Flight Angels (1940)
Directed by Lewis Seiler with a story co-written by (future) Irving G. Thalberg winner Jerry Wald this insipid romantic comedy-drama is one of the weaker B films I’ve seen which given its cast is surprising. Featuring a dated storyline and a plethora of uncomfortably sexist themes the plot is rife with stereotypes from the time in our history prior to U.S. involvement in World War II when women presumably had nothing to look forward to besides finding a man that would marry them. The story is about a couple of womanizing pilots (Dennis Morgan & Wayne Morris) who despite the fact that they have “women in every port” have two devoted stewardess girlfriends (Virginia Bruce & Jane Wyman respectively). The pilots are also working on the latest high altitude 30% faster airplane for their boss Ralph Bellamy who like a lot of the other roles he’s played is the third man out in a love triangle (with Morgan & Bruce). The drama concerns Morgan’s character getting eye trouble diagnosed by a doctor (John Litel) which jeopardizes his future as a pilot. Thankfully the entire film runs less than 75 minutes such that the viewer is put out of their misery relatively quickly (if they decide to stick with it that long). I was SHOCKED to see a relatively high imdb.com rating for this dog.
Though I’ve already given the salient plot points and because I found them so offensive I thought I’d detail some of the more objectionable stereotypes one finds in this movie. Chick (ha ha) Farber (Morgan) is seen kissing one gal while trying to board the plane he’s to fly with Artie Dixon (Morris) and stewardess Mary Norvell (Bruce). When he successfully frees himself from her he’s met by another which he’d apparently been with 2 hours before that and all this is witnessed by his girlfriend Mary. On the flight Mary is seen to be too ditsy to remember which passenger needed a bicarbonate of soda while she refuses to introduce the pilots to the “fresh meat” a stewardess trainee also on the flight. A laughing Dick Elliot plays one of the passengers. Some drama and repetitive dialogue (“I never had that pulled on me before”) is introduced by having a woman give birth on the airplane. Bill Graves (Bellamy) at first doesn’t believe what his flight crew has told him but eventually he gets Dr. Barclay (Litel) to meet the plane when it lands.
Once on the ground the stewardesses are shown to be women that are just bidding their time until a pilot or a rich passenger ask for their hand in marriage. Bellamy’s character is shown to be interested in Bruce’s who naturally prefers Morgan’s despite the fact of his philandering. We’re then introduced to Nan Hudson (Wyman) who’s likewise “hooked” on Morris’s character. Though Wyman’s character has some sassy dialogue she’s wasted in this film and her character is likewise inflicted with “helpless without a wedding ring” syndrome. Morgan & Morris aren’t just pilots they’re engineers & mechanics who designed and are building the next great airplane for Bellamy. Meanwhile the silly females have “cat fights” over the men. One of Ms. Bruce’s rivals is played by Margot Stevenson; another of the stewardesses (Dorothea Kent) has a cartoon character voice. Ironically Grace Stafford who went on to voice animated Woody Woodpecker is also in the cast. When Morgan’s character is diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition he’s grounded by Litel’s & Bellamy’s characters and is offered a position training the stewardesses. Naturally these women are so overcome by his good looks that they can’t concentrate on their studies and he’s too frustrated with the position to keep doing it. He’s also quick to discard his new bride Bruce. Shown to be lacking the kind of judgment required by real pilots the former barnstormer Morgan “steals” their new plane taking it up for its test flight after he’d learned that another (John Ridgely) was hired to replace him. Some really low budget special effects are used but naturally everything works out well in the end for all concerned.