Cast & Crew
While gem dealer Horace K. Arlington frets over the safety of his newly purchased diamond collection, which is being shipped from Europe, Dave Hanlon ingratiates himself with Horace's daughter Arlene and plots with his three cohorts to steal the jewels. As part of the scheme, Dave hires Jerry Lane and Pierre Potkins, whose carnival act includes an airplane amusement ride, to pick up the stolen gems in a seaplane. Although Pierre is scheduled to meet with his parole officer that afternoon, he and Jerry accept the job and, unaware that their seaplane belongs to the police department, retrieve from the ocean what they believe to be harmless photographs. When Pierre inspects the package, however, he discovers the jewels, as well as a box of cocaine. After becoming intoxicated from the powder, Jerry, whose only knowledge of flying has come from reading books, crash lands the plane in the Arlingtons' backyard. Horace, seeing the police insignia on the plane, assumes the two men are detectives and immediately reveals his concern over his diamonds. Frightened, Jerry and Pierre take advantage of Horace's confusion and introduce themselves as detectives to Arlene and Juanita, the Arlingtons' pretty Latin maid. Soon after, however, Dave telephones Arlene and learns about Jerry and Pierre's sudden arrival. Anxious to claim the gems, Dave tells Arlene that Jerry and Pierre are escaped lunatics. Although she is attracted to Jerry, who entertains her with Charlie Chaplin imitations, Arlene orders Juanita, who likes Pierre, to contact the police. Before the authorities arrive, however, Dave and his henchmen show up and pressure Jerry and Pierre to divulge the diamonds' whereabouts. Just as Jerry reveals where he hid the gems, Squeezy, Juanita's Boston terrier, who has been sneaking objects from the Arlingtons' house and burying them in the yard, steals the hidden jewels. Horace's gullible wife Martha then sees Squeezy reflected in her crystal ball, but is unable to catch him before he buries the gems in a flower bed. During the frantic search for the diamonds, a flotilla of policemen descend upon the Arlingtons' yard. Eventually the diamonds are found by Juanita, but are then snatched away by Dave. After Jerry, who has unearthed an old pistol, fires at the fleeing crooks, the police apprehend the thieves. Declared sane, Jerry embraces Arlene, while Pierre hugs Juanita.
Frank M. Thomas
Samuel J. Briskin
John L. Cass
Feild M. Gray
Van Nest Polglase
Vernon L. Walker
In High Flyers, Wheeler and Woolsey are "pilots" on a midway carnival ride who have never actually been in the air. Hired by crook Jack Carson for a seemingly innocuous errand, they crash-