Directed by David Lean and written by Terence Rattigan, The Sound Barrier is about the men who challenged the speed of sound, told from the viewpoint of central character, Sir John Ridgefield (Ralph Richardson).
The oil tycoon and aircraft constructor is determined to manufacture a supersonic jet that will travel faster than the speed of sound. Ridgefield’s desire to reach this goal has already led to the death of his test pilot son (Denholm Elliott), and his daughter Susan’s (Ann Todd) fighter-pilot husband (Nigel Patrick).
Shocked by the death of her husband and her father’s disregard for human life in his single-minded determination to achieve his goal, Susan walks out on him. Unperturbed, Ridgefield approaches another pilot with the challenge of piloting his test craft. The film marked a departure from the domestic or literary concerns which had characterized the Lean’s work to date, and Its heroics pre-empted his later films The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
BFI inerview with David Lean
Interview with Terence Rattigan's biographer, Geoffrey Wansell