The Flying Irishman


1h 12m 1939
The Flying Irishman

Brief Synopsis

True story of "Wrong Way" Corrigan, who set out to cross the U.S. and ended up in Ireland.

Film Details

Also Known As
Born to Fly
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Release Date
Apr 7, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

As a crowd eagerly awaits the victorious return of flyer Douglas Corrigan from his transatlantic flight, a radio announcer recounts the story of the pilot's life: Inbued with a passion to fly, Doug has to overcome many adversities in order to obtain his goal. As a boy of nine, Doug's parents separate, leaving his mother to struggle with the rearing of two sons and a daughter. The family moves to Los Angeles where Doug works to help support his siblings. When his mother dies, he becomes the family's sole supporter. After putting his brother through college, Doug pays for flying lessons with leftover funds and saves enough money to invest in an airplane with his boyhood idol, Butch, an experienced pilot. Butch, however, is rejected for a pilot's license because of a weak heart, and, after punching Joe Alden, the licenser, jumps into the airplane and crashes while attempting a daring dive. Doug's dream of a transatlantic flight appears to crash along with the plane, but with money earned working overtime as an airplane mechanic, and money inherited from his father, he eventually is able to buy and refurbish a second-hand plane. Henry, who has now graduated from college, expresses his interest in flying with Doug, but changes his mind after Doug takes him up for the first time. When Doug hears about a new commercial airline route to Ireland, he decides to prove his flying ability by making the transatlantic trip alone in his antiquated aircraft. As a result of his successful flight, Doug captures the attention of the head of the airline company and is offered a job as vice-president. Doug turns down the offer and admits that he wishes to be a pilot, nothing more.

Film Details

Also Known As
Born to Fly
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Biography
Release Date
Apr 7, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 12m
Sound
Mono (RCA Victor System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Flying Irishman


The year 1939 is generally considered the peak of the American cinema and the studio system due to its abundance of certified classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Ninotchka and many more. The Flying Irishman, released that same year, is not one of them. It is, however, an offbeat historical account of an authentic American folk hero, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, whose nickname still resonates long after people have forgotten who he is or what he did. The film also works as a curiosity piece and provides some unintentional humor due to the casting of Corrigan himself in the title role.

He was born Clyde Corrigan, Jr. in Texas in 1907. According to the movie, his hard-working Pennsylvania Dutch mother changed the boy's name after the ne'er-do-well Clyde Sr. walked out on the family. The implication is that young Doug became a celebrity aviator through a mixture of his mother's earnest determination and his father's devil-may-care recklessness. It's hard to tell, though, from Corrigan's performance. He may have been a great pilot but, as an actor, he fails to register what were surely the big emotional moments of his life: his mother's death, the tense perils of his famous trans-Atlantic flight, etc. Watching Corrigan try to appear natural while doing something as simple as smiling or just standing is both funny and painful, and really makes one appreciate the deceptive ease professional actors bring to their work.

Corrigan's forte, of course, was flying, and the picture chronicles that effectively. At times it even captures some of the excitement and homespun hero worship of the early days of aviation during the transition from the freewheeling barnstorming days to a regulated industry marked by the occasional mavericks and risk-takers (Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes) who made headlines with daring feats. The story, scripted by Ernest Pagano and future Hollywood Ten writer Dalton Trumbo, also makes clear how the new restrictions and licensing requirements of the industry directly led to Corrigan's famous feat.

After years of laboring as a pilot, mechanic, and plane builder (including work on the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane Lindbergh flew solo to Paris in 1927), Corrigan bought a used plane and jerry-rigged it for long flights, installing extra fuel tanks that blocked his forward field of vision. Eager to fly solo across the ocean to Ireland, Corrigan applied to the federal government for permission in 1935. His application was denied, however, because officials claimed the plane was not sound enough to make the non-stop journey. It was, however, certified for cross-country journeys, and he made several of them.

