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Some sources list "Happy Landing" of the original play as the song used in the first production number, but it was the new song "I'll Make a Happy Landing" which was used. None of the original songs in the Broadway play was used in the film. See more »
The 1930 musical comedy Flying High was a Broadway hit for comedian Bert Lahr, singer Kate Smith and the crack songwriting team of DeSylva, Brown & Henderson. Unfortunately when MGM filmed it, too many dandy DBH songs were thrown out and not enough others (by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh) were substituted to offset the deadening effects of the silly, contrived book and the unfunny vaudeville routines that may have left audiences howling with laughter on the Great White Way but left them yawning in movie theatres. Replacing the rotund Kate Smith with the lanky Charlotte Greenwood also did not work because Greenwood isn't extreme enough in her ungainliness to justify Lahr's deep reluctance to mate with her. I won't even bother to discuss why. The idiotic plot takes place in and around an aviation school and involves Greenwood's pursuit of Lahr, the inventor of an "aerocopter," a machine that goes up but apparently not sideways.
One thing MGM did do right was to engage Busby Berkeley for two of the dance numbers: "Happy Landing" and "We'll Dance Until the Dawn." His trademark geometric patterns, line- ups, transitions and in-camera tableaux are all in place even in this early effort; all would reappear in more polished and extravagant form over the next several years at Warner Bros. and beyond.
Two fine DBH songs, "Without Love" and "Wasn't It Beautiful While It Lasted" are served up sparingly as instrumental underscoring in a nightclub scene. Charles Winninger as the school's doctor tries but fails to rescue a half-baked recitative sequence in which he examines scantily clad female aviation students. Lahr and Greenwood get some laughs exercising their prodigious physical talents in the rowdy "The First Time for Me."
Lahr's performance in this film is often criticized for being too broad for film; that is correct, especially the "gnong-gnong-gnong" moments, but the material doesn't exactly lend itself to subtlety. Hedda Hopper appears briefly as a concerned mother. Her line readings and general bearing never changed from film to film; she talks like an elocution teacher at a microphone, a technique that served her well in her later career announcing Hollywood gossip on radio. In supporting roles Kathryn Crawford sings sweetly if off-key and Pat O'Brien remains lifeless throughout.
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