A French explorer enlists the help of the US Navy in an expedition to the South Pole. There is competition between the airship division and fixed wing fliers, resolved in triumph and ... See full summary »
A French explorer enlists the help of the US Navy in an expedition to the South Pole. There is competition between the airship division and fixed wing fliers, resolved in triumph and disasters. Written by
Michael Crew <email@example.com>
This film is loosely based on the crash of the airship Italia, flown by Umberto Nobile, around May 25, 1928 near the North Pole, and the international rescue effort that cost early Polar explorer Roald Amundson his life. The Pilot who rescued Nobile also crashed when returning to rescue more survivors and had to be rescued himself. See more »
Quite An Achievement and a "Must See" for Fay Wray Fans
While "Dirigible" (1931) is notable as Frank Capra's best early film, the real credit for making something that was both a huge hit during the early years of talking pictures and an old film that will interest even today's jaded action movie fans should go to Editor Maurice Wright. Wright had to assemble this early blockbuster from what Capra shot and what the U.S. Navy provided in the form of stock and promotional footage. He did a great job and you rarely are aware that you watching a movie, let alone a fictional drama.
The story is a historical concoction, mixing elements of Robert Falcon Scott's sledding disaster at the South Pole and Nobile's ill-fated North Pole expedition in the airship "Italia". It is likely the producers of "The Red Tent" (1970) borrowed heavily from Capra's technique when they dramatized the crash of Nobile's dirigible for their film.
The destruction of the fictional dirigible "The Los Angeles" is the most interesting sequence in the film but the Navy's promotional footage is also quite interesting, particularly to viewers 75+ years later. There is extensive coverage of operations on the first USS Lexington; which would be sunk during WWII (The Battle of the Coral Sea). The rest of the simulated action stuff leaves something to be desired but was no doubt quite credible to viewers at the time of the film's release.
I wouldn't pay much attention to complaints that the back-story is lame and boring. It features a pre-Kong Fay Wray. She is younger and has her natural darker hair color. As such, I think you will find her about as beautiful as any actress in film history, especially in profile. Apparently Capra quickly figured out what he had with Wray as he makes extensive use of close-ups during her scenes; a technique that would not really come into fashion until the 1970's. And Wray exhibits considerable acting talent in these scenes, earnestly sincere as the wife of a glory-seeking Navy pilot. And since you can't take your eyes off her, any complaints about scripting and content are pretty much irrelevant.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
17 of 18 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?