Saturday, August 11, 2012

Night Flight

Saturday August 11, 10:05 a.m.

I was doing some channel surfing on the TV last night when I realized that I hadn't checked in on Turner Classics for some weeks. I did so, and came across this movie called "Night Flight" which had been released in 1933. The information button revealed it starred Lionel Barrymore and Helen Hayes, but I later found it was actually a lot more chock-filled with stars. I was looking at  the brave but doomed pilot of this embryonic air service in South America, and in fact, he was played by Clark Gable, several years before he became Rhett Butler. There was one more Barrymore, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy in it as well. The story struck me as being it usually was back in those days.....intrepid biplane aces getting mail and parcels through treacherous conditions, including a cyclone, while a taskmaster of a boss sends them off no matter what the situation so that the company reaps the rewards. One interesting thing I got from "Night Flight" was about that ruthless president....for such an old movie, his character was pretty darn complex. He was a hard SOB but on losing two of his pilots, he almost lost it in front of one widow; however, in the end, he was back to form...sternly if now a bit guiltily resigned to the fact that there will be deaths on his watch.

But what I also learned when I started looking up "Night Flight" on Wikipedia was that my viewing of the movie was the first time that anyone had seen the movie in 70 years! It did look pretty clean to me when I first switched it on, so my first impression had been that the movie was made far later. Outside of a 2011 festival sponsored by TCM, it hadn't seen the light of day. Putting that impressive point aside though, I didn't particularly find the movie all that remarkable (although future viewings may change my mind). However, I was struck at how the director or cinematographer used light and shadow to create the drama....and this was 1933, some years before "The Maltese Falcon" with Bogie came out.