During the First World War, British combat pilot Dick Courtney mocks his commanding officer Major Brand for being too cautious, unaware that Brand is tormented by the requirement of his command that he send young men to their likely deaths in substandard aircraft and with insufficient training. When Brand is transferred, Courtney becomes the commanding officer and quickly realizes the burden Brand labored under. When Courtney's best friend, Douglas Scott, asks him to spare his newly arrived and inexperienced brother Gordon Scott from combat duty, Courtney cannot justify doing so. A rift grows between the friends as Courtney realizes the tragic demands of his job.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
HELL in the skies, looping, zooming to the staccato of machine guns....Heaven on earth in the arms of a madamoiselle. War through the eyes of the youngsters who won a victory, but lost their souls. Thousands of airplanes! Hundreds of stunts by 46 of the world's greatest daredevils. (Print Ad- Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, ((Poughkeepsie, NY)) 9 August 1930) See more »
In September 1928, Warner Bros. Pictures purchased a majority interest in First National Pictures and from that point on, all "First National" productions were actually made under Warner Bros. control, even though the two companies continued to retain separate identities until the mid-1930's, after which time "A Warner Bros.-First National Picture" was often used. See more »
When Courtney is signaling Scott before attacking the German base, you can see the plane in the background superimposed on all the foreground elements, including Courtney. See more »
Officious overdressed brass hat! Orders, orders. Thinks the 59th can't do it, eh? Well, the 59th can do anything he can think up! It's a slaughterhouse, that's what it is, and I'm the executioner!
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This is an early talkie starring Richard Barthelmess as Dick Courtney and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Doug Scott, a couple of World War I aces and the best of friends, at least at the beginning of the film. Neil Hamilton (police commissioner Gordon in the 60's Batman TV series) is Major Brand, in charge of handing out commands and assignments among his group of fliers. One day Courtney and Scott pull off a daring air raid that they have been ordered not to do by Brand. When they return, their success causes Brand to be promoted just as he is about to punish Courtney, and now Barthelmess' Dick Courtney is named as replacement and the new commander of the unit.
Now instead of risking death himself, Courtney is the one ordering others into harm's way, and it is cracking him up as he turns more and more to drink. However, he still has Scott's friendship until a new recruit arrives and is ordered into a fatal battle. Now it is Scott who not only has no use for Courtney, but no use for life itself, and it is up to Courtney to make sure that Scott doesn't throw his life away.
This film, like many early talkies, is long on talk but short on the kind of aerial action you'd probably expect in a film about World War I fliers. Only towards the last third of the film do you see much in the way of dogfights. The focus is mainly on the fliers themselves and the futility of war. Barthelmess gives a great and poignant performance as Dick Courtney, and he lasted longer in talking pictures than most silent film actors due to his great skill. Also remember that most of the films made about World War I during this time were essentially anti-war films. By the beginning of the depression, WWI seemed a wasted effort in both money and manpower, and these early talking picture war films reflected that attitude.
The version of this film starring Errol Flynn is what most people remember. It's too bad this version didn't at least rate as an extra feature on that DVD. It makes for an interesting comparison.
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