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Saturday, August 8, 2015

FLIGHT FOR FREEDOM (1943)

R.K.O.’s second whack at a fictionalized Amelia Earhart bio-vehicle (CHRISTOPHER STRONG/’33 came first*) grafts on a bit of WWII heroics in its search for a satisfying conclusion. As if that’s the problem. Playing substitute Earhart, Rosalind Russell wears her hair down as pilot-in-training to fatherly mentor Herbert Marshall, and up (in that extreme ‘40s sausage-roll style) as rival to studly flying ace Fred MacMurray. Engaged to Marshall, fated to MacMurray, some better coordinated flying schedules could have solved everyone’s problems. Or maybe if Roz weren’t so much more comfortable with the older guy. Director Lothar Mendes, nearing the early end of an uneven career, is hamstrung by the stop-and-start romance as well as from wartime budget restrictions that hurt the airborne camera trickery. Nice dramatic ‘backtrack’ farewell crane shot for Marshall, though. And check out Roz during a neat little scene after she’s just lost her first cross-country air race. Dropping her usual manner of landing every quip for maximum effect, she tries on a softer attack, looks softer, too, sounding much like (of all people) Barbara Stanwyck. What a difference it makes . . . for about half a minute. Then, back to rat-a-tat-tat.

DOUBLE-BILL: *Dorothy Arzner’s CHRISTOPHER STRONG remains a faintly ridiculous, if fascinating folly, whereas Hilary Swank has yet to recover from her unfascinating AMELIA/’09 bio-pic.

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