Night Flight

Night Flight

Director: Clarence Brown

Cast: Clarence Brown, John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable

     
 

This suspense drama was based on a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Riviere (John Barrymore), who operates an air delivery service, is fanatical in his dedication to service, putting prompt delivery before the safety of his men or his fleet after receiving a contract to help transport the mail. Riviere's risk-taking earns him the contempt of his pilots, including… See more details below

Overview

This suspense drama was based on a novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Riviere (John Barrymore), who operates an air delivery service, is fanatical in his dedication to service, putting prompt delivery before the safety of his men or his fleet after receiving a contract to help transport the mail. Riviere's risk-taking earns him the contempt of his pilots, including Jules (Clark Gable), who, despite his misgivings, does his best to satisfy Riviere's punishing schedule. When Jules is lost after a dangerous mission, Riviere has to tell his wife (Helen Hayes) that her husband has died, but despite losing another pilot (William Gargan), Riviere responds by demanding that more pilots be called up to ensure that the letters will be delivered on time.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
This long-forgotten MGM aviation drama (produced under the aegis of David O. Selznick) is an adaptation of flier-turned-belletrist Antoine de Saint-Exupery's slim 1931 novel of the same name, which dramatizes the adventures of the South American night mail aviation service in the early years of the 20th century. The studio enlisted a top-drawer cast for this one, including Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Myrna Loy, brothers John and Lionel Barrymore (in their final onscreen appearance together), and Helen Hayes. Selznick and his brass were obviously hoping to produce another hit on par with Wings or Grand Hotel, and thus pinned empyrean hopes on the novella. To say that the adaptation didn't live up to their box office expectations would be an understatement, and probably explains the obscurity into which the picture sank. But all told, this film represents a happy, eminently enjoyable surprise. Scriptwriter Oliver H.P. Garret builds the drama around a plot contrivance not found in the original text - the attempts of the said pilots to deliver a precious vaccine to the infantile paralysis unit at the City Hospital in Rio de Janeiro, before one child in particular expires. de Saint-Exupery purists may scoff, but this ingenious narrative addition works beautifully - it functions as the hook necessary to sustain suspense in the audience's mind and maintain an involving through-line. All of the actors do stellar work here, particularly Gable and Montgomery (both cast as noble pilots), who give the picture the star power and the dramatic weight that it needs. A number of scenes feel stilted and overly theatrical, and others threaten to interrupt the film's momentum just a bit, but for the most part, what's onscreen is both involving and exciting. The film doesn't recreate de Saint-Exupery's majestic scenic tableaux - how could it? - and director Clarence Brown relies too heavily on "wipes" to segue from one aerial shot to another. But the film compensates with special effects that feel downright revolutionary for the period in question, and that anticipate Howard Hawks's Only Angels Have Wings - including gorgeous, convincing shots of aircraft during nocturnal voyages (done with miniatures) and a magnificent storm sequence, set in the Andes and lifted directly from the text. Of greatest curiosity are the period images of such cities as Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Santiago, Chile, presented as sterile-white, WASP-staffed utopian communities with nothing but the most luxurious surroundings. Why the absence of Hispanic citizens, and why the careful resistance to any signs of local squalor? (It may simply be a reflection on the nativism of the era that produced this film). The movie suffers just a bit from one of the most risible final shots of any film in memory (with "ghost pilots" emerging from the sea and soaring up to the heavens); until then it's an engrossing entertainment and does justice to its source material.

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/07/2011
UPC:
0883929184767
Original Release:
1933
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Time:
1:25:00
Sales rank:
18,633

Special Features

Vintage sports champions series short Swing High; Classic cartoon When the Cat's Away

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Barrymore Riviere
Helen Hayes Mme. Fabian
Clark Gable Jules
Lionel Barrymore Robineau
Robert Montgomery Auguste Pellerin
Myrna Loy Brazilian Pilot's Wife
William Gargan Brazilian Pilot
C. Henry Gordon Daudet
Leslie Fenton Radio Operator
Harry Beresford Roblet
Frank Conroy Radio Operator
Ralf Harolde Pilot Number Five

Technical Credits
Clarence Brown Director
Elmer Dyer Cinematographer
Oliver H.P. Garrett Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Arnold A. Gillespie Special Effects
Hal Kern Editor
Oliver Marsh Cinematographer
Charles Marshall Cinematographer
David O. Selznick Executive Producer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer

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