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Fans of Grant are in for a treat in this lovely movie about finding love among the skies. Grant is joined by Myrna Loy as a flier who finds love with him, although they first have to overcome a series of terrible events that threaten the two. There are some beautiful scenes between the two leads and a sense of genuine emotion on the screen before you. This is only one of three times that Grant and Loy acted together but is one of their best onscreen efforts. It took me a long time to hunt out this movie but it was well worth it and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WINGS IN THE DARK (Paramount, 1935), directed by James Flood, is an
agreeable little story that centers upon a pilot named Ken Gordon (Cary
Grant), attempting to perfect instruments for safe flying through
darkness and fog. While working with some chemicals, a gas explosion
occurs, blinding him before he can ever prove his experiments
Top billing goes to MGM star Myrna Loy, in her first film for Paramount since LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932) where she played the secondary role opposite Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald in the now regarded classic musical. Seeing Loy in this Paramount programmer comes as a surprise, especially since the studio had a roaster of contract players ranging from major names as Sylvia Sidney or Carole Lombard, to less important but familiar actresses as Frances Drake or Mary Brian (all who have worked opposite Grant at one time or another), but for the standpoint of the story as to whom would possibly be more satisfactory and believable in assuming the role as an aviatrix, or whose name on the marque would be important enough to draw attention, Loy, reaching the height of her career, became the chosen one. She is well cast as Sheila Mason, an woman flier whose initial meeting with Ken becomes turbulent, and even more of a problem after Sheila, feeling responsible for his accidental blindness, acquires a seeing eye dog for Ken. As he did earlier with Sheila, Ken, now taking up residence in the country with his faithful mechanic/ friend, Mac (Hobart Cavanaugh), and working on becoming a writer, rejects the faithful German Shepherd, not wanting to be pitied by anyone and to make it on his own. In time he comes to accept both as they each guide him every step of the way. The story finally gets off the ground as Sheila takes a big risk by flying her airplane from Moscow to New York through intense fog and darkness in order to earn back the finances she secretly supplied to Ken as well as putting his experiment to the test. Her flight is broadcast coast to coast on national radio and makes headlines in every major newspaper. When Sheila's plane gets lost through intense fog over Boston, Ken takes control of his airplane, flying blind through the clouds (hense the title), hoping to reach her in time before any danger occurs and lead her to safety.
The supporting players consist of Roscoe Karns as Nick Williams, Sheila's manager; Dean Jagger as Tops Harmon; Bert Hanlon as Yipp Morgan; Russell Hopton as Jake; and radio broadcaster Graham McNamee appearing as himself. Hobart Cavanaugh, a familiar face of countless movies throughout most of the 1930s and '40s, usually appearing without credit from minor to bits parts, ranging from drunks to mousy husbands, plays up his role to good advantage. This, along with I COVER THE WATERFRONT (United Artists, 1933), ranks one of the few opportunities in finding Cavanaugh leading fine support.
Not an important film by any means in spite of a its two leading actors, WINGS IN THE DARK could have been an important project with such a fine premise that might have worked into an powerful and dramatic theme dealing with one man coping with blindness as with John Garfield's character in THE PRIDE OF THE MARINES (Warners, 1945), or a top-notch aviation story combining adventure and romance as with Grant's ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (Columbia, 1939). Grant's skills as a dramatic actor are properly showcased here, especially with one particular key scene where he tries to rehabilitate himself through the course of his blindness, roaming about and bumping into things, along with his rejection towards his seeing eye dog, as enacted by Lightning.
Grant and Loy, in their initial screen performance, are best remembered for their two future unions together, THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY SOXER (1947) and MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948), both RKO Radio releases. While these films have become notable comedy classics, thanks to frequent television revivals and availability on video cassette and later DVD, their initial pairing, having played sporadically on commercial television during the afternoon or late night movie era back in the 1960s and 70s, remains in the dark as being their least known of their three on screen partnerships.
Close to being largely forgotten today, WINGS IN THE DARK, which runs at 75 minutes, is cliché at best but watchable, thanks to the know how combination of Myrna Loy and Cary Grant early in their movie careers. A little item from the 1930s worthy of rediscovery now that it's available on DVD. (***)
Wings in the Dark (1935)
You have to remember what a total thrill it was to fly a single engine plane back in the early 1930s, and even to see airplanes buzzing about in the sky. Of course we still love small airplanes and bushpilots, what we see of them. And we have a fuzzy feeling for that specialty pilot who paints messages in the sky with smoke. The message that starts the movie in the deep blue? "Smoke Flips" including the dot on the I.
Some things have changed, indeed.
