Flying Blind

Flying Blind. Paramount Pictures 1941.

Before watching the movie:

I got as far as the title, that it’s a comedy, and the main character starting a charter air service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for elopements, and trying to keep his stewardess from marrying another man and decided this would be a blast to watch.

I have a strange feeling I’ve seen Richard Arlen play a small airline pilot in a comedy before, but I don’t seem to have done this movie or the other two the producers made with him on this blog, and if I didn’t blog it, I don’t think I would have watched it.

It seems this is the first 1941 movie I’ve watched. Some years ago I made an effort to have covered every decade of the 20th century, maybe it’s time to fill in the holes by year. Around 52 updates a year and over ten years running, hopefully there aren’t that many holes.

After watching the movie:

Even though Jim Clark’s copilot Drake is the bad pilot, they’ve been getting so many complaints as a team that they get fired as a team. Jim refuses to beg for his job and starts his own company, “Honeymoon Air”, and takes his longtime stewardess Shirley with him as a business partner and flight staff. Together with his hired copilot Riley, they specialize in flying couples between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for elopement getaways. Jim is fond of Shirley as a woman, but cares more about her value as a business partner and crew member, and has never made a romantic move on her in years, and certainly doesn’t have time to ask her now that they’re getting a business off the ground, so she’s decided to give up on waiting for him and agrees to marry her eternal admirer Bob. Sure that Shirley will want to quit when she gets married, Jim arranges a fake job offer in Hackensack for Bob to get him out of the way while he comes up with something to convince Shirley. Meanwhile, Drake has started working with anti-American spy Col. Boro, and suggests to Boro that if he needs to get into and out of Las Vegas to steal a secret new plane component, he has an old colleague who could be tricked into carrying him.

This was clearly a B movie in the sense that it was shot cheaply (for the first half I was wondering if this movie about flying planes was ever going to have a scene in a place other than an office), but our modern understanding of B movies expects a high level of camp, while this feels very underplayed. The first half feels like it’s meant to be comedic, but I felt like I had to reach too much to find the jokes. I can recall at least one that seemed like it couldn’t possibly have been written to be serious, but was delivered so seriously I spent most of the rest of the scene wondering if it was a joke or just a weird thing to say. Then once they get into the air, the tone changed from being almost a comedy to being almost an action movie, with the stakes almost completely flattened by the direction, and then what could have been an exciting climax resolved offscreen.

There’s an interesting story or two in here, but the story is unevenly written and flatly delivered. The closest I could come to a reason for the title other than “a mildly funny/exciting aviation term” is the secrets that some passengers are hiding from Jim and his crew. There seems to be no reason for this movie to exist other than to have something to put on screens between newsreels and cartoons.

Sometimes a movie is made for no money and in a rush and it almost completely hits its mark (the original Little Shop of Horrors). Sometimes it’s made for no money in a rush and it’s so absurd it’s loved in spite of itself (Plan 9 From Outer Space). But probably a lot more often, a movie like this is the result. It feels like microwaved leftovers, something that wouldn’t even be an exciting novelty in this movie’s day because the microwave wouldn’t be invented for 15 years, but disappointing today. If anything, it’s more enjoyable to have watched this movie than to be actively watching it, because my memory is already making some things funnier or more exciting than they were on screen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.