In the first scene we learn that John Wayne is the World's Greatest Pilot...until he accidentally kills his wife and kid in a plane wreck. D'oh! Then we're painfully introduced to all of the passengers. It's awesome. You got the old slut, the dorky couple, the super-in-love newlyweds, the drunk scientist and a bunch more. They're all great. After an eternity, the plane takes off from Hawaii to California. Many minutes of wonderfully painful overly sentimental back stories are then told about all of the passengers until you just want vomit with glee. I loved every cheesy second of it. Suddenly, one of the engines explodes and punctures a gas tank! Do they have enough fuel to make it to land or are they gonna have to ditch it in the drink?!
Maybe this was considered serious stuff back in 1954, but it hasn't aged well at all. Let me give you an example: right before the engine conks out, Sidney Blackmer stands up in front of everybody and confronts another man about banging his wife, he then pulls out a gun and threatens to kill the other dude! One of the passengers (John Qualen) jumps Blackmer and disarms him. A little while later he apologizes to Qualen, so he gives his gun back!
If you like campy films as much as I do then you should watch THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. It's a blast! Six Academy Award nominations and one win (Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture - Dimitri Tiomkin), a 147-minute runtime that flies by, seriously impressive cast and crew that you could research for hours, one of Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez's first film roles, amazingly painful dialogue that I love, John Wayne as a Producer, Wally Brown looking a lot like Wallace Ford (at least to me).
Also, I'm no film historian, but I'm pretty sure that this film, the AIRPORT films and ZERO HOUR! were the main inspirations for AIRPLANE!
I guess they spelled "missile" differently back in 1954.