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Test Pilot (1938)

Passed  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  22 April 1938 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,432 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 11 critic

Jim is a test pilot. His wife Ann and best friend Gunner try their best to keep him sober. But the life of a test pilot is anything but safe.



(screen play), (screen play), 6 more credits »
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Title: Test Pilot (1938)

Test Pilot (1938) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Samuel S. Hinds ...
General Ross
Ted Pearson ...
Mrs. Benson
Louis Jean Heydt ...
Virginia Grey ...
Priscilla Lawson ...
Claudia Coleman ...
Mrs. Barton
Arthur Aylesworth ...
Mr. Barton


Jim Lane is a test pilot, whose professional life is dangerous, and whose personal life compensates for that danger by fast living and recklessness. As such, he lives from paycheck to paycheck, and is often in debt, but knows his lucrative job will eventually get him out of those debts. On a coast to coast record attempt speed flight, Jim's plane, the Drake Bullet (named after the company's owner), hits some mechanical problems and Jim is forced to make an emergency landing on a farmer's field in Kansas. The farm belongs to the Barton family, whose straight talking daughter, Ann Barton, falls for Jim, and visa versa. They impulsively decide to get married and live in New York. Jim's sidekick and mechanic, "Gunner" Morris, doesn't know if Jim and marriage go hand in hand, both because of the type of person he is and his profession. Ann too soon learns that she plays second fiddle to Jim's work, she referring to the sky as Jim's mistress. Ann also truly comes to understand the dangers ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

pilot | marriage | danger | mechanic | farm | See All (15) »


I Can't Quit . . . I'm a Test Pilot See more »


Drama | Romance


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 April 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Testpilot  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The four engine bomber flown by Gable and Tracy near the end of the film was a Boeing Model 299B, Y1B-17 "Flying Fortress". It was one of the 13 Y1B-17s ("Y" indicating service test and "1" indicating procurement from F-1 funds) acquired by the U.S. Army Air Corps for evaluation. The massed flight at the end of the film consisted of all 13 Y1B-17s, which had USAAC serial numbers 36-149 to 36-161, and had been delivered by Boeing between 11 January and 4 August 1937. All were eventually redesignated B-17. See more »


Jim Lane is seen with a bottle of champagne in one hand, a glass in the other. He pours himself a glass of champagne and starts to say a line of dialogue; the camera angle changes before he finishes his sentence, but now the bottle and the glass have suddenly switched hands. See more »


Referenced in Honolulu (1939) See more »


Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)
(1922) (uncredited)
Written by Fred Fisher
Sung a cappella a bit by Clark Gable
See more »

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User Reviews

What Would You do if Clark Gable Landed in your back yard?
19 December 2005 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Clark Gable is the one in the title role and Spencer Tracy is his best friend and mechanic. Test Pilot portrays a footloose and fancy free Gable doing a dangerous job because he's entranced by the beauty and danger of flying. Tracy is along to give him a reality check every now and then.

While trying for a coast to coast record Gable has trouble with a fuel line and has to make a landing in a Kansas wheat field that just happens to belong to Myrna Loy's parents. She's the farmer's daughter all right. Of course a little of that Gable charm and she's off in the wild blue yonder with him and spends the rest of the film worried about his daredevil behavior. She's not in Kansas any more.

This was the second of the three Gable/Tracy co-starrers. All three of them, San Francisco, Test Pilot, and Boom Town have withstood the test of time and have become classics.

Test Pilot's original story was written by Frank "Spig" Wead who's life story was brought to us in the film Wings of Eagles. Wead was a flyer himself until a fall in his home left him a paraplegic. After that he became a writer and several of his stories were filmed. In fact Gable and starred in Night Flight earlier on which was written by Wead. Of course Wead had a great feel for the type and character of the people who chose aviation as a career.

The aerial sequences are first rate and the players settle comfortably in their parts. It's got aerial action for the guys and romance for the gals. How can you go wrong?

8 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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