Charles Lindbergh was an American icon between the two World Wars, a dashing aviator who made history with the first trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927. Thirty years later, Hollywood snatched up his autobiography and cast James Stewart, himself an icon of American heroism, in the lead role. The film might have been formulaic if not for the combined writing and directorial talents of Billy Wilder, the eccentric Hollywood filmmaker who provided the Lindbergh character with quirky, soul-searching dialogue during the long stretches in which he is alone on his journey. The Spirit of St. Louis is fascinating not just as Americana but as an example of how even the most familiar and pedestrian story can be given a special flavor. Unfortunately, the film nose-dived at the box office; it probably should have been made a decade or two earlier, when Lindbergh's feat seemed more fascinating.