Friday, March 06, 2009

Tonight's Movie: West Point of the Air (1935)

I'm not a fan of Wallace Beery, the lead actor in WEST POINT OF THE AIR, but the movie has so many other wonderful actors that I was hoping they would overcome my impatience with Mr. Beery. Alas, the movie is a tedious, crash-filled melodrama with notably absurd plot developments in the final half hour.

Robert Young plays Beery's son, "Little Mike," a lieutenant attending the Army Air Corps flight school where his father "Big Mike" is an instructor. Little Mike is uncertain about his future as a flyer after witnessing friends being maimed and killed in flying accidents. At the same time Mike is wrestling with his career plans, he is torn between the girl he grew up loving (Maureen O'Sullivan) and a married temptress (Rosalind Russell) who'd like him to leave the Army.

The was one of Russell's earliest roles, and it was also a film early in the career of Robert Taylor, who has a small part as one of Mike's flying buddies. Lewis Stone and James Gleason also have large roles, as O'Sullivan's father and Beery's best friend, respectively. Ronnie Cosby and Marilyn Spinner play Young and O'Sullivan as children.

At one point I thought I heard Walter Brennan's voice among characters on the flying field, and then decided I'd imagined it, as I didn't recall Brennan appearing in MGM films in the '30s. But sure enough, when I checked the extended credits at IMDb, there was his name!

Given the terrific cast, this movie should have been more entertaining, but between Beery and some of the absurd flying sequences, it more often than not alternated between being dull and silly. The film livens up when O'Sullivan, Russell, and Taylor (small role or not) appear on screen, but otherwise I found it pretty slow going, even though I enjoy Robert Young.

The movie was directed by Richard Rosson. It runs 89 minutes. Location filming took place at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas.

WEST POINT OF THE AIR has not been released on DVD or video, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here.


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