1 May 2008 | bkoganbing
Stage Door Takes To The Skies
I have absolutely no doubt that Frank 'Spig' Wead must have seen a production of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber classic on stage or saw the screen version with Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. He must have liked it because it certainly inspired his writing of the script of Tailspin.
My guess is that Wead who knew the world of aviation well as we all know from seeing Wings of Eagles, did not of course know it from a woman's point of view. Therefore I think he took what is a woman's story in Stage Door and adapted it for the screen in aviation.
The Katharine Hepburn part is played by Constance Bennett who is a socialite who takes up aviation as a lark to compete with her boyfriend army aviator Kane Richmond. She can afford the best and uses her money to build a custom job that can beat anything in the air. Her father Harry Davenport disapproves of his daughter's avocation the same way Hepburn's father did in Stage Door.
She's got a chief rival in Alice Faye, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who represents the rest of the woman so to speak. As Richmond tells Bennett, these other women are competing for coffee and donut money, their living is in the balance in the Depression Era America of the Thirties.
There is an Andrea Leeds equivalent played by Nancy Kelly and beautifully if I might add. She's married to another aviator Edward Norris and they are bonded together by their love of each other and of flying.
The men come up second best in this film. Surprising when you consider who wrote it, not surprising when you consider what Spig Wead might have used as the source. Because they come up second best you can understand why Fox leading men like Tyrone Power and Don Ameche probably weren't even offered this one. Charles Farrell is in the rather colorless role as the mechanic on Faye's plane who'd like to get something going with her if Richmond would get out of the way. You see he's romancing both Faye and Bennett.
Alice Faye gets one song to sing in Tail Spin, a number from her favorite songwriters, Mack Gordon and Harry Revel. She sings Are You In The Mood For Mischief in her familiar warm contralto and well.
The climax of all of this involves the air races in Cleveland. Tail Spin is an interesting feminine take on the aviation profession with a very familiar plot line.