Helen Hayes

A Farewell to Arms (1932)

During World War I, Lieutenant Frederic Henry (Gary Cooper) serves the Italian Army as an ambulance driver and in his free time, enjoys going out drinking with Major Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou).  When one of their nights on the town is interrupted by an air raid, Frederic takes shelter alongside nurse Catherine Barkley (Helen Hayes).  However, their first meeting is less than ideal for other reasons — he mistakes her for a prostitute he had been talking to earlier.

But Frederic gets another chance to make an impression on Catherine when Rinaldi arranges a double date for them and Catherine and her friend Helen (Mary Philips).  Rinaldi is in love with Catherine and had intended Helen to be Frederic’s date, but Frederic and Catherine fall madly in love with each other that night and start having an affair.  Army regulations forbid their romance, but rules suddenly don’t seem to mean much to Frederic.  Before he is sent off to the front lines, he insists on stopping to say goodbye to Catherine.  Rinaldi, still bitter that Catherine prefers Frederic over him, sees to it that Catherine is transferred to Milan to keep her away from him.

As fate would have it, Frederic is injured and is taken to Catherine’s new hospital.  Their feelings for each other are still as strong as ever and they are secretly married in Frederic’s hospital room.  Frederic spends the next three months recuperating and he and Catherine couldn’t be happier together.  But when he has to go back to the war, there’s one thing he doesn’t know — Catherine is pregnant.  She leaves the hospital for Switzerland to wait for him and even though they write to each other regularly, Rinaldi sees to it that neither of them receive their letters.

When Frederic becomes concerned over Catherine’s lack of letters, he deserts the Army to find her.  He eventually manages to find Helen, who tells him about the baby, but she’s so angry about what he’s done to Catherine that she refuses to tell him where she is.  Now even more desperate to find her, he takes out an ad in the newspaper looking for her, which gets Rinaldi’s attention.  Finally realizing just how much Frederic loves Catherine, he finally tells him where she is.  But when he finally makes his way to her, she’s not in good health.

When people talk about pre-codes, A Farewell to Arms isn’t one that comes up very often and I have no idea why that is.  In terms of shocking content, A Farewell to Arms has got plenty of stuff to make your jaw drop: rape, forbidden love, very frank discussions of relationships,  and of course, the scene with the prostitute early in the movie.

But A Farewell to Arms has a lot more to offer than risqué scenes.  Frank Borzage offers up some top-notch direction and Charles Lang completely deserved the Academy Award he won for his beautiful cinematography.  I absolutely loved Gary Cooper’s performance as Fredric and Adolphe Menjou is an excellent supporting player.  As for Helen Hayes, I haven’t seen very many of her movies, but her work here made me want to see more of her.  I’ve never read A Farewell to Arms so I can’t critique it as an adaptation, but I do know Hemingway didn’t care for the movie.  All I can do is take the movie for what it is and I very much enjoyed it, much more than I expected to.

Night Flight (1933)

Delivering the mail by air through South America is a dangerous game and Riviére (John Barrymore) is determined to be the best at it.  He manages a mail-carrying airline and stops at nothing to uphold his its reputation for punctuality.  Even the owners of the airline think he’s too strict with the pilots.  He doesn’t even like airline employees to be friends with each other outside of work.  When he finds out that his inspector Robineau (Lionel Barrymore) had dinner with pilot Auguste Pellerin (Robert Montgomery), he forces Robineau to give Auguste a citation for something he didn’t do just to prove to Auguste that being friends with a higher-up won’t do him any favors.

Riviére also fines the pilots 200 Francs if they’re late, which means the pilots often find themselves flying through dangerous situations even though common sense would suggest they land.  When Auguste has to make a flight to Buenos Aires, he runs into some very treacherous conditions along the way.  He gets there ten minutes behind schedule, but luckily he does make it.

Meanwhile, pilot Jules Fabian (Clark Gable) is making his first night flight.  His wife Simone (Helen Hayes) is waiting for him at home with a nice dinner, eagerly awaiting his return.  He’s flown that route before so she has no reason to suspect there will be any problems.  Everything is going smoothly for Jules until he unexpectedly gets caught in a terrible storm.  Rather than land, Jules keeps on going through the storm, loses communication with ground control, and gets thrown off course.  The airline frantically tries to make contact with Jules and Simone starts to worry when she finds out he’s been delayed. When she tries to contact Riviére, he won’t tell her anything, which only upsets her more.  She knows that he would be running low on fuel by then.

Despite Jules being lost, Riviére pushes ahead with the schedule and calls a Brazilian pilot (William Gargan) to deliver some mail to Rio de Janeiro, which his wife (Myrna Loy) begs him not to do.  Despite her protests, he goes ahead with the flight and manages to make it safely.  However, Jules isn’t nearly as lucky.  Lost over the ocean with no fuel left, Jules and his wireless operator have no other choice but to jump from the plane into the dangerous waters.

I really wanted to love Night Flight, and I did enjoy it, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with it and I’m having a hard time pinpointing exactly why.  I loved the cinematography and I really liked Helen Hayes, especially in the scene where Simone has dinner by herself and pretends Jules is there with her.  And, of course, it does have some pretty exciting flight scenes.

If you’re curious about Night Flight because of its cast, don’t go into it expecting to see a lot of interaction between all these great stars because you will be let down.  For example, Clark Gable and Myrna Loy have no scenes together.  In fact, Myrna Loy doesn’t even have a very big role and most of Clark Gable’s scenes are him by himself.  But that isn’t what disappointed me about the movie.  Like I said, I really wanted to love Night Flight, but something about it just didn’t resonate with me the way I hoped it would.  If I had my choice, I’d definitely pick Only Angels Have Wings over Night Flight, but I’m really glad Night Flight is finally becoming available after being out of circulation since 1941.  If you like movies about aviation or you’re a big fan of anyone in the cast, it’s worth seeing, but there are better movies about pilots and all of the cast has been in better movies.