“Night Flight” (Warner)
A lost movie found (or, more accurately, reclaimed) with an all-star cast, it would be nice to report that Night Flight (1933) was a masterpiece of early sound cinema rediscovered. Nice, but not quite accurate.
Based on the novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and directed by Clarence Brown with handsome but somewhat static imagery, Night Flight is a drama set around an air mail network of South America run by a merciless John Barrymore. It’s a barnstorming pilots version of he Pony Express and Barrymore never lets sentiment get in the way of a timetable. While he gets his “lonely at the top” speeches justifying his orders to fly through storms at the risk of death, Clark Gable and Robert Montgomery play the pilots who have to get the single-engine planes through the mountain passes, battering storms, blinding fog banks and other hazards of the night flight across the continent. And just so we know what’s at stake, the whole story (which takes place in a single 24-hour period) is framed by a sick child in Rio de Janeiro awaiting a life-saving serum from Santiago.