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May 21, 2010

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Vadim

"As notable and frank and moving as it is, it does creak rather conspicuously at times, and that's life."

I really hate to say this, but I think we've both been spending a little too much time at Jeff Wells' place. This scans a little like him at the end.

Ben Sachs

I haven't seen this (And alas--it sounds great!), but the qualities you mention--WWI detail and early seriousness regarding addiction--bring to mind Wellman's "Heroes for Sale."

Glenn Kenny

@ Vadim: Ouch. Just, ouch.

@ Ben: The affinities are definitely there. "Heroes" is certainly a more fluid film, narratively and visually. Still, the two pictures would make and apt, if not entirely uplifting, double feature.

david hare

Saunders was also the author of Leisen's terrific Eagle and the Hawk (although the director credit goes to Stuart Walker, but Leisen is certifiably the true director) - this came out in the recent Cary Grant Universal/TCM Box.

Fredric March made a partial career playing drunks but in this he goes right to the edge in an 80 minute crescendo and the buildup is electrifying. I wont wreck the viewing for anyone with a "spoiler" but Grant ends up saving his honor after March has a total meltdown with his fellow WWI officers about the hideous futility of war.

The Siren

I encounter this semantics problem all the time. I don't want to run anybody off by implying that a movie is an antique, but if the movies I write about aren't old, what are they? Calling something like Devotion a "classic movie" seems like those theater junkets that offer discount tickets to the "young at heart." Your point is very, very well taken, but there's a certain truth-in-advertising ring to the phrase old movies, and I've never had a problem with that. It's like Lena Horne cheerfully calling herself an old broad, secure in the knowledge that she looked better well past 70 than most women did at age 25. "OldER movie," however, grates. Older than what, my mother? I do wish you'd actually compared Blow-Up to Cooper's birthday, if only to hear you describe the look on his face.

Anyway. The Last Flight--Helen Chandler, who had irritated me to death in other movies, was a revelation in this one, whether she's standing there with a set of dentures in a glass or asking somebody to scrub her back. (What the hell happened? Actresses usually get less wooden, not more.) I was fascinated with the essentially chaste nature of the men's alliance with Chandler, alcohol (and eventually death) playing the role that sex and even romance might have otherwise. And the atmosphere--this movie, of all the ones about the Lost Generation, made me feel a bit of what it might have been like to be drinking your way through Europe after postwar economic chaos turned it into a rummage sale.

Also, huge second for David Hare's recommendation of The Eagle and the Hawk, which like Heroes for Sale would make a perfect double bill with Last Flight, if someone hasn't done that already. Actually, given these films' short running times, a triple feature would be just fine too.

Lou Lumenick

This is one of my favorite early talkies. Saunders wrote the part of Nikki for his then-wife, Fay Wray, who was unavailable. But a few months after the movie came out, she played the part in a short-lived, hard-to-imagine Broadway musical adaptation called "Nikki'' by Saunders. Her leading man, playing Cary, had just been signed by Paramount and they didn't like his given name, Archie Leach. So Fay suggested he use the character's name, Cary Lockwood. The studio liked Cary fine, but thought Lockwood was too long for a marquee and came up with a shorter alternative.

Paul Duane

So glad to hear this movie is finally available. It's one of my very favourite 'lost' movies for all the reasons the Siren names above. Its humour is so very very dry and deadpan, and the heartbreak lurking below the humour all the more affecting for being underplayed. David Cairns has written a terrific appreciation here: http://dcairns.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/spent-bullets/

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