High Flyers

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High Flyers
High Flyers.jpg
Directed by Edward Cline
Produced by
  • Lee S. Marcus
  • Samuel J. Briskin (executive producer)
Written by
Based on High Flyers (play)
by Victor Mapes
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Jack MacKenzie
Edited by John Lockert
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • November 26, 1937 (1937-11-26)
Running time
70 minutes
Country United States
Language English

High Flyers (aka 'The Kangaroos) is a 1937 RKO Radio Pictures musical comedy film, directed by Edward Cline and stars the comedy team Wheeler & Woolsey.[1] The film would be the last film the duo made, as Robert Woolsey died a year later.[2]


Jeremiah "Jerry" Lane (Bert Wheeler) and Pierre Potkin (Robert Woolsey) are a couple of midway "pilots" on a carnival ride who have never actually been in the air. The duo leave their job when they are hired by smuggler Dave Hanlon (Jack Carson) to fly a real aircraft in order to retrieve a lifesaver. They believe that the lifesaver only consists of harmless photos, but soon find inside the lifesaver stolen jewels and cocaine. Jerry and Pierre eventually land in the backyard of the Arlington estate, owened by Arlene (Marjorie Lord), Martha (Margaret Dumont) and Horace Arlington (Paul Harvey).

Initially, the Arlingtons believe that the duo are police officers, and readily allow them to stay in their home. As it turns out, the Arlingtons are good friends with Hanlon. When Hanlon is informed that Jerry and Pierre are at the Arlington estate, he convinces the family that the two men are lunatics from an asylum.

Hanlon and some of his cronies (posing as doctors) show up at the mansion in order to "bump off" Jerry and Pierre, and get the smuggled jewels. However, the jewels have been hidden by the Arlingtons' kleptomaniac dog. A frantic and confusing search around the manor soon occurs, with dozens of cops added into the mix.



High Flyers was based on the 1926 Broadway play The Kangaroos by Victor Mapes; The Kangaroos was also the working title of the film. As well as in the previous film, On Again-Off Again (1937) and throughout production of this film, Robert Woolsey was suffering from kidney disease. Although it occurs in the middle of High Flyers, the "I'm a Gaucho" musical number with Woolsey and Lupe Vélez would be the last scene he shot. Ultimately, this would be Wheeler and Woolsey's last film. In February 1937, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Betty Grable was to be the film's star.[3] Lupe Velez, a well established comic actress, took the lead role.[4]

After Woolsey's death, Bert Wheeler would continue to work regularly on the stage, and later did four more films (two features and two shorts). He would also occasionally appear on television well into the 1960s, most notably as "Smokey Joe" in the short-lived Brave Eagle series. At one point in the film, Wheeler does an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Wheeler's Chaplin impersonation was a part of his stage act before he teamed with Robert Woolsey. Chaplin was very fond of Wheeler's impersonation of him. Lupe Velez's imitations of Dolores Del Rio, Shirley Temple and Simone Simon, were also featured. [3] [Note 1]

The aircraft in the film was a Sikorsky S-39B, an American light amphibious aircraft. [5]


TV Guide in a later one-star review of High Flyers was less than kind: "A barely passable Wheeler-Woolsey effort in which the comic pair pose as flyers and find themselves in the center of a jewel-smuggling ring. When the gang of thieves take to the air, they are dim-wittedly nabbed by the amateur pilots. You've seen it all before, and for the last time with this comedy team--Woolsey died about a year after this film's release."[6]



  1. ^ The censor board refused to allow Wheeler and Woolsey to become intoxicated by cocaine in the film. As a result, the name "cocaine" was changed to something more comical.


  1. ^ Pendo 1985, p. 37.
  2. ^ Wynne 1987, p. 173.
  3. ^ a b "Notes: 'High Flyers'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 1, 2017.
  4. ^ Landazuri, Margarita. "Articles: 'High Flyers'." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: April 1, 2017.
  5. ^ Santoir, Christian. "Review: 'High Flyers'." Aeromovies. Retrieved: April 1, 2017.
  6. ^ "Movie: 'High Flyers'." TV Guide. Retrieved: April 1, 2017.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-933126-85-9.

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