On July 17, 1938, Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York, ostensibly for a return trip to California. Instead he headed east and continued over the Atlantic, landing at Baldonnel Airport in Dublin after 28+ hours. Aviation regulators sent him a 600-word telegram detailing all the rules he had broken, but Corrigan insisted he had made the trip with poor visibility, a broken compass, and no idea he was heading east until 26 hours into his flight. Although he stood by that story for the rest of his life, The Flying Irishman makes it fairly obvious that the "mistake" was intentional. That, however, did not stop him from becoming a worldwide source of good-natured humor – the New York Post printed the headline about his feat backwards and his nickname turned up for years thereafter as comical asides in such TV shows as Gilligan's Island and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

Corrigan did nothing to dispel the idea that he had gone the wrong way. Partly this was due to the threat of punishment and loss of his license (he had gotten off easy with a 20-day suspension), but it was also obvious that the public regarded him a hero (his New York ticker tape parade was attended by more people than the crowds that celebrated Lindbergh's victory). Error or not, they recognized his brave and daring accomplishment in a cheap used plan that had been rebuilt, as journalist H.R. Knickerbocker wrote at the time, "as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates." Corrigan endorsed "wrong way" products, such as a watch that ran backwards, and published an autobiography, My Story. And he stuck to his account of the flight until his death in 1995. Not surprisingly, he never appeared in another movie, although he did show up as a contestant on a 1957 episode of the game show To Tell the Truth.

The Flying Irishman was shot by J. Roy Hunt, better known for the noir drama Crossfire (1947) and the Astaire-Rogers musical Flying Down to Rio (1933), in which an air show is the basis for a big production number. Many of The Flying Irishman's scenes were filmed at airports in Van Nuys and Culver City.

Director: Leigh Jason
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Ernest Pagano, Dalton Trumbo
Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt
Editing: Arthur E. Roberts
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Original Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Douglas Corrigan (Himself), Paul Kelly (Butch), Robert Armstrong (Joe Alden), Eddie Quillan (Henry Corrigan), Joyce Compton (Sally).
BW-71m.

by Rob Nixon
The Flying Irishman

The Flying Irishman

The year 1939 is generally considered the peak of the American cinema and the studio system due to its abundance of certified classics such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Stagecoach, Ninotchka and many more. The Flying Irishman, released that same year, is not one of them. It is, however, an offbeat historical account of an authentic American folk hero, Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, whose nickname still resonates long after people have forgotten who he is or what he did. The film also works as a curiosity piece and provides some unintentional humor due to the casting of Corrigan himself in the title role. He was born Clyde Corrigan, Jr. in Texas in 1907. According to the movie, his hard-working Pennsylvania Dutch mother changed the boy's name after the ne'er-do-well Clyde Sr. walked out on the family. The implication is that young Doug became a celebrity aviator through a mixture of his mother's earnest determination and his father's devil-may-care recklessness. It's hard to tell, though, from Corrigan's performance. He may have been a great pilot but, as an actor, he fails to register what were surely the big emotional moments of his life: his mother's death, the tense perils of his famous trans-Atlantic flight, etc. Watching Corrigan try to appear natural while doing something as simple as smiling or just standing is both funny and painful, and really makes one appreciate the deceptive ease professional actors bring to their work. Corrigan's forte, of course, was flying, and the picture chronicles that effectively. At times it even captures some of the excitement and homespun hero worship of the early days of aviation during the transition from the freewheeling barnstorming days to a regulated industry marked by the occasional mavericks and risk-takers (Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes) who made headlines with daring feats. The story, scripted by Ernest Pagano and future Hollywood Ten writer Dalton Trumbo, also makes clear how the new restrictions and licensing requirements of the industry directly led to Corrigan's famous feat. After years of laboring as a pilot, mechanic, and plane builder (including work on the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane Lindbergh flew solo to Paris in 1927), Corrigan bought a used plane and jerry-rigged it for long flights, installing extra fuel tanks that blocked his forward field of vision. Eager to fly solo across the ocean to Ireland, Corrigan applied to the federal government for permission in 1935. His application was denied, however, because officials claimed the plane was not sound enough to make the non-stop journey. It was, however, certified for cross-country journeys, and he made several of them. On July 17, 1938, Corrigan took off from Floyd Bennett Field in New York, ostensibly for a return trip to California. Instead he headed east and continued over the Atlantic, landing at Baldonnel Airport in Dublin after 28+ hours. Aviation regulators sent him a 600-word telegram detailing all the rules he had broken, but Corrigan insisted he had made the trip with poor visibility, a broken compass, and no idea he was heading east until 26 hours into his flight. Although he stood by that story for the rest of his life, The Flying Irishman makes it fairly obvious that the "mistake" was intentional. That, however, did not stop him from becoming a worldwide source of good-natured humor – the New York Post printed the headline about his feat backwards and his nickname turned up for years thereafter as comical asides in such TV shows as Gilligan's Island and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Corrigan did nothing to dispel the idea that he had gone the wrong way. Partly this was due to the threat of punishment and loss of his license (he had gotten off easy with a 20-day suspension), but it was also obvious that the public regarded him a hero (his New York ticker tape parade was attended by more people than the crowds that celebrated Lindbergh's victory). Error or not, they recognized his brave and daring accomplishment in a cheap used plan that had been rebuilt, as journalist H.R. Knickerbocker wrote at the time, "as a boy would build a scooter out of a soapbox and a pair of old roller skates." Corrigan endorsed "wrong way" products, such as a watch that ran backwards, and published an autobiography, My Story. And he stuck to his account of the flight until his death in 1995. Not surprisingly, he never appeared in another movie, although he did show up as a contestant on a 1957 episode of the game show To Tell the Truth. The Flying Irishman was shot by J. Roy Hunt, better known for the noir drama Crossfire (1947) and the Astaire-Rogers musical Flying Down to Rio (1933), in which an air show is the basis for a big production number. Many of The Flying Irishman's scenes were filmed at airports in Van Nuys and Culver City. Director: Leigh Jason Producer: Pandro S. Berman Screenplay: Ernest Pagano, Dalton Trumbo Cinematography: J. Roy Hunt Editing: Arthur E. Roberts Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Original Music: Roy Webb Cast: Douglas Corrigan (Himself), Paul Kelly (Butch), Robert Armstrong (Joe Alden), Eddie Quillan (Henry Corrigan), Joyce Compton (Sally). BW-71m. by Rob Nixon

