DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

AIR MAIL (director: John Ford; screenwriters: Dale Van Every/Frank W. Wead/story by Frank W. Wead; cinematographer: Karl Freund; editor: Harry W. Lieb; cast: Ralph Bellamy (Mike Miller), Pat O’Brien (Duke Talbot), Slim Summerville (Slim McClune),  Russell Hopton (Dizzy Wilkins), Gloria Stuart (Ruth Barnes), Lilian Bond (Irene Wilkins), William Daly (Tex Lane), Frank Albertson (Tommy Bogan), Leslie Fenton (Tony); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Carl Laemmle Jr; Universal; 1932)

"The aerial photography shots are superior."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An early John Ford ("The Iron Horse"/"The Searchers"/"Arrowsmith") aerial action pic that examines heroism back in the day. It's based on a hard-boiled but routine story by Lieut, Commander Frank W. Wead, and is co-written by Wead and Dale Van Every. The aerial photography shots are superior, as are the realistic atmosphere shots created around the airport.

The small Desert Airport, in the Rocky Mountains, is managed by the level-headed Mike Miller (Ralph Bellamy), who is in charge of a group of daredevil pilots who risk their lives daily for low pay to deliver the mail in all kinds of conditions. The story revolves around the conflict between the cocky, braggart and reckless new young pilot Duke Talbot (Pat O’Brien) and his more conservative boss Mike. Because Duke is a womanizer and is arrogant, Mike can't stand him even though he's the best pilot.

When a pilot, Dizzy Wilkins (Russell Hopton), dies in a crash during a snowstorm, Mike, despite eye trouble, must take over the mission in another plane because Duke refuses to go and quits. Mike crashes on the side of an inaccessible mountain, but somehow survives with only a broken leg. Duke hears this on the radio and steals a plane to rescue Mike and deliver the mail to the next airport. Duke had run off with Dizzy's unfaithful wife Irene (Lilian Bond) to elope after hearing her hubby died in a crash.

Though a hero, Duke comes across as an unsympathetic cad who is hard to like even if he is brave.

It was successfully filmed before in 1925 by Irvin Willat, and starred Warner Baxter and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

REVIEWED ON 4/6/2015       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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