|Conflict of Wings|
Original lobby card
|Directed by||John Eldridge|
|Produced by||Herbert Mason|
|Written by||John Pudney|
|Based on||novel by Don Sharp|
|Music by||Philip Green|
|Cinematography||Arthur Grant |
|Edited by||Lito Carruthers|
Group 3 Films
|Distributed by||British Lion|
Conflict of Wings (aka Fuss Over Feathers) is a 1954 British comedy-drama film directed by John Eldridge and starring John Gregson, Muriel Pavlow and Kieron Moore. The film is based on a novel by Don Sharp.Conflict of Wings was one of the rare British aviation films that focused on the ground crew as opposed to aircrew. 
A small Norfolk village is outraged when it is discovered that the Ministry of Land Acquisition proposes to take over the nearby Island of Children, a bird sanctuary, for the RAF to use as an air firing range. A struggle of wills begins between the authorities and the villagers, who resort to a variety of ways to prevent damage to the historic island. Harry Tilney (Niall MacGinnis) is all for taking on the government, but his compatriot, Sally (Muriel Pavlow) has a boyfriend stationed at the nearby Royal Air Force base, Corporal Bill Morris (John Gregson), so she goes to see him first.
Meanwhile, Squadron Leader Parsons (Kieron Moore) is informed that his unit's mission is being changed to ground attack. The de Havilland Vampire jets have to be modified to mount rockets. Parsons is informed he will have three weeks for the conversion, then four weeks to get his men trained. His commanding officer is not at liberty to inform him that the unit will then be sent overseas, but he takes the hint.
The land acquisition is assigned to a bureaucrat, Mr. Wentworth (William Mervyn), which is rather awkward for him, as he is a prominent member of a bird watching society. He comes to discuss the situation with Harry, but Harry is drunk and drives him away. The villagers then learn that fishing rights to the area were granted to the people by Henry VIII. "Soapy" (Bartlett Mullins), the professional eel catcher, can squat on the land and use those rights to block the acquisition. However, Soapy receives a letter from the government stating that there is no evidence that such rights exist.
"Bookie" (Charles Lloyd-Pack) then discovers that the land was given to the Church by Henry VIII for assistance in quelling a rebellion. The villagers present this information to Parsons. He agrees to pass it along to the Government, but in the meantime he insists on continuing with the training.
In desperation, the local people take to their boats and sail to the island, to occupy the target area and prevent the first attack run. However, the field telephone wire is broken as they come ashore, meaning the RAF controller on the range cannot get a message through to have the flight cancelled. Low cloud cover conceals the site from the approaching aircraft, which commence their attack run, but fortunately the protestors are spotted by the leading aircraft and the attack is aborted just in time to avoid a disaster.
The near miss means that there will have to be an official inquiry, which will take months or a year, by which time the unit will have been sent to Malaya.
Conflict of Wings was based on the first novel by Don Sharp. A reviewer from the Sydney Morning Herald described it as follows:
This reviewer's guess is that the story began as a film scenario, which could explain the precise, illustrative, uninspired style of the novel. Tasmanian-born Don Sharp has been in turn actor, broadcaster and film producer; and a background of that kind rarely favours the novel form. One sees its influence in sentences such as: "The villagers greeted Sally conventionally"-a playwright's note of guidance to a producer, rather than a novelist's picture of a scene ... Behind the quietly amusing account of this controversy [the storyline] is the larger question whether English tradition must bow before the needs of national security, and Don Sharp debates it with intelligent sympathy. But the novel suffers because his characters are wooden and shaped to convenient patterns. It is as if they require to be brought to life by good actors in one of those rural settings which English film producers contrive so well.
Conflict of Wings was originally called The Norfolk Story, and under this working title, the film was shot at Beaconsfield Film Studios, on location in Norfolk and in East Yorkshire at the Central Gunnery School, RAF Leconfield.[N 2] The aircraft in the film included:
Conflict of Wings was re-titled for the American market as Fuss Over Feathers.
In contemporary reviews of Conflict of Wings, the film generally received good reviews, and most of them were decidedly in favour of the RAF's position on the contretemps, and not so much the view of the villagers in protecting their bird sanctuary. "Virginia Graham of the 'Spectator' (02/04/54) wrote: "People who appreciate the calm, embellished with a little bird song, deserve our sympathy, of course, but the times are changing and it is only in the shelter of aluminum wings that England can build its nest. Good example of Anglo-Saxon pragmatism!"
Aviation film historian Michael Paris in From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema (1995) described Conflict of Wings as reflecting the "international tensions of the 1950s". Paris goes on to describe how the threat to a natural sanctuary would "raise some interesting issues ..." especially when national defence was involved.