Derek Winnert


This article was written on 19 May 2017, and is filled under Reviews.

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Test Pilot **** (1938, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, Lionel Barrymore) – Classic Movie Review 5481

Director Victor Fleming’s thrilling and splendidly romantic 1938 aviation adventure tale of machismo in the air, and romance and comedy on the ground is delivered with all of the vintage MGM studio’s polish and know-how.

Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy please their fans as (respectively) the daredevil test pilot Jim Lane, his best buddy Gunner Morse and his plucky wife Ann, while Fleming ensures that the story and the aerial excitements don’t disappoint either.

Gable plays an arrogant, reckless barnstormer who stretches his tortured bride Loy’s heartstrings to the limit, while testing tycoon the prototype planes of Howard Drake (Lionel Barrymore).

Good though Gable, Loy and Barrymore are, it is Tracy who steals the movie, cast against type as Gable’s inarticulate, sensitive mechanic.

Also in the cast are Samuel S Hinds, Marjorie Main, Gloria Holden, Arthur Aylesworth, Claudia Coleman, Louis Jean Heydt, Gregory Gaye, Virginia Grey and Dudley Clements.

Waldemar Young and Vincent Lawrence’s screenplay is taken from Frank ‘Spig’ Wead’s original story. There were three Oscar nominations – for Best Picture, Best Original Story and Best Film Editing (Tom Held) – but no wins.

Neglected Myrna Loy (1905–1993) never won a competitive award and was never Oscar nominated. She was given an honorary Academy Award in 1991 ‘in recognition of her extraordinary qualities both on screen and off, with appreciation for a lifetime’s worth of indelible performances’. And she was given Career Achievement Awards by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and National Board of Review, USA. Of course she has a Star on the Walk of Fame at 6685 Hollywood Blvd.

© Derek Winnert 2017 Classic Movie Review 5481

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