Wings in the Dark (1935): Aviation Melodrama, Starring Myrna Loy and the Young Cary Grant (Second Billing)

James Flood directed Wings in the Dark, a naive and improbable aviation melodrama, starring Myrna Loy and Cary Grant, focusing on a daring woman aviator and an inventor thrust into a desperate situation.

Produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr., the film was the first that Loy and Grant made together, although both talents are wasted in it.

The movie was notable for its depiction of blind protagonist (played by Grant) rare in the 1930s, and is also known for its aerial photography directed by Dewey Wrigley.

Skywriter and stunt pilot Sheila Mason (Loy) has to work as  barnstormer because women were not allowed in other aviation fields.

She is attracted to ace pilot Ken Gordon (Grant), who’s trying to perfect instrument flying (flying “blind”), with his own design of an autopilot. He has devoted four years and even mortgaged his aircraft to finance his experiments. Before being able to prove his invention works, a stove accident blinds him.

When Ken retreats, Mac (Hobart Cavanaugh), his friend and partner, brings him Lightning, a seeing eye dog. He first resists any efforts to help him, but with the dog’s help he learns to navigate around his household and soon keeps busy by writing aviation articles.

Sheila does not tell him that the articles are all rejected. She gives him money to survive by taking on dangerous stunts arranged by her manager, Nick Williams (Roscoe Karns).

Ken finally regains his confidence and continues to work on his autopilot when the Rockwell Aviation Company repossesses his aircraft. Distraught, Ken accuses Sheila of falling for him out of pity.

Meanwhile, she plans a solo flight from Moscow to New York to win a $25,000 prize so they can marry. In her last leg from Boston to New York, Sheila nearly runs out of fuel and also encounter bad weather.

She can’t see where she is because of the heavy fog. With help from Mac, Ken sneaks into his old aircraft, using his autopilot to help Sheila land. While in the air, Ken talks to Sheila about his desperation of being blind. His intention is to bring her to the ground and then fly until he runs out of fuel and crashes. Sheila tries to dissuade him, but he is determined.

The two pilots make it down, but Sheila deliberately crashes into Ken’s aircraft to make sure that he will not try to kill himself.  A huge crowd has gathered at the airport, and the two greet the public and the press.

In the happy ending, Ken and Sheila embrace as their car continues through the throng of well-wishers.

Cast
Myrna Loy as Sheila Mason
Cary Grant as Ken Gordon
Roscoe Karns as Nick Williams
Hobart Cavanaugh as Mac
Dean Jagger as Top Harmon
Russell Hopton as Jake Brashear
Matt McHugh as 1st Mechanic
Graham McNamee as Radio Announcer

Credits:

Directed by James Flood
Screenplay by Jack Kirkland, Frank Partos, Dale Van Every (adaptation), E.H. Robinson (adaptation), Story by Nell Shipman, Philip D. Hurn (Original story), based on the story “Eyes of the Eagle” by Nell Shipman, Philip D. Hurn
Produced by Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Cinematography William C. Mellor
Edited by William Shea
Music by Heinz Roemheld
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date: February 1, 1935 (U.S.)
Running time: 75 minutes