(1920, US, 101 min, b/w) Dir Hans Bismark. Cast Francis de Pascal, Bert Fin, Alice Pluto.
Hans Bismark arrived in Hollywood from Germany in 1920 – within weeks of Francis de Pascal – with no money and a wooden leg, both rewards of his service in the First World War which also gave him a hatred of his home country twinned with a nostalgia for how Old Europe had been when he was a child. Formerly the ‘King of the Stage’ in Germany as an actor and director, his difficult nature made the move necessary and he was determined to make his mark in his new home, and quick. Armed with his commanding presence and a couple buckets of charm he hit the studios and within no time had a picture. He hadn’t taken the easy way out either – this stage director with shaky English was to be making a high seas adventure with hot new thing Francis de Pascal. The going wasn’t easy – two stuntmen lost their lives in a freak squall and the picture ran both over time and over budget but Pascalmania had hit and At Flight! couldn’t have not been a hit if it had tried. Even the title’s eccentric punctuation couldn’t dissuade them but then how could it? It’s a rip-roaring adventure chock full of romance and featuring the kind of hair-raising stunts that would have a modern-day safety conscious studio soiling their collective pants. Out the other end Bismark was in the top-tier of film directors and de Pascal had become the apogee of male beauty. It was not to last however – within five years both men would be persona non grata in Tinseltown and within ten they would both be dead.