Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plane Crazy (1933)

Dorothy Lee in Plane Crazy (1933)

Since I had the Picture Snatcher DVD at hand from last week, I noticed that it had not just a cartoon short, but a Vitaphone Variety two-reeler: Plane Crazy.

Brothers Arthur and Morton Havel, coming over from vaudeville, play pilot brothers Jack and Bill, who aren't as successful as the other pilots. Pert little Dottie (Dorothy Lee from the Wheeler and Woolsey movies), however, likes the danger they present. Anyhow, Jack and Bill are looking for a way to become more famous, so they decide to do a round-the-world flight. Except there's a catch, which is that they're not really going to do it; they're just going to hide out for a few days and then come back, claiming to have done the flight.

Now, even in 1933 there were telegraphy and other technologies that would have made it easy for correspondents halfway around the world to report on the progress of such a flight, and it would have been ridiculously obvious that Jack and Bill were, in fact, not on their flight. But their plot gets foiled in a different way: Dottie claims she's stowing away on the flight, so she obviously has some sort of plan to spill the beans. It doesn't quite work out that way, but that's part of the meager story.

Plane Crazy was one of those shorts where the point wasn't about the story, but about having musical numbers, with a thin-as-gruel story framing the numbers. I didn't really care for the music here, although it was interesting to see that Warner Bros. cribbed the Busby Berkeley style for one of their two reelers. I'm guessing they had the sets from another of Berkeley's movies at Warner Bros. that year, and decided to put their short subject actors on the set to do a number and help amortize the costs.

Plane Crazy isn't particularly good, although it is a good exemplar of the two-reeler musical short from those days. Catch it if it ever shows up on TCM.

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