AIR HOSTESS was a movie about a stewardess. The stewardess was Evalyn Knapp, but Thelma Todd was involved in the proceedings as the "other woman" in the story.
Air Hostess (1933 film)
|Directed by||Albert S. Rogell|
|Written by||Milton Raison (adaptation)|
|Screenplay by||Milton Raison|
|Story by||Grace Perkins (uncredited)|
Elmer Dyer (aerial scenes)
|Editing by||Richard Cahoon|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||67 min.|
Evalyn Knapp plays a TWA air hostess attracted to a grandstanding pilot, despite the better advice of the blind mechanic and other employees who watch over her. (In reality, TWA did not initiate the use of air hostesses until 1935, when the Douglas DC-2 was introduced.) Knapp was being touted as a future star, with a starring role in Sinner's Holiday (1930), but eventually lost her A-status and was relegated to more B-fare such as Air Hostess.
James Murray appears here five years after his triumph in The Crowd. Another notorious drinker and former baseball star Mike Donlin appears as "Mike", a few months before his fatal heart attack. [N 2]
PlotIn World War I, pilot Bob King is shot and killed in France. His friends Ted "Lucky" Hunter (James Murray) and Pa Kearns (J.M. Kerrigan) pledge to look after his daughter, Kitty (Evalyn Knapp).[N 3] Years later, after the war, Kearns, now blind, works at an airport as an engine expert while Kitty is a TWA stewardess. Her father's friends still look after her as meddling chaperones.
A grandstanding Ted flies over the airport, meeting Kitty who is enamored with him. After a night on the town, he flies her back to the airport, but is met by angry mechanics and pilot Dick Miller (Arthur Pierson), who is in love with Kitty and ends up in a fight.
Ted soon announces his marriage to Kitty and forces her to quit her job. Dick gets her her job back when Ted is unable to make a living. Rich, three-time divorcee Sylvia Carleton (Thelma Todd) offers Ted a chance to build a radical new aircraft that can fly across the Pacific. A tête-à-tête between Ted and Sylvia in Albuquerque turns into a fiasco when Kitty and Dick arrive to find them both drunk.
Kitty leaves angrily for home, boarding a train that Ted and Dick learn is headed for a collapsing bridge. Both men try to save Kitty by flying to warn the engineer. Ted crash-lands on the tracks and wrecks his aircraft, but stops the train in time. Dick flies him back to the hospital with Kitty, as the couple reunites.
CastAs appearing in Air Hostess, (main roles and screen credits identified):
- Evalyn Knapp as Kitty King
- James Murray as Ted Hunter
- Arthur Pierson as Dick Miller
- Jane Darwell as Ma Kearns [N 4]
- J.M. Kerrigan as Pa Kearns
- Thelma Todd as Mrs. Carleton
- Mike Donlin as Mike
- Dutch Hendrian as Spike the Mechanic
ProductionThe film was shot primarily at the Glendale Grand Central Air Terminal and airport, as well as at Albuquerque, New Mexico. Aerial scenes in Air Hostess were reprised from earlier films.  In 1933, the film industry became more safety-conscious, with screen air crashes largely replaced by the use of appropriate scenes clipped from earlier epics such as Wings (1927), Hell's Angels (1930) and The Dawn Patrol (1930).
Aircraft used in the film include:
ReceptionConsidered along with other aviation films of the era, Air Hostess is a modest, B-film but has some redeeming qualities that have stood the film well over the years. A contemporary review in The New York Times noted: "... is pleasantly acted by James Murray, Arthur Pierson and Evalyn Knapp. Thelma Todd interprets the seductive blonde so heavily as to flavor the whole picture with a tinge of burlesque. Some of the air sequences have their moments of excitement, but Air Hostess needs more than airplanes to conceal the antiquity of its plot." In reviewing Air Hostess in a historical sense, the extensive use of the aircraft of the period now provides a near-documentary look at North American civil aviation in 1933. 
- The article also appeared in the October 1932–February 1933 issue.
- All of the lead actors encountered various misfortunes with Murray noticeably beginning a slow descent into alcoholism. With leading screen roles becoming scarce, he became a derelict and three years later, mysteriously drowned. Thelma Todd met a similar unexplained fate, found dead in her garage in 1935 at age 30.
- Characters also refer to Pa Kearns as "Pop" and "Popa Kearny".
- Although listed as Ma Kearns in the film credits, a sign at the airport advertises "Ma Kearny's Special Steak Dinner".
- "Screenplay info: Air Hostess." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- "Air Hostess (1933)." IMDb. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- "Notes: Air Hostess". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- Santoir, Christian. "Air Hostess" (in French). aeromovies.fr, February 9, 2013. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- "Credits: Air Hostess (1933)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- "Accident Report: Ford 5-AT-B Tri-Motor." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: March 19, 2013.
- Wynne 1987, p. 171.
- Farmer 1984, p. 4.
- "Movie Review:Air Hostess (1933), An Air Melodrama." The New York Times, January 23, 1933.
- Farmer, James H. Broken Wings: Hollywood's Air Crashes. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Pub Co., 1984. ISBN 978-9-999926-515.
- Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies". The Making of the Great Aviation Films, General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
- Wynne, Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots & Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1987. ISBN 0-933126-85-9.
* * *
Evalyn Knapp, the "Air Hostess" in this story, had an airplane pilot brother who was named after Orville Wright*. Orville Knapp was a well-known orchestra conductor in the thirties who eventually died in an airplane crash.
At the time that this movie was made, Columbia was still considered to be a "poverty row" studio. They wouldn't become a major studio until the success of IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in 1934. In 1933, Clark Gable was working at MGM, as were the Three Stooges. Their long-running series at Columbia would not begin until 1934.
There was a great deal of interest in aviation in the thirties. The exploits of famous flyers such as Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart seemed to be constantly in the news. Travel by air was becoming more popular, and a new type of glamour girl had appeared on the scene, the "Air Hostess".
The movie AIR HOSTESS was based on a story of the same name by Dora Macy, serialized in TRUE STORY magazine from October 1932 to February 1933. (Columbia had the movie out on January 15, 1933, just in time for the final installment of the serial to appear in print ).
James Murray and Evelyn Knapp seem to have been well liked for their parts in this film. Some reviewers seemed to think that Thelma Todd handled her role almost as if it was a comedy instead of a serious dramatic picture; somebody else said that seeing Thelma Todd made them almost expect to see Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers show up next, so it's possible that type of thinking had also influenced other reviewers.
David Bordwell at http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/11/11/daisies-in-the-crevices/ liked the camera work in this movie and posted film frame enlargements from this picture.
Here an airplane engine
Many B movies in this period were technically well made in spite of their budgets. AIR HOSTESS appears to have been one that was.
You see Thelma Todd prominently featured on the posters.
The trimotor configuration was common on airliners in this period, the type being dropped for military reasons during the years leading up to the second World War.
An original program from the Roxy Theater in New York.
Columbia would release a cartoon with the title THE AIR HOSTESS in 1937
Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly played airline stewardesses in another film.
And finally, here is a real-life air hostess from 1933.
* The Wright brothers - Wilbur and Orville - had invented the airplane.