Peggy Ryan (1924-2004)


Peggy Ryan, the bouncing, effervescent dancer and leading lady to Donald O'Connor in a string of youth musicals during World War II, died on October 30 in Las Vegas' Sunrise Hospital from complications of a stroke. She was 80.

Born Margaret O'Rene Ryan on August 28, 1924, in Long Beach, California, Ryan began dancing professionally as a toddler in her parents' vaudeville act, the Dancing Ryans, and was discovered by George Murphy when she was 12. Murphy arranged for young Peggy to dance with him in the Universal musical Top of the Town (1937). She would go on to make a few more film appearances over the next few years - the most striking of which as a starving, homeless girl in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - yet for the most part, she was hardly noticeable apart from a few dance numbers.

Her luck changed when Universal cast her opposite another teenage hoofer, Donald O'Connor in What's Cookin'? (1942). From then on, they teamed in a series of innocuous musicals that were low on production values, but high on youthful pluck. Just check out some of their titles: Private Buckaroo, Give Out, Sisters!, Get Hep to Love (all 1942); Top Man, Mr. Big (both 1943); Chip Off the Old Block, This Is the Life, and Bowery to Broadway (all 1944). They may have not been high art, but jitterbuggin' kids loved it, and given the low investment Universal put into these pictures, they turned quite the profit.

Her career slowed down after the war. In 1945, she married songwriter James Cross, and didn't return to films until 1949, when she made two minor musicals that year: Shamrock Hill, There's a Girl in My Heart. She divorced Cross in 1952 and met her second husband, dancer Ray McDonald, in her final film appearance, a forgettable musical with Mickey Rooney, All Ashore (1953). Tragically, McDonald died in 1957 after a food choking incident, and the following year, Ryan moved to Honolulu after marrying her third husband, Honolulu Advertiser columnist Eddie Sherman. She kept herself busy teaching dance classes at the University of Hawaii, but in 1969, she found herself back in front of the camera as Jenny Sherman, secretary to Detective Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) on the long-running show Hawaii Five-O,. She played the role for seven years, remaining until 1976.

