Pierre Dubois bumps into and feels the irresistible need to seduce. They all have the same face (since they were all played by the same actress), which confuses him.

  • Head-Turning Beauty: They're very attractive, and a skirt-chaser supreme like Pierre Dubois can't resist the sight of them.
  • Identical Stranger: They all have the same face, for they were all played by the same actress.
  • Modesty Towel: Brigitte covers herself with a towel when Pierre Dubois flys over her and the painter she's the model of.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Brigitte is a nude model for a painter. It's no wonder Dubois forgets about piloting his plane when seeing her and crashes into a bushy dune.
  • Running Gag: They were all played by Irina Demick, and as such they all have the same face and Dubois keeps confusing their names.
  • Shout-Out: Some of them have names that are evocative of famous movie actresses that fit their nationality.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: