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 <email@example.com>
Four former flying aces, scarred both physically & emotionally, make THE LAST FLIGHT through the bars of Paris & Lisbon with an eccentric American girl.
Well-crafted & poignant, this film tells the sad tale of American World War One buddies whose lives are essentially over with the cessation of the conflict. Aimless & drifting, but seemingly very well financed, they stagger from bar to bar, looking for the forgetfulness that comes with drunken oblivion. If not for the noble loyalty they feel for each other their story, and the sundering of their quartet, would be almost unremittingly lugubrious.
Director William Dieterle was given fine service by his cast: silent screen star Richard Barthelmess, leader of the band, as a pilot sensitive about his burned hands; gunner David Manners dealing with a nervous tic in his left eye; country boy Johnny Mack Brown letting high jinks and alcohol define his new existence; and sharpshooter Elliott Nugent, shell-shocked into extreme lethargy.
Helen Chandler is remarkable as the highly unusual young woman who is allowed to become an essential part of the fliers' lives. Her kooky vagueness and affection for pet turtles is most endearing. Walter Byron gives an effective performance as a caustic reporter who tags along with the others for his own motives.
At one point in the story Mr. Barthelmess & Miss Chandler visit the cemetery of Père-Lachaise in Paris, where he tells her something of the history of the tragic lovers Pierre Abélard (1079-1142) and Héloïse (1098-1164), who lie interred there. Barthelmess mentions the terrible revenge visited upon Abélard by the Canon Fulbert, the uncle of Héloïse, without actually saying what it was. Even with Pre-Code liberality, forced castration was not a subject to be broached lightly.
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