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The story follows six midshipman after they graduate from Annapolis. Their goal is to become U.S. Navy pilots and three of them are eliminated at the San Diego Naval Base. The remaining three undergo grueling weeks of training at Pensacole Florida, and one crashes. The remaining two get their "wings" and are sent back to San Diego as full-fledged "Sea Hawks", and prepare there for the first Honolulu flight. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A slight story of Annapolis-cadet camaraderie and a predictable romantic triangle provide excuses for extensive aerial footage of post-World War I biplanes in flight. Evidently inspired by the success of William Wellman's "Wings," "The Flying Fleet" takes the basics of that Oscar winner and makes a valiant effort to repeat the earlier success. Unfortunately, peacetime lacks the action and dynamics of World War I, Anita Page lacks the appeal of Clara Bow, and the relationship between Ramon Novarro and Ralph Graves lacks the depth of interaction between Charles Buddy Rogers and Richard Arlen.
Released in 1929, during the transition period between silents and talkies, "The Flying Fleet" is a silent film with inter-titles that has been enhanced with synchronized sound effects and a musical score. Ramon Novarro and Ralph Graves are best buddies from their days at the Academy into their basic training as pilots. However, when Anita Page enters the scene, the pair compete for her affections, and the friendship is tested. Ralph Graves, a ruggedly handsome guy, is aggressive in his pursuit of Page and often tests the bounds of friendship with his underhanded, often mean-spirited tricks to outwit Novarro. Understandably, Graves's antics tilt audience sympathy towards Novarro, the film's star, who maintains a stoic, sensitive, and dewy-eyed stance.
However, the film's best moments are provided by the formation flying and aerial stunts, well photographed by Ira H. Morgan. Although the aerial battles and dog fights in "Wings" remain more exciting, the airborne antics in "The Flying Fleet" are still awesome for the time and a treat for aficionados of vintage aircraft. Novarro retained his handsome leading man looks when this film was made, and his fans will definitely relish his presence and the occasional glimpse of his physique. However, while breezily entertaining, the story is slight and predictable, and, despite the aerial work, the movie pales beside "Wings." "The Flying Fleet" will appeal largely to admirers of the one-time "new Valentino" and to vintage aerial photography buffs.
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