Thursday, November 11, 2010


It's the one about the nice-guy pilot who is sweet but passive and nondescript, the hot-dogger pilot who is exciting but irresponsible, and the girl caught between them. This variation begins in the skies over France in WWI; when pilot James Murray's buddy Bob is shot down, Murray guns down his killer. Years later, Murray is a grandstanding pilot who is in the midst of developing a plane with retractable wings which would enable a pilot to use less fuel and fly non-stop from Seattle to Tokyo. The nice-guy pilot, Arthur Pierson, works for TWA and, along with the entire flight and ground crew, keeps an eye on Bob's grown-up daughter (Evalyn Knapp), who works as an air hostess; in an early scene, the guys gang up on a handsome new pilot (pictured) who asks her out on a date and scare him away. To her credit, Knapp is getting tired of their paternal interest, and when Murray flirts with her, she runs off on an overnight trip with him. Of course, this being the movies, the next day, the two announce their engagement. Once they're married, she quits her job, but Murray, who has taken to drink, struggles to make ends meet as he keeps working on his plane. She gets her hostess job back and he finds a financial backer in the person of rich socialite Thelma Todd. Murray sleeps with Todd, and Knapp takes platonic comfort from Pierson, but when a train Knapp is on winds up in danger, the two pilots team up to save her.

This B-picture from Columbia is nothing special, though the air combat footage at the beginning and the planes/train incident at the end are both thrilling. The acting is a problem. Murray, promising star of the silent classic THE CROWD, looks like a less well-groomed Dick Powell; he's fine in the role, but his career, derailed by his drinking, would only last three more years before his untimely death at the age of 35. Knapp tries to be Joan Blondell but she's shrill and exasperating. Pierson has no charisma and practically evaporates onscreen. Todd, another doomed actress, is good as the sexy siren, and Jane Darwell and J.M. Kerrigan are fine as Knapp’s guardians. [TCM]

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