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There's high drama in the skies in Without Orders (1936). The story centers on two pilots (Robert Armstrong and Vinton Haworth) who romance a flight attendant (Sally Eilers) and her sister (Frances Sage). Along the way, all the familiar notes of the airplane movie are struck, including the flight attendant who must fly and land the plane. There's also an attempted murder, a pilot who abandons his plane mid-flight and a case of flying under the influence...not to mention a quadrangle of romantic complications. For a 64-minute film, there's a lot going on in Without Orders.
The film was directed by B-movie specialist Lew Landers who spent the bulk of his career at Columbia, though he worked for almost every studio at some point during his thirty years in Hollywood. His earliest films were made for Universal and RKO (including Without Orders which was just his 10th film). Some of Landers more memorable films include: Bad Lands (1939), the western remake of John Ford's The Lost Patrol (1934); three entries in the Boston Blackie series, Alias Boston Blackie (1942), After Midnight with Boston Blackie (1943) and A Close Call for Boston Blackie (1946); two Lucille Ball comedies Annabel Takes a Tour and The Affairs of Annabel (both 1938); and two Bela Lugosi pictures The Raven (1935, which also starred Boris Karloff), and The Return of the Vampire (1944).
Landers seemed to have a knack for airplane pictures. Along with Without Orders he turned out several other flight films: Flight from Glory (1937), Sky Giant (1938), Air Hostess (1949) and Arctic Flight (1952). In his later career, Landers turned to television. He directed for a number of series, such as The Adventures of Superman and Bat Masterson.
Sally Eilers heads the cast of Without Orders. Eilers began her career as a dancer before signing with Mack Sennett in the 1920s. She had a small part in Sunrise (1927), the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar® and she stayed busy during the early sound era in films such as the Buster Keaton war-comedy Doughboys (1930), opposite Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers in State Fair (1933) and in the Eddie Cantor musical Strike Me Pink (1936). But Eilers' career was rapidly fading by the late '30s. She would only make 5 films after 1939, one of which was Edgar G. Ulmer's Strange Illusion (1945).
Joining Eilers in Without Orders is Robert Armstrong who is best known as the promoter who discovered King Kong in the 1933 classic. He would revive the role (of Carl Denham) in The Son of Kong (1933). Much later in his career, Armstrong would again play opposite a giant ape in Mighty Joe Young (1949). In the years in between, Armstrong's film appearances included the James Cagney FBI flick G-Men (1935), the war drama Wings Over the Pacific (1943), an installment of the Falcon series, The Falcon in San Francisco (1945), and the Tracy-Hepburn western The Sea of Grass (1947).
Armstrong's rival for Eilers affections in Without Orders is Vinton Haworth, who entered the movies in 1934's Enlighten Thy Daughter under the screen name Jack Arnold. For this reason, some filmographies mistakenly confuse Haworth and Jack Arnold, the director of films such as It Came from Outer Space (1953) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Haworth, however, never turned to directing and stayed busy as an actor through the 1930s and '40s in bit parts and supporting roles. Haworth did occasionally play a leading role, in films such as the RKO B-mystery China Passage (1937) and the waterfront drama Night Waitress (1936).
One last familiar face to note in Without Orders is Charley Grapewin, who plays J.P. Kendrick, the father of Vinton Haworth's character. Grapewin is best remembered for his roles as Dorothy's uncle in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Grandpa Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Producer: Cliff Reid, Samuel J. Briskin
Director: Lew Landers
Screenplay: Peter B. Kyne, J. Robert Bren, Edmund L. Hartmann
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Film Editing: Desmond Marquette
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Music: Max Steiner, Roy Webb
Cast: Sally Eilers (Kay Armstrong), Robert Armstrong (Wad. Madison), Frances Sage (Penny Armstrong), Charley Grapewin (J.P. Kendrick), Vinton Haworth (Len Kendrick), Ward Bond (Tim Casey).
by Stephanie Thames