West Point of the Air
|West Point of the Air|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Rosson|
|Produced by||Monta Bell|
|Screenplay by||Frank Wead
Arthur J. Beckhard
|Story by||James Kevin McGuinness
John Monk Saunders
|Music by||Charles Maxwell|
|Cinematography||Clyde De Vinna
Charles A. Marshall
|Edited by||Frank Sullivan|
|Running time||89 minutes|
West Point of the Air (1935) is a film starring Wallace Beery about pilot training in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the early 1930s. The supporting cast includes Robert Young, Lewis Stone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Rosalind Russell, and Robert Taylor in his film debut. The movie was directed by Richard Rosson.[N 1]
At Randolph Field, Texas, Master Sergeant "Big Mike" Stone (Wallace Beery) has aspirations for his son, "Little Mike" (Robert Young) to follow in his footsteps as a pilot. Following graduation from West Point, "Little Mike", along with his best friend, Phil Carter (Russell Hardie), become pilots in training at Randolph Field, commanded by Phil's father, General Carter (Lewis Stone), but complications soon arise.
"Little Mike" has a childhood sweetheart, Phil's sister, "Skip" (Maureen O'Sullivan) but is also being pursued by Dare Marshall (Rosalind Russell). Out late on a date with Dare, the next morning, "Little Mike" causes a crash during Phil's solo flight, which ends with Phil losing a leg. Seeing what may happen after a crash, General Carter orders all the flying cadets into the air so they won't lose their nerve. Still in training, "Little Mike" blaming himself for his friend's accident, flies poorly during a test, causing another aircraft to crash and disabling his own by wiping out the landing gear. His father takes to the skies and brings him back safely but a fight erupts on the ground when "Big Mike" attempts to cover up for his son's flying. The fight is witnessed and the Sergeant is dishonorably discharged from the service.
In a later meeting, "Little Mike" comes upon his father, now a drunk and toiling as a mechanic. Trying to help his son once again, "Big Mike" takes his son's aircraft up on a flare dropping mission, but crashes. His son comes to his aid and in a daring underwater rescue, proves his mettle. The army officials recognize both men's valor, and reinstates the Sergeant, and allows his son to graduate. Dare disapproves of "Little Mike" staying in the military, but he finally rejects her and also realizes that his true love is "Skip" .
As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):
- Wallace Beery as Master Sergeant "Big Mike" Stone
- Robert Young as Second Lieutenant "Little Mike" Stone
- Lewis Stone as General Carter
- Maureen O'Sullivan as "Skip" Carter
- Russell Hardie as Second Lieutenant Phil Carter
- Rosalind Russell as Mrs. Dare Marshall
- James Gleason as Joe "Bags"
- Henry Wadsworth as Second Lieutenant Pettis
- Robert Taylor as "Jasky" Jaskarelli[N 2]
- Robert Livingston as "Pip" Pippinger
- Frank Conroy as Captain Cannon
West Point of the Air was filmed on location at Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas in the spring of 1934. The film's aerial shots were a combination of live action footage, models, and cockpit mock-ups of Consolidated PT-3 flight trainers, and aircraft of an earlier vintage, Curtiss Model D (replica), Curtiss JN-4 and Fokker D.VII. Aerial photography was shot by noted aerial cinematographer Elmer Dyer with Hollywood film pilot Paul Mantz (uncredited) performing some of the aerial stunts. Although Mantz was in charge of the aerial portion of the film, Frank Clarke did the majority of the flying in his Travel Air Speedwing.
As aviation films in the 1930s were increasingly finding it difficult to create the spectacular crashes that were often a feature of earlier periods, not only was safety a factor but also the number of war-weary aircraft that had been the staple of the time, were becoming harder to find. A Fokker D. VII that had flown in Hell's Angels (1930), was refurbished by Mantz and appeared in West Point of the Air.
Produced in an era of an America preparing for war, West Point of the Air was recognized for its value as a "recruiting poster" for the military. The review in The New York Times, emphasized that aspect of the film, "The Hollywood cinema continues its arguments on behalf of preparedness in "West Point of the Air," which chants the glories of the military service and the importance of iron discipline." In a more recent review, Leonard Maltin remarked that, "Master Sergeant Beery pushes reluctant son Young through army air training for his own satisfaction. Good cast enlivens standard drama." 
According to MGM records the film earned $677,000 in the US and Canada and $640,000 elsewhere resulting in a profit of $262,000.
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