10 July 2011 | Michael_Elliott
All-Star Cast Makes it Worth Watching
Night Flight (1933)
*** (out of 4)
This MGM film features an all-star cast that includes John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Robert Montgomery and Myrna Loy and it's these stars that make the film worth viewing. The story centers on the true story of the Trans-Andean European Air Mail service, which broke grounds by doing the dangerous practice of running flights at night. The story centers on a demanding boss (J. Barrymore) who will stop at nothing to have his men in the air and this here leads to a pilot (Gable) getting caught out in a dangerous storm and not being able to land while his wife (Hayes) waits for his return. NIGHT FLIGHT was unavailable for viewing until recently when the rights were finally cleared and Warner was able to issue it on DVD. Many of the people who had gotten a chance to view the movie over the past several decades called it a major disappointment and this is true to a point but at the same time it's still a lot of fun seeing this great cast in one picture. I think the biggest problem is that the screenplay really isn't all that impressive and most of the drama never comes because the story never builds up any emotional connection to any of the people we meet. The Gable character is meant to be the backbone of the drama yet we never get to really meet him and we certainly never get to know him as all of his scenes are in the air and he's given very little dialogue. We view the wife as she worries about him but most of her dialogue is so poorly written that again you really get no connection. Another problem is that the story is all over the place in terms of what it's trying to do. On one hand it's a character drama but we don't get to know the characters. The next minute it's an aerial picture and this is where the movie really takes off but there's not nearly enough scenes of the men actually dealing with the dangers of flying at night. The best moment in the film happens early on when a pilot gets lost in some fog and ends up having to fly through some mountains to reach safety. There's plenty of drama in this short sequence and there's some minor drama at the end but not enough to really carry the picture. As I said, the main reason to watch NIGHT FLIGHT is for the all-star cast even though many of them are wasted. I found Hayes to be pretty bland in the picture and Montgomery really doesn't get much to work with either. Gable is good in his part but he really doesn't get much to do either except look brave while flying. John Barrymore chews up the scenery as only he can while brother Lionel has a few funny bits in his part. Still, it's fun getting to see the two of them act together. The rest of the stars never share any scenes together, which will come as a disappointment to many. NIGHT FLIGHT pretty much disappeared for seventy-years but thankfully it's gotten a wide release so more people can check it out but it's best not to expect a masterpiece.