Sun 26 Aug 2012
CHARTER PILOT. 20th Century Fox, 1940. Lloyd Nolan, Lynn Bari, Arleen Whelan, George Montgomery, Hobart Cavanaugh, Henry Victor, Etta McDaniel. Director: Eugene Forde.
In spite of the fact that a couple of my favorite B-movie stars are in this one, I found myself disappointed for most of the movie’s running time.
The opening scene showed some promise. Lynn Bari is the scriptwriter for a radio show based on the fictional exploits of air ace King Morgan, played by Lloyd Nolan. In reality, and far from fiction, Morgan is indeed a pilot, but for a commercial airline whose more prosaic tasks include bringing a load of soft-shelled crabs up from Galveston to LA.
OK. So far, so good, but it turns out that there are romantic complications between the two, and for maybe next 50 minutes or so the movie turns into a comedy of most mundane proportions. He proposes, she refuses until he gives up flying, he gives up flying and goes to work behind a desk, which doesn’t work, in great detail which I shan’t bore you with, but if you were expecting a comedy, you might find this portion of the film amusing, if not out and out funny.
It also turns out, though, eventually, that there is a bad guy in the background, and the next to final scene, with King Morgan and aforesaid bad guy kicking, wrestling and fist-fighting in the cramped space of a cockpit of a small airplane over the jungles of Honduras, with Lynn Bari screaming behind the controls while live on the air – well, at last the film was worth the money I paid to see it. On a homemade DVD, of course, as almost goes without saying.
Lynn Bari, of course, is as beautiful as ever, and Lloyd Nolan, while far from beautiful, is, as usual, one of the finer actors ever to be a B-movie star. Watching him rehearse his prepared proposal speech, while working out a whole gamut of ways to present his lines, is like attending a master class in acting, and he does it with ease.