Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tonight's Movie: China Clipper (1936) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Recently I've enjoyed a number of Warner Bros. films starring Pat O'Brien. The latest is the enjoyable CHINA CLIPPER (1936), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

O'Brien plays Dave Logan, an entrepreneur who is inspired by Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight to open his own airline service. After initial financial struggles, he establishes a successful route of clipper ships which fly to Havana and points in the Caribbean, but he's not finished there. Dave dreams of an airline which will fly all the way to China, but as he struggles to reach his dream he pushes away those who are closest to him.

I liked this film, although it must be admitted that eventually O'Brien mindlessly shouting orders at everyone around him becomes a bit tiresome. Otherwise it's an interesting story about the dawn of international air travel, a topic I enjoy. His ideas on professionalizing and educating pilots were particularly interesting.

Beverly Roberts plays O'Brien's wife Jean. She has a rather chilly personality, and curiously the Brooklyn-born actress sports a British accent; if they ever explained why, I missed it.

Much more engaging is Humphrey Bogart as Dave's ace flyer Hap; even in a supporting role, Bogart's screen charisma shines through. Also strong is Ross Alexander as Dave's righthand man; sadly, this was one of Alexander's final films before his tragic death in January 1937.

This was the final film of Henry B. Walthall, seen by me earlier this year in JUDGE PRIEST (1934). The supporting cast also includes Marie Wilson, Joseph Crehan, Joe King, Addison Richards, and Ruth Robinson.

There's some fun people watching in the movie. During a scene where O'Brien lectures pilots, Gordon "Wild Bill" Elliot is a pilot seen in close-up. Wayne Morris is Bogart's navigator on the first run of the China Clipper to China. Anne Nagel, who was married to costar Ross Alexander at the time, plays O'Brien's secretary. Marjorie Weaver is another secretary. Milburn Stone plays a radio operator, and Frank Faylen is a weatherman stationed in Colombia. There are plenty more familiar faces, including Irving Bacon, Jonathan Hale, Milton Kibbee, Pierre Watkin, and Houseley Stevenson.

CHINA CLIPPER was directed by Ray Enright and filmed in black and white by Arthur Edeson. It's an 88-minute film with a screenplay by Frank "Spig" Wead, who specialized in writing aviation-themed screenplays.

A funny blooper: The airline in the film is Trans Ocean. In a scene where Trans Ocean's China Clipper takes off for the first time, the stock footage plane is clearly labeled as Pan Am's Hawaii Clipper.

The print is mildly scratched at times but it plays smoothly, with excellent sound. The DVD includes the trailer.

Look for more reviews of Pat O'Brien releases from the Warner Archive here in the near future!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


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