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I really liked this B picture offering from RKO studios in the mid
thirties. Flight from Glory is Ceiling Zero with a bit of Red Dust
thrown in and a pinch of Dawn Patrol.
Onslow Stevens is the airline's man in Delgado which looks on the map to be in Bolivia. I presume the mines he's servicing are either silver or tin. Stevens has found a really great way to keep costs down a maximize profits. He buys the oldest planes possible and knowing that pilots who can work elsewhere will, he recruits among pilots who are in trouble in the States and some have even lost their licenses. They can't exactly quit for a better job. Scrap planes and scrap pilots, is this any way to run an airline?
Into this merry bunch of fliers who know they're a couple step up from slaves comes young Van Heflin and his bride Whitney Bourne. A bride is something that Stevens doesn't count on and of course a woman around the place gets the hormones racing for Chester Morris and Douglas Walton among others.
I liked the idea of Onslow Stevens as the villain and it was certainly an original idea in his type of villainy. The rather melodramatic ending was a bit much otherwise I would have given Flight from Glory a higher rating. Chester Morris is a fine cynical hero out of the Humphrey Bogart mold and Douglas Walton does well as poor man's Leslie Howard.
And I assure you that you won't find slimier villains than Onslow Stevens in too many films.
FLIGHT FROM GLORY is a rather generic title for a programmer that is
reminiscent of another aviation story that came two years later with a
bigger budget and bigger stars--ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS.
And yet, it's a tightly constructed drama that gives early exposure to VAN HEFLIN, as a pilot who likes to drink too much, but who lands a job flying planes over the Andes even though he's newly married to bride WHITNEY BOURNE. Running the decrepit fleet of planes is ONSLO STEVENS, a man who doesn't fly the planes himself but who is a strict manager responsible for sending a group of down-on-their-luck men to almost certain death.
CHESTER MORRIS gets top billing as a man who's perceptive enough to realize that Whitney Bourne should never have come to the God forsaken airline and who forms an intimate association with her after trying to discourage her from liking him too much, since she's married to Heflin.
There's a strong ending with Stevens getting his comeuppance and a nice finish for Morris and Bourne.
Summing up: Interesting aviation drama worth watching mainly for the performances of Van Heflin and Onslo Stevens.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a remarkable low-budget production from a talented cast and crew, with a plot anticipating that of Howard Hawks' ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) and Henri-Georges Clouzot's THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953). A group of self-exiled pilots have accepted the dangerous job of flying supplies from a central base camp to isolated mines, using antiquated aircraft to power them over the rugged Andes mountains. The men are sequestered by boss Stevens in an austere, womanless compound (virtually a company town, its occupants enslaved by debt), but the potentially volatile situation is held in check through the quiet strength of chief pilot Morris, who watches them fly to ultimate death, one by one. One day, Heflin, who has lost his pilot's license for an infraction that resulted in a death, appears with Bourne, his lovely young wife, the only woman worthy of fantasy to have been seen by the group in years. With difficulty, Morris restrains the tinderbox situation her presence represents, though falls in love with her in the process. When the brash but weak Heflin shows signs of breaking up, Morris shoulders the added responsibility of attempting to keep him alive. In a final effort at redemption, Heflin takes the pitiless Stevens on a terminal flight, ramming his plane into an Andean peak. Morris and Bourne finally escape the confines of the camp.
Flight from Glory (1937)
*** (out of 4)
Good "B" picture from RKO centers on a group of reject pilots working in Delgado for a boss (Onslow Stevens) who is more interested in money than people's safety. This causes problems when a alcoholic pilot (Van Heflin) shows up with a new wife (Whitney Bourne) and catches the attention of a lead pilot (Chester Morris). FLIGHT FROM GLORY is a pretty silly film that suffers from an obvious low-budget but the cast members are so good that you can't help but overlook the flaws and just sit back and enjoy the picture. I've always been a fan of Morris and I thought he did a pretty good job here and certainly had no issues getting this character across. This includes his dead serious look that he uses each time something dramatic happens. I also enjoyed Bourne as she had some great chemistry with all the men in the film. Heflin was very good in this early role in his career and Stevens really managed to be fun as the bad guy. There are some pretty good aerial shots and the cinematography is a step up from what you'd typical see in a picture like this. The biggest problem is the budget as the majority of the film appears to be shot on just a couple sets and you can tell this is a film that needs to be expanded a bit to fully get everything it's going for. Still, if you're a fan of the cast or director Lew Landers then you'll want to check this out.
There's a lot to like about "Flight From Glory" and if Radio Pictures had the budget to stage more aerial acrobatics, it would be a winner. But too much of the tale is spent in the South American shack where a group of pilots -- all with blemished records -- wait to fly decrepit vintage planes over the Andes. As pilots crash, newcomers are recruited which brings alcoholic stunt flier Van Heflin south along with his new bride. The lady is a problem for Onslow Stevens, the mini-airline's corrupt owner who keeps his pilots in check by gouging their pay for rent and food. And it's even more of a headache for hard-bitten Chester Morris who's attracted to her. Among the film's pleasures is the emotional wallop with which a young Van Heflin invests his character, leading to a surprising climax that finally gets the story where it should have been earlier -- off the ground.
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