Plot Synopsis

  • WARNING: Spoilers

    After causing the loss of the big football game for his college, Lefty Phelps wins the respect of Panama Williams, a Marine flyer who has witnessed his defeat, when Lefty defends himself against accusations of throwing the game. Upon graduation, Lefty enlists in the Marine Corps flying school where Panama, an instructor at the school, befriends him. On the day of his first solo flight, Lefty is taunted by Steve Roberts, a fellow recruit, who reminds him of his humiliating defeat on the football field. His confidence undermined, Lefty crashes the plane, after which Panama rescues him from the burning craft, injuring his hands in the process. Lefty is taken to the hospital, where he falls in love with Elinor, his nurse. When the Marines are sent to quell a native rebellion in Nicaragua, Panama arranges for Lefty, who has flunked flying school, to accompany him as a mechanic. Before they leave, Panama shows Lefty a photograph of Elinor, explaining that she is the girl he longs to marry, and Lefty says nothing of his own feelings for her. Elinor, also sent to Nicaragua, is puzzled by Lefty's cool reception when she arrives at the base. Soon afterwards, the tongue-tied Panama asks Lefty to propose to Elinor on his behalf and Lefty reluctantly agrees. Panama's proxy proposal prompts Elinor to tell him of her love for Lefty, after which Panama accuses Lefty of betrayal. Their confrontation is interrupted by an urgent call for aerial support against a rebel uprising. Lefty is teamed with Steve Roberts, and their plane is gunned down in a swamp. Rather than join in the rescue mission, Panama reports in sick while, back at the swamp, Steve lies paralyzed with a broken back. After the rescue attempt fails, Elinor convinces Panama that Lefty never betrayed him, and Panama volunteers to fly a search mission alone. Just as Lefty cremates Steve's body, he hears the sound of a plane and looks up to see Panama. Upon landing, Panama is wounded, but Lefty deftly seizes the controls and soars airborne. When the plane loses a wheel, Panama tries to take control of the craft, but Lefty executes a brilliant solo landing. Sometime later, Lefty has won his wings and is now an instructor at the school with Elinor at his side.