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Lost in the Stratosphere1934

  • 3.7
James Cagney was such a big star by 1934 that producers were eager to find less pricey equivalents, notably Jimmy's younger brother William, a lookalike who made his brief bid for stardom in two "B" productions that year. He plays Tom "Soapy" Cooper, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot (this was before the Air Force became a separate military branch) who's inseparable best pals with fellow flyer Richard "Woody" Wood (Edward J. Nugent). They spend the comedic first-half playing pranks and trying to steal women from each other; then things get more serious as they spar over Woody's glam fiancé Evelyn (June Collyer) and get sent on a dangerous scientific ballooning mission. Given lots of hard-boiled wisecracks ("A storm is just a flock of raindrops trying to get tough..."), top-billed William Cagney is personable enough but lacking his sibling's distinctive voice and charisma. He soon abandoned acting to become an agent and occasional producer. Billed last is the performer here who would become most famous: Evelyn's maid is played with considerable esprit by Hattie McDaniel who, five years later, would become the first African American Oscar winner for her unforgettable “Mammy” in GONE WITH THE WIND. - Dennis Harvey

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Member Reviews (1)

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This movie is old. Everything about it--the two buddies in love with the same girl storyline, the comedic horseplay in the barracks—seem OOOOLD, even for 1934. These characters seem better suited in the 19th Century colonial world of Kipling. What we have here is “Gunga Din” without Gunga Din.

The Stratosphere, and the foreboding threat of getting lost in it, doesn’t come up until the last 20 minutes of the movie. At that point, things perk up a bit as our heroes ascend into above-mentioned Stratosphere in their nifty flying bathysphere. This fictional balloon flight mirrors actual record-setting, high-altitude balloon missions to explore the outer boundaries of the world. These were very dangerous flights that made front-page headlines in the mid-30’s, which "Lost In The Stratosphere" tried to capitalize on, but it's too little too late at that point. Interesting how a movie that’s only 65 minutes long can actually seem much longer.

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