A fascinating combination of elements went into this 1933 opus: the source book by Little Prince
author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the handsome gloss of prime-era MGM, and a cast that dazzles like nobody's business. The crowd of stars is led by John Barrymore, as the no-guff chief of a South American airline; Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, and William Gargan as hotshot flyboys; Helen Hayes and Myrna Loy as nervous pilots' wives; and Lionel Barrymore, crotchety as all get-out, playing his real-life brother's itchy second-in-command. Ah, but all of those stars are upstaged by the real reason to see the film: in an age of great flying pictures, Night Flight
boasts some spectacular (at times downright eerie) aerial photography. And if the story tends toward cornball conventions, it does make room for some of Saint-Exupéry's lyrical feeling for the intoxication of flying; he'd been a mail pilot in South America, and his book drew on some of the adventures of flying after dark and the terrifying journey over the Andes. John Barrymore is stuck with the corniest role, a by-god-we'll-get-the-mail-there-on-time-or-die-trying autocrat, but still--he's Barrymore, and he puts it over. Gable's entire performance takes place in his plane, Montgomery gets to dash around a bit on the ground, and Helen Hayes makes the most of one of her rare big-screen appearances. Director Clarence Brown may have been best known for his collaborations with Greta Garbo, but he was also a World War I pilot, and the liberating sense of being above the clouds will be the lasting takeaway from this movie. --Robert Horton
As a worried mother comforts her desperately ill son in Rio de Janeiro, the child's physician, Dr. Decosta, assures her that, thanks to the new night flying schedule of the Trans-Andean European Air Mail, which is being inaugurated that evening, they will receive a life-saving serum the next day.