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This is a pretty good B mystery from post Laemmle Universal in the late 30s when the studio had absolutely no A talent pool from which to draw.
It involves a pilot/inventor Steve Browning (William Gargan) who has devised a "drift indicator" to help planes that are stuck in inclement weather stay their course. Steve has a girlfriend, Jean (Jean Clayton), who is a flight attendant - stewardess back in the day. He has close friends who are pilots themselves. Then there is his girlfriend's brother, Jack, who is also a pilot. So the maiden voyage of a passenger plane takes off with the drift indicator onboard and Steve's best girl's brother Jack at the helm. The plane makes it through inclement weather alright, but then it crashes in clear weather, and furthermore it is going the wrong way! There are no survivors, and the pilot and copilot are in weird positions in the plane. The second plane carrying the drift indicator crashes too, and this time the airlines can take no further chances. So they tell Steve that given the body count, they can no longer make use of his drift indicator since it was the only common denominator.
Then a THIRD flight crashes. This time there is no drift indicator to blame, but one hundred thousand dollars in bonds were stolen from the wreckage. This is a common denominator, since valuables were stolen from the first two planes, but not this large amount of money. So Steve now believes a thief is to blame, but is not sure how he is operating. He sets out to solve the crime to get justice for the other victims, especially his girl's deceased brother/pilot. Things get quite interesting and tense from this point forward, but they also begin to get a little obvious too. Some red herrings are thrown in to try and throw you off the track, the problem is you'll probably SEE them as deliberate red herrings. I would have added another star if not for this.
William Gargan carries the lead here very well. One of the weird things thrown in is the schtick going on between two of Steve's friends that carries on the length of the film. Rather than coming off like Laurel and Hardy though, the two act like a married couple that has been married two decades too long. The question I had is where was the FAA during all of this? Why didn't they ask the same questions that Steve did? The answer is the FAA had not been formed yet, and there was very weak government oversight over aviation at this time. That's why Steve's only options were to appeal to the airlines themselves or to the police. There was really no other oversight authority over domestic passenger flight.
I'd recommend this as a worthwhile way to spend an hour or so of your time.
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