Archive for September 23, 2018

The Sunday Intertitle: Race Ace

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2018 by dcairns

THE FLYING ACE (1926) is a good-natured “race film” with an all-black cast. In making a film where the detective (a former WWI pilot), his sidekick, the local cop, the station manager and his daughter, a dentist, and the railroad magnate himself are all black, with not a single pallid face intruding, director Richard E. Norman is merely reversing the practice of most Hollywood films of the time. Black audiences bought tickets for the novelty of seeing themselves represented in less patronising terms, so why give white folk any screen time at all?

It makes the film a curious fantasy (though no more than Hollywood offerings always have been), depicting a black planet. As well as that, it’s a smart detective yarn with a novel twist predating Agatha Christie’s use of a comparable gimmick. Laurence Criner is a compelling and very naturalistic lead, though his comb-over tends to get disarrayed in the fight scenes. Most enjoyable presence is one-legged Steve ‘Peg’ Reynolds, very nimble on his crutch/peg-leg combo, who can even ride a bicycle and fire a gun at the same time. Norman cast him in nearly all his films until talkies put him out of business.

There’s scarcely a shot of planes in the air in this low-budget affair, so the barnstorming climax is staged against a painted wall, which doesn’t quite convince but adds to the homemade charm. Anyhow, that’s how they did the cars in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, it’s just that they had better computers.

Leading lady Kathryn Boyd.

You can buy THE FLYING ACE on this set of WWI Comedies, even though it’s not a comedy (but it has plenty of humour). I wish I could see all Norman’s films now,

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