Eventually, Ryan relocated with her husband to Las Vegas, where for the last few years, she was teaching tap dancing to a whole new generation of hoofers. She is survived by her son, Shawn; daughter Kerry; and five grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Peggy Ryan (1924-2004)

Peggy Ryan, the bouncing, effervescent dancer and leading lady to Donald O'Connor in a string of youth musicals during World War II, died on October 30 in Las Vegas' Sunrise Hospital from complications of a stroke. She was 80. Born Margaret O'Rene Ryan on August 28, 1924, in Long Beach, California, Ryan began dancing professionally as a toddler in her parents' vaudeville act, the Dancing Ryans, and was discovered by George Murphy when she was 12. Murphy arranged for young Peggy to dance with him in the Universal musical Top of the Town (1937). She would go on to make a few more film appearances over the next few years - the most striking of which as a starving, homeless girl in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) - yet for the most part, she was hardly noticeable apart from a few dance numbers. Her luck changed when Universal cast her opposite another teenage hoofer, Donald O'Connor in What's Cookin'? (1942). From then on, they teamed in a series of innocuous musicals that were low on production values, but high on youthful pluck. Just check out some of their titles: Private Buckaroo, Give Out, Sisters!, Get Hep to Love (all 1942); Top Man, Mr. Big (both 1943); Chip Off the Old Block, This Is the Life, and Bowery to Broadway (all 1944). They may have not been high art, but jitterbuggin' kids loved it, and given the low investment Universal put into these pictures, they turned quite the profit. Her career slowed down after the war. In 1945, she married songwriter James Cross, and didn't return to films until 1949, when she made two minor musicals that year: Shamrock Hill, There's a Girl in My Heart. She divorced Cross in 1952 and met her second husband, dancer Ray McDonald, in her final film appearance, a forgettable musical with Mickey Rooney, All Ashore (1953). Tragically, McDonald died in 1957 after a food choking incident, and the following year, Ryan moved to Honolulu after marrying her third husband, Honolulu Advertiser columnist Eddie Sherman. She kept herself busy teaching dance classes at the University of Hawaii, but in 1969, she found herself back in front of the camera as Jenny Sherman, secretary to Detective Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) on the long-running show Hawaii Five-O,. She played the role for seven years, remaining until 1976. Eventually, Ryan relocated with her husband to Las Vegas, where for the last few years, she was teaching tap dancing to a whole new generation of hoofers. She is survived by her son, Shawn; daughter Kerry; and five grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

RKO paid Douglas Corrigan more than $100,000 for rights to his biography.

Notes

The working title for this film was Born to Fly. The Flying Irishman was based on the life of aviator Douglas Corrigan, who, according the New York Times review, was "one of the world's worst fibbers...and one of the world's worst actors." According to modern sources, Corrigan was paid in excess of $100,000 for the rights to his autobiography. The film recounts the major events in Corrigan's life from age nine until his famous "wrong-way" transatlantic flight in 1938. The Variety review notes that although he planned his flight from New York to Ireland (instead of the scheduled Los Angeles destination) well in advance of his departure, Corrigan accepted the film's treatment of the crossing as a harmless mistake. Prior to his transatlantic crossing, Corrigan was reportedly warned by the government not to attempt the flight because his monoplane was thought to be unsafe. Upon arriving in Ireland, Corrigan admitted that his "mistake" was intentional.
       According to the Variety review, Corrigan "had much to say about the script, and sidetracked many story angles the studio wanted to use in the picture." A September 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that writer Rowland Brown "walked out on the script" following a dispute with studio executives on the manner in which the story was to be handled. Hollywood Reporter news items also note that Ernest Pagano replaced his brother Jo on script duties.
       A pre-production Hollywood Reporter news item noted that actress Dorothy Appleby replaced Penny Singleton as "Maybelle." Although various Hollywood Reporter news items list Becky Bohanon, John Arledge, Dorothy Lovett and Gilbert Emery in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A Hollywood Reporter pre-production news item listed Neil Hamilton in the cast, but he did not appear in the released film. Modern sources list the following actors in the film: Charles Williams (Repo man), Lloyd Ingraham (Doctor), Marcia Mae Jones (Teenager), Milt Kibbee (Airport manager), George Chandler (Airport gas attendant), Leon Belasco (Russian commentator) and Olaf Hytten (Irish airport official).
       According to Hollywood Reporter, following the completion of the film, Corrigan flew his airplane to San Francisco, where it was to be placed on exhibition at the World's Fair. Modern sources list Howard Tatt as the pilot of the camera airplane, and indicate that portions of the film were shot at Metropolitan Airport in Van Nuys, California, and at the Culver City Airport in Culver City, California.