"China Clipper" (1936), directed by Ray Enright, is a fascinating film for a number of reasons. It has an early Humphrey Bogart, Pat O'Brien as the heavy, and an un-named character who became famous world-wide a year after this film was released for reasons he would have preferred to have happened differently.
That is one beautiful plane!
Let's go back to those days of yore, when reporters cheered when told a
plane had landed, when peoples of other nations appreciated US aid and
rewarded Americans for it, and when Chinese waited anxiously at the
shoreline for American progress to reach them (quite literally, here).
That's "China Clipper," an excellent memento of days long gone that
manages to preserve a slice of the buccaneering spirit that built the
The real deal, over San Francisco
The drama is pedestrian and holds no surprises - what, do you think
that increasingly dictatorial airline boss Dave Logan (Pat O'Brien)
will fail? - but still manages to hold some interest over seventy years
later. Logan fights with everyone, alienating people left and right
because they won't do exactly what he wants, but ultimately comes to
the shattering realization that the world will continue with or without
him. That is the film's real lesson, and it is a good one. He loses his
wife (Beverly Roberts) along the way (she cravenly crawls back because
she is "lonely" in one of the film's least authentic touches), but the
real romantic relationship in the film is between Logan and his
company. Humphrey Bogart plays Logan's on-and-off employee who pilots
Logan's planes through weather that even modern planes would likely
avoid, managing to look stoic while still managing to throw a good
Marie Wilson always livens things up
It's good history, even though it's "fiction" (ha! It actually hews
closer to real facts than most film biographies). One fascinating
detail is omitted because of when the film was made - in real life,
only a year later, the navigator on the climactic flight to China
piloted by Bogie disappeared in the South Pacific as part of a
continuing mystery that endures to this day. But Fred Noonan hadn't yet
flown with Amelia Earhart and so was completely unknown and not
Wait, which one is Fred Noonan?
This is well worth viewing for the stunning aerial shots of various
classic planes, brand new airports (then) and cities around the world that have since changed irrevocably. It's a
nostalgic trip down memory lane, when American achievements brought the
gratitude of the world.