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Cary, Shep, Bill, and Francis are pilots who have just, and only just, survived the First World War. They linger in Europe in the aftermath, drinking and ostensibly having fun, but pessimistic and flip about their futures, as each feels himself somehow lost and dead inside as a result of the horrors he's experienced. They encounter a beautiful and vivacious girl, Nikki, and adopt her, not romantically but as a sort of mascot and light around which they can hover in hopes of regaining a sense of warmth and life. Nikki does her best to reinvigorate her new friends, but despite the seeming lightheartedness of their escapades, the shadow of the war can never be dispelled. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In September 1928, Warner Bros. Pictures purchased a majority interest in First National Pictures and from that point on, all "First National" productions were actually made under Warner Bros. control, even though the two companies continued to retain separate identities until the mid-1930's, after which time "A Warner Bros.-First National Picture" was often used. See more »
During the sequence in the bullfight ring in Lisbon, the footage of the actual bullfight is stock filmed during the silent era at the then-standard speed of 16 frames per second. Spliced into a sound film and projected at the sound-standard 24 frames per second, it looks unnaturally fast. See more »
I came across this unheralded early William Dieterle film a while back and it blew me away. Quite an astonishing film for a 1931. I believe it was Dieterle's first Hollywood outing. It's a "Sun Also Rises"-like story of several ex-WWI American fliers living, relaxing and drinking in Paris and the wacky, free-spirited woman they "adopt" into their group. A truly unusual film--the dialogue is almost entirely in non sequitors which gives it an almost ahead-of-its time feel. The editing and the frenetic energy of it all are spectacular. It offers an accurate and immediate picture of post-war disillusionment of its time, the confused emotional/psychological state of the characters, much the same way Henry King's 1957 "Sun Also Rises" captured 1950s post-WWII mentality.
Dieterle is a talented stylist, and it shows all the way through, using fast-moving and inventive camera work. And it's beautifully photographed in that "German-looking" Expressionism early-1930s style.
The performances are top-notch. Richard Barthelmess is excellent as Cary Lockwood. Helen Chandler is quite distinctive as the leading lady Nikki. And I especially like David Manners in this film. He's one of the forgotten leading men of the 30s. Manners is best known today for his appearances in the Universal horror films, but he made a wide range of films--one of my favorites is his scrupulous secretary in love with a glamorous Kay Francis in Dieterle's other unheralded classic of the early 30s, "Man Wanted."
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