This movie has several amazing things going for it, and two of them have names: Myrna Loy and Cary Grant. Myrna is the pilot Sheila Mason who writes the opening cigarette ad overhead, and she's like a small town Amelia Earhart--charming, daring, and a woman in a man's world. Grant plays Ken Gordon, another pilot and an instrument pioneer. Gordon's current trick is to fly "blind" meaning by feel and by instruments, hence the title of the movie--at first. And he wants to fly to Paris. The movie was shot 7 years after Lindbergh's solo flight to Paris, and two years before Earhart's disappearance.
The director is little known James Flood, and he is helped a lot by both the beautiful actors (and their acting) and some really good photography under William Mellor, an unsung mainstay of Golden Age Hollywood. There are lots of strong close ups and good strong graphic designs, including some nice angled shots from high up, as well as some fast moving camera to follow the action. It's a an uncluttered affair, and this draws attention to the acting, which is good. Loy by this point was an established star (she had been in some 80 films by this point). Grant was newish (less than 20, all in three years), and as charming and cute as can be, but playing a more regular guy than usual--not playing "Cary Grant" quite yet.
The movie takes its dramatic turns when Mason (Loy) and Gordon (Grant) interact one on one. First there is a tragedy, then an opportunity. There are some seemingly necessary functional moments in the film, a process of getting through the crisis, but then the movie kicks in again. It's all pretty wild and exciting, actually, if not deep or original. It's got its formula underpinning, but it makes it all fast and emotionally moving, at least for a sucker like me. This is just after the Code kicked in and there is no suggestive or racy behavior, just the new clean romantic drama between two stars who are bound, we hope, to get together by the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A rather preposterous melodrama on the surface, WINGS IN THE DARK manages to retain a surprising amount of credibility due to solid direction and convincing performances. The far-fetched storyline of a recently blinded pilot Ken Gordon (Cary Grant) relying on newly-created aviation software to guide fellow pilot and girlfriend Sheila Mason (Myrna Loy) through deadly fog is brimming full with gaping plot holes and ham-fisted dialogue, which typically spell serious trouble for most productions. However, the film is salvaged, and even made thoroughly enjoyable, by the compelling, believable performances of Loy and Grant and director James Flood's brisk direction, which moves the picture along at a steady rate and helps to minimize much of the script's potential schmaltz. The combined efforts of Loy, Grant, and Flood make an entertaining and sometimes compelling little aviation drama out of what could have been a total disaster, which is quite an amazing feat on each individual's part!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I noticed that one of the reviewers thought this was one of Cary
Grant's and Myrna Loy's best films. Well, I am glad they liked it, but
can't see why they were this enthusiastic about a film that looked an
awful lot like a B-movie despite having Ms. Loy in the film. Now in
1935, Cary was still not a major star, so his playing lead in this
decent time-passer isn't all that surprising. But, with Loy reaching
great heights with her THIN MAN film the year before, it's surprising
to see her in such an ordinary film. In quality and number of bad
clichés, this film isn't nearly the film you'd expect for her in 1935.
The film begins with both stars playing great pilots. Loy is a barnstormer while Grant is more sophisticated and is famous for his heroics and aviation pioneering work. Loy is clearly smitten by him, though he has little idea who she is. When Grant suffers a terrible eye injury that blinds him, she comes to his aid and he comes to love her. However, he's a bit of a fat-head about accepting help from her at first, so she secretly helps fund his research, as now that he's blind no one wants to risk the funds on his idea to perfect "flying blind"--no, not letting blind folks fly but allowing pilots to fly in foggy weather that would normally ground them.
The romance aspect of the film is pretty good and the film is an amiable movie until near the very end. In a very difficult to believe twist, blind Cary flies up to save Loy! And, in a scene that made me want to scream, although he had just announced his intention to kill himself due to his blindness, in the final scene (where Loy saved him from this), Cary announces "I am beginning to see!!!!"--and his blindness is lifting!! I half expected to hear a chorus of angels and the sky open up with this abysmally clichéd finale. Before this terrible ending, the film would have earned a 6 or maybe 7. BUT, with this finale I think I am being very generous in giving it a 5.
By the way, this is on the same DVD as "Cary Grant: Disc 2--The Screen Legend Collection. I advise you try to get it, as the other film (BIG BROWN EYES) is a wonderful and seldom seen gem.
It's always a treat to find an early Cary Grant movie. In this case it was a double treat since Myrna Loy played his love interest. Wings in the Dark (1935) showcases the talents of its two stars, despite the rather unbelievable plot of a recently blinded pilot (Cary Grant) who flies a plane configured with special navigating equipment he has created. While the movie ends on a typical melodramatic, if not predicable note, the movie is still one to catch. Cary Grant pulls together an admirable performance of an independent man who is suddenly blinded and goes through a myriad of emotions that come with the convalescence. This movie shows that Grant had depth as a serious actor. Catch him with two other movies with Myrna Loy, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Long before "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer" and "Mr. Blandings
Builds His Dreamhouse", Myrna Loy and Cary Grant were paired only once
together, in this somewhat unbelievable aerial drama about a cocky
thrill pilot (Grant) who suddenly looses his eyesight in a freak
accident and with the help of fellow pilot Loy and pal Roscoe Karns,
ends up back in the cockpit. Loy, playing a variation of Amelia Earhart
and Katharine Hepburn's "Christopher Strong", tries to break a transit
record, and in the climactic sequence, is believed missing. The blind
Grant sets out to find her, leading to one of the most ridiculous
abuses of reality on film.
Best known for comedy, the two have proved themselves in dramatic roles, so that is not the issue here. What is obvious is that they are playing a story that needs far more reality than the script delivered, so the result is as absurd as anything you've seen on film. Grant starts off as rather obnoxious; In fact, there's nothing in his character to suggest, other than his looks, that Loy would fall in love with him. But once blind, he looses all hope, even initially rejecting the seeing eye dog Loy and Karns bring him. This leads to sequences of obvious "cuteness", and how can you not love this Rin-Tin-Tin pooch. But the star power of the leads and the dog aside, I have to mark this one as a disappointment that fails even in spite of some thrilling flight scenes and bits of amusing dialog.
Cary Grant and Myrna Loy star in "Wings in the Dark," a 1935 film. It's
obvious with films like Christopher Strong and others that with
Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart around, aviation was a huge topic. In this
film, Grant and Loy play aviators Ken Gordon and Sheila Mason - she
does the stunt circuit. After Gordon is wounded in an accident in his
workshop, he goes blind, and Sheila is there to help him. Gordon wants
to continue his work, and is interested in perfecting the plane
instruments so that even a blind man could fly a plane, that is, fly in
terrible fog or other weather conditions.
Gordon doesn't realize it, but Sheila is funding his work by telling him that articles he's written have been sold. When his plane is taken away due to lack of payments, she agrees to fly a plane from New York to Moscow so she can collect $25,000. It isn't the smooth flight she anticipated.
This is a pretty good film with both actors turning in good performances. Grant gets to show his dramatic flair - the man could really do anything. Now that I've seen so many of his early films, I'm convinced he had a nose job - his nose is definitely longer early on. Nevertheless he was always extremely handsome.
Loy and Grant went on to make other films together, and this early one isn't mentioned much. It doesn't compare to Mr. Blandings or the Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, but the stars raise it up a level.
Producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. borrowed Myrna Loy from MGM for a loan
out film at Paramount and teamed her for the first time with Cary Grant
who was under contract there. This must have been a courtship film of
sorts because the following year Hornblow married Myrna Loy. I'm
betting that top billing went to Loy because of Louis B. Mayer as a
condition of the loan out and because Hornblow was courting her hot and
In the Forties Cary and Myrna did The Bachelor And The Bobby Soxer and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, both films more of the usual sort of material for both of them. Wings In The Dark is a drama about an Amelia Earhart type aviatrix and an aeronautical inventor who find love and happiness. But it's a bumpy road to all that.
Grant is a cynical fellow who despises Loy as a circus stunt flier with no feel for the progress of aviation. Myrna properly puts him in his place when she points out that due to the status of women at the time, her kind of flying is all that's open to her and in doing what she does she is showing her sex as capable as the male. A very far reaching treatise on feminism for its time.
During an accident Cary goes blind and he's not one to take charity. But as it were he happened to be working on developing instrument flying through thick clouds and fog and in the end he gives his machine the ultimate test.
Wings In The Dark is dated because aviation has made light years more progress than when this film was made. And it does pale beside the two classic screen comedies that Grant and Loy later did. Still it does offer an interesting glimpse of both stars in their earlier year and for Grant an unusual bit of casting.
A surprisingly little-known gem from the '30s. Sure, there's a lot of hokum in the story. But Myrna Loy as a daring aviatrix and Cary Grant as an inventive young pilot make it believable and compelling. Grant is working on new technology to enable pilots to fly and land "blind"-- using only the controls in the cockpit and communication with the ground -- when his eyes are seared by an exploding stove. Loy's growing affection for him runs into a cold, bitter barrier. But when she accepts a dangerous challenge, he literally rises to the occasion and becomes her eyes in the sky. Even some seemingly minor scenes -- like one in which Grant reacts badly to the gift of a guide dog -- have real emotional impact. And the stuntwork, involving open single-engine planes of the past, ranges from exciting to spectacular.
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