The Air Mail
|The Air Mail|
|Directed by||Irvin Willat|
|Produced by||Adolph Zukor
|Written by||Byron Morgan (story)
James Shelley Hamilton (scenario)
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.
|Famous Players-Lasky Corporation|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||80 minutes|
The Air Mail is a 1925 silent film directed by Irvin Willat and starring Warner Baxter, Billie Dove, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. It was produced by Famous Players-Lasky and distributed through Paramount Pictures. Filmed in Death Valley National Park and the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada, it was released in the United States on March 16, 1925. Only four of eight reels survive in the Library of Congress making this film incomplete.  
In 1932 John Ford filmed a remake of sorts at Universal called plainly Air Mail starring Ralph Bellamy. Though only seven years passed between the two films, aviation experienced a huge impetus for development after Lindbergh's Atlantic flight in 1927. An example is that in Willat's film, old Curtiss Jennys trainers were used as airmail planes but by 1932 sleek monoplanes were flying the mail. Lindbergh himself had been an Army pilot then Airmail pilot when Willat made his film.
The story involves a crook named Russ Kane (Warner Baxter), who gets a job as a pilot in order to steal cargo. However, after making a forced landing at a "Ghost City" in the desert, he falls in love with Alice Rendon (Billie Dove) and decides to become law-abiding. When her father (George Irving) needs medicine, he flies to get it but on the way back is chased by ruffians in other airplanes. As a result, Kane's friend, Sandy (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), parachutes from Kane's plane with the medicine. Meanwhile, escaped prisoners have invaded Alice's home. All is resolved when a sheriff's posse confronts the invaders, Kane destroys the bandit planes, and Sandy becomes a pilot.
To make the film, the company, Famous Players-Lasky, traveled by train to Beatty, Nevada, about 4 miles (6 km) east of Rhyolite, where it set up temporary headquarters on January 10, 1925. Airplanes used in the film arrived from Reno via Tonopah. The filming was completed by the end of January. During the filming, Famous Players-Lasky restored the Bottle House, one of the deteriorating buildings in the ghost town.
Reviewer Mordaunt Hall, writing for The New York Times in 1925, said that although Dove and Baxter "deliver creditable performances", the story is "only mildly interesting and often quite tedious". While he thought the scenes of planes taking off from the ground were "quite inspiring", he found improbable the stock villains, Deadwood Dick adventures, and romantic conversations between a man at 4,000 feet (1,200 m) in the air and a woman on the ground. "This picture", he concluded, "is interesting because of the modern touch to an ordinary Western story, but the idea deserves to be more thoughtful and sincere."
- The Air Mail at silentera.com database
- DuVal, Gary (2002). The Nevada Filmography. McFarland. p. 7. ISBN 0-7864-1271-2.
- McCoy, Suzy (2004). Rebecca's Walk Through Time: A Rhyolite Story. Lake Grove, Oregon: Western Places. pp. 60–62. ISBN 1-893944-01-8.
- Garza, Janiss (2009). "The Air Mail". Allmovie (Macrovision Corporation). Retrieved November 7, 2009.
- Hall, Mordaunt (March 17, 1925). "Seven Chances" (subscription required). The New York Times. Retrieved November 7, 2009.
- Patera, Alan H. (2004). "Rhyolite's Demise and the Rise and Fall of Pioneer and Springdale". Western Places (Lake Grove, Oregon: Western Places) 7 (4): 50–51. ISSN 1092-8782.