Saturday, December 26, 2009

1931-DIRIGIBLE Frank Capra action director

The writer Frank Wead (who was played by John Wayne in the Wings of Eagles) wrote this action/adventure story about a United States Navy blimp flying to the rescue of some arctic explorers trapped at the South Pole.  Frank Capra directed this film with a very high degree of talent and intelligence.


Capra tells the story at a fairly brisk pace and for the most part moves things along from one exciting situation to another.  Capra's photographer, Joseph Walker who worked with Capra on almost all of  his famous Columbia films,  photographed the film with lots of style, the scenes at Lakehurst with the navy men working with the blimps are very well lit and photographed.  The flying scenes with the blimps contain actual on location photography, combined with rear projection, models and miniatures.  It's all edited and blended together very effectively, at times the special effects still look very impressive.


Probably the most tiresome parts of Dirigible are the scenes with Fay Wray as the wife of the daredevil pilot who doesn't want him to fly anymore.  This type of character was already a cliche even in the early 1930's.   Capra didn't seem very comfortable with the dialog and situation, he must have been aware that this junk slowed down the picture.  These scenes are somewhat compensated by Fay Wray who is very easy to look at.  The fact that this type of female character still shows up in films today says a lot about the way Hollywood still views women.


It might have been interesting to see what type of action films Capra would have made, had he continued to work in this genre.  Instead Capra went on to make his social problem and humanitarian pictures, Mr Smith Goes To Washington, Mr Deeds Goes To Town, Meet John Doe and Lost Horizon.

Dirigible is a very impressive film for an early sound film.

100 minutes of no Capra corn.

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