Hell’s Angels

Hell’s Angels

Police and a squad of Marines battled a mob last week on Hollywood Boulevard. Overhead a battle squadron of airplanes looped and scattered flare bombs. Milling, shouting, jeering, cheering thousands surged along the roped and guarded sidewalk. They came by motor and trolley from miles around, inflamed with the lust to gape. They came to see the famed females of the movies in what is not inaccurately described on nights like this as the flesh. Squired by famed movie males these females dress in their sheerest best to attend the world premiere of a motion picture. Normally at a Hollywood opening only a handful of the really great attend. The rest cannot be bothered with the ghastly splendor of the ceremonies. But last week one and all turned out. They came in answer to the loudest, shrewdest ballyhoo ever raised in cinema’s capital. Besides, they could ill afford to be absent. Admission, for the first time in Hollywood history, was $11 per ticket. They came, also, to see the picture, Hell’s Angels. They went away only partly pleased. They had seen incomparably the greatest air spectacle ever projected. They had seen this spectacle woven through a war story of tragedy and cowardice. Despite the vivid dialog of Joseph Moncure (The Wild Party) March who wrote swear words for the actors in defiance of cinema custom, the story seemed inexpert. It told of two British brothers flying against Germany. At the climax the brave brother shot the timid brother to keep him from telling British army secrets to the Germans. There was also a love story which ended when the girl got drunk and plunged into the arms of another man, also drunk. Ben Lyon, as the timid brother, acted best. Discounting its less efficient elements the picture still stands as an astounding achievement. The air sequences will draw gasps from the most stolid patron. In the early reels a duel (German) is most adroitly handled. Scenes on board a Zeppelin raiding London are tense with grim reality. The destruction of this Zeppelin has rarely been rivalled in the whole history of motion picture thrills. Best shot: the Zeppelin nosing through night clouds over London. Not the least talk-provoking thing about Hell’s Angels was its producer, young, thin, awkward, very rich, slightly deaf, mentally energetic Howard Hughes, nephew of Novelist Rupert Hughes. His late father controlled a patent on a device necessary to every oil-well drill. With nothing to do. young Hughes became interested in aviation arid the cinema. He produced two successful silent pictures, Two Arabian Knights and The Racket. Then he decided to make a great air picture. He spent $2,000,000 on Hell’s Angels. Two flyers died in action before the camera. The death scene of one remains in the picture—a big bombing plane falling in flames. The pilot got out with a parachute but not his assistant, who was working the flame and smoke pots. Hell’s Angels began before the movies were old enough to talk. Producer Hughes spent a third and part of a fourth million to put voices and sounds into his production. No detail was considered too minute for meticulous attention. Hughes himself is a licensed pilot able to perform almost every stunt for which he paid his flyers. He drives a motor car fast but keeps paint on his mudguards. He is fond of golf and Cinemactress Billie Dove, who recently acquired a nickel-plated Rolls-Royce.

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