Always (1989 film)


Theatrical release poster by John Alvin
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Steven Spielberg
Kathleen Kennedy
Frank Marshall
Written by Jerry Belson
Diane Thomas
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Mikael Salomon
Edited by Michael Kahn
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • December 22, 1989 (1989-12-22)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Box office $74.1 million[1]

Always is a 1989 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, John Goodman, introducing Brad Johnson and featuring Audrey Hepburn's cameo in her final film appearance. The film was distributed by United Artists.

Always is a remake of the 1943 romantic drama A Guy Named Joe, although Spielberg did not treat the film as a direct scene-by-scene repeat of the earlier World War II melodrama. The main departure in plot is altering the action to that of a modern aerial firefighting operation.[2] The film, however, follows the same basic plot line: the spirit of a recently dead expert pilot mentors a newer pilot, while watching him fall in love with his surviving girlfriend.[3] The names of the four principal characters of the earlier film are all the same, with the exception of the Ted Randall character, who is called Ted "Baker" in the remake and Pete's last name is "Sandich", instead of "Sandidge".


Pete Sandich (Dreyfuss) is an aerial firefighter, flying a war-surplus A-26 bomber dropping fire retardant slurry to put out forest wildfires. His excessive risk taking in the air deeply troubles his girlfriend, Dorinda Durston (Hunter), a pilot who doubles as a dispatcher, and is also of concern to his best friend, Al Yackey (Goodman), a fellow fighter. On one flight, Pete, though running low on fuel, decides to make one extra drop and barely manages to glide onto the runway.

Pete shrugs off his brush with death, though Dorinda is upset. Although Dorinda and Pete fight, it's clear there's deep love between them. Pete surprises Dorinda with a stunning white dress for her birthday, although it turns out to be the wrong day. Irate at first, she eventually puts on the dress anyway, and the couple dance to their song, "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". Dorinda tells Pete she loves him, and begs him to say the words, but he never does.

Al sits Pete down for a beer and likens their situation to wartime England (Quonset huts, warm beer, and hotshot pilots flying bombers) in order to emphasize the key difference: "Pete, there ain't no war here. And this is why you're not exactly a hero for taking these chances you take." Al suggests Pete take a safer job that has just opened up, training firefighting pilots in Flat Rock, Colorado. Pete flatly refuses to consider it. However, that night, Dorinda gives Pete an ultimatum: take the instructor job in Colorado, and she'll come along and be his girl, or she's leaving the next day to take another job herself. Pete tells Dorinda that firefighting is what he loves, and he can't give it up. Dorinda breaks down, and tells Pete that she can't take the worry anymore, not knowing if Pete is ever going to come back every time he goes out. Moved, Pete tells Dorinda he'll take the job and they can be together in Colorado.

Al calls Pete, desperate for someone to help - he's missing two pilots and the ground crew needs help with putting out the fires. Dorinda joins Pete as he gets into the plane, to tell him she loves him. As she's walking away, he yells "I LOVE YOU!" to Dorinda, but she can't hear him over the engine roar.

While on a run, Al's Catalina water bomber hits a burning tree and an engine catches fire. When Al's fire suppression equipment fails to put it out, it looks like he is doomed. In desperation, Pete makes a dangerously steep dive to skillfully douse the engine with slurry. He saves Al, but in trying to recover from his dive, his bomber flies through the forest fire. Pete manages to pull up and climb back up to a safe altitude beside Al, but a small engine fire spreads to his fuel tank, and his aircraft explodes.

We see Pete walking through a charred forest, seemingly unscathed. He is greeted by a woman in white who introduces herself as "Hap." Hap (Audrey Hepburn), gently helps Pete realize he's dead (while cutting his hair). She also explains Pete's new role: to provide Spiritus ("the divine breath") to others when they need it. She reminds Pete of times in his life where he performed things he should have had no idea how to do. He was being guided, as he must now guide. As she puts it, “They hear you inside their own minds as if it were their thoughts.”

Six months have elapsed in the real world. Al has gone to Colorado to become a flight instructor. Pete is assigned to guide a new firefighting pilot, Ted Baker (Johnson). Ted goes to Al's school to train. On a flight, Al recognizes Dorinda's voice as a flight air controller, and they meet up. Al convinces Dorinda to return with him to Colorado, so they can at least mourn Pete together. To Pete's anguish, Ted falls in love with Dorinda, and she begins to respond and recover from her mourning. Pete selfishly tries to sabotage the growing relationship. The next day, Pete wakes up, back in the forest with Hap. She reminds him his life is over, and also he was sent back not just to inspire Ted, but to say good-bye to Dorinda.

Ted, with Pete's inspiration, puts together an extremely dangerous mission to rescue a ground crew of firefighters surrounded by flames. Unable to bear the thought of losing another loved one, Dorinda steals Ted's aircraft to do the job herself. Pete, unseen to Dorinda, tries to talk her down, but she won't listen. Dorinda completes the dangerous task, with Pete's unseen help. On the way back, he tells her all the things he wanted to say, but never got around to while he was alive.

Dorinda is forced to make an emergency water landing on the lake. As the aircraft sinks into the lake and the cabin fills with water, Dorinda decides to let the water overtake her. Suddenly Pete appears before her, extending his hand. She takes his hand and they swim to the surface. Dorinda wades ashore and walks back to the base. Pete releases Dorinda's heart, so that Ted can take his place, saying, “That's my girl … and that's my boy.” Dorinda is met on the road by a group of trucks, and Al and Ted.

As Dorinda and Ted embrace, Pete smiles and walks the other way down the runway to take his place in Heaven.


As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):[4]


During production, Spielberg confided that while making Jaws in 1974, he and Dreyfuss had traded quips from A Guy Named Joe, considered a "classic" war film, that they both wanted to remake.[5][Note 1] As an "inside joke," a clip from "A Guy Named Joe" is included in a scene in Poltergeist,[3] which Spielberg had produced. Dreyfuss had seen the 1943 melodrama "at least 35 times."[5] For Spielberg, who recalled seeing it as a child late at night, "it was one of the films that inspired him to become a movie director,"[5] creating an emotional connection to the times that his father, a wartime air force veteran had lived through.[7][8] The two friends quoted individual shots from the film to each other and when the opportunity arose, years later, were resolved to recreate the wartime fantasy.[Note 2]

Principal photography began on May 15, 1989. Production took place in Kootenai National Forest, Montana, with some scenes filmed in and around Libby, Montana. Some 500 people from nearby Libby were recruited for the film as extras to act as wildland firefighters. The scenes where the plane flies over the lake at the beginning and lands in the lake at the end of the movie was filmed at Bull Lake. The scenes set in "Flat Rock, Colorado" were filmed at and around the Ephrata airport in eastern Washington. The scene where Pete and Hap are walking through the wheat field was filmed at Sprague, Washington where they spent two weeks filming in June. Footage of The Yellowstone National Park's 1988 fires was used for the fire sequences. Sound stages were also used at Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California. Production wrapped in August 1989.

Always was the last film in which Audrey Hepburn appeared. After the film, she continued her work for UNICEF and died of cancer in 1993.[10]

Aircraft used

Two Douglas A-26 Invader fire bombers (Douglas B-26C Invader No. 57][11] and Douglas TB-26C Invader No. 59[12]) were prominently featured in Always.[13] The flying for the film was performed by well-known film pilot Steve Hinton[14] and Dennis Lynch,[15] the owner of the A-26s.[Note 3]

A number of other aircraft also appeared in Always: Aeronca 7AC Champion, Bellanca 8KCAB Super Decathlon, Beechcraft Model 18, Cessna 337 Super Skymaster, Cessna 340, Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina, de Havilland Canada DHC-6-300 Twin Otter, Douglas C-54 Skymaster, Fairchild C-119C Flying Boxcar, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and North American B-25J Mitchell. Two helicopters were also seen: Bell 206 JetRanger and Bell UH-1B Iroquois.


Always opened at #5 at that week's box office, grossing $3,713,480, competing with Christmas Vacation, Tango & Cash (opening the same weekend), The War of the Roses and Back to the Future Part II. Although now considered only a modest financial success when compared to other Spielberg ventures, the film brought back returns grossing $43,858,790 in the U.S. and $30,276,000 on foreign territories, for a $74,134,790 worldwide total.[17]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times considered it "dated" and more of a "curiosity," calling it Spielberg's "weakest film since his comedy 1941".[5] Variety gave it a more generous review: "Always is a relatively small scale, engagingly casual, somewhat silly, but always entertaining fantasy."[18] The film received a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[19]

Awards and nominations

Always was nominated in 1991 for the Saturn Award as Best Fantasy Film, while Jerry Belson was nominated for the Best Writing category of the award at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (USA). A number of critics have now considered the film as the progenitor of a new crop of "ghost" genre films, including Ghost (1990).[20][21]

Popular songs in the movie

See also



  1. Originally intended to be an MGM project, the film underwent a protracted 10-year gestation, with Tom Cruise reputedly being considered for the Ted Baker role.[6]
  2. A noticeably frail Audrey Hepburn appeared in Always in her last film role. Her cameo was an opportunity to raise money for her favourite cause; much of Hepburn's one million dollar plus salary was donated to UNICEF.[9]
  3. A combination of aerial photography, rear projection and models was used to create the aerial sequences.[16]


  1. 1 2 "Always". Accessed 26 February 2016.
  2. Evans 2000, p. 97.
  3. 1 2 " 'Always' (1989)." Retrieved: December 27, 2010.
  4. "Always (1989) Full credits." IMDb.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Ebert, Roger. " 'Always' review" Chicago Sun Times, December 22, 1989.
  6. Freer 2001, p. 183.
  7. "Steven Spielberg as a Role Model.", 2007. Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  8. "Steven Spielberg." Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  9. Walker 1997, p. 271.
  10. Woodward 2010, pp. 361, 390.
  11. "N9425Z." Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  12. "N4818Z." Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  13. Farmer 1990, p. 35.
  14. "Filmography - Steve Hinton." IMDB. Retrieved: March 13, 2007.
  15. "Filmography - Dennis Lynch." IMDB. Retrieved: March 13, 2007.
  16. Freer 2001, p. 186.
  17. Kurtz, Andy. "Directors Hall of Fame.", February 5, 2007. Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  18. " 'Always' (1989) Review." Variety. Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  19. "Always (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  20. Jacobson, Colin. " 'Always' 1989 Review." Retrieved: December 5, 2009.
  21. " 'Always' (1989)." Retrieved: December 5, 2009.


  • Crawley, Tony. The Steven Spielberg Story. New York: William Morrow, 1983. ISBN 0-688-02510-2.
  • Dolan, Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
  • Evans, Alun. Brassey's Guide to War Films. Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2000. ISBN 1-57488-263-5.
  • Farmer, James H. "The Making of Always." Air Classics, Volume 26, No. 2, February 1990.
  • Freer, Ian. The Complete Spielberg. New York: Virgin Books, 2001. ISBN 0-7535-0556-8.
  • Sinyard, Neil. The Films of Steven Spielberg. London: Bison Books, 1986. ISBN 0-86124-352-8.
  • Walker, Alexander. Audrey: Her Real Story. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997. ISBN 978-0-31218-046-1.
  • Woodward, Ian. Audrey Hepburn: Fair Lady of the Screen. London: Virgin Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8636-9741-8.

External links

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