Frank Capra takes to the air in this rip off of William Wellman's silent Wings (27) but it never gets off the ground. Capra displays the height of arrogance as he is ill equipped to deal with aviation the way WW 1 pilot Wellman is and it shows early on.
Footballer Lefty Phelps makes headlines when he runs the wrong way (ala Roy "Wrong Way" Rigel's Rose Bowl gaffe) in the big game. Shamed beyond belief he joins the Marines after meeting the admirable Panama Williams who offers sympathy and advice. Phelps ends up training to be a pilot under Williams command but he washes out. He stays on in a non-pilot capacity and begins to romance Panama's desire Nurse Murray. Friction ensues between the two but there's a rebellion to fight in Central America and this enables Lefty to redeem himself.
Flight is at a disadvantage from the start due to progress-sound. 29 was a transitional year in sound and it hampers the action and performances. Because cameras were so noisy they had to be sound proofed, restricting movement. Actors were untested in voice and nuance when it came to sound and Capra regular Ralph Graves as Lefty sulking and lumbering about comes up short in both. Tim Holt's father fares far better and Lilla Lee sporting eye lashes as wide as the wings on Von Richthofen's Fokker is more Boop than Bara.
Capra's mise en scene and editing are pedestrian with actors poorly posed (once again to accommodate the microphone) and reacting foolishly to off screen action. There are some decent air acrobatics and a striking approach shot to an enemy fortress but special effects are glaringly poor in spots and overall it remains inferior in every aspect to Wings and thus reaffirms that Silents are golden, especially when its accompanied by a rousing pipe organ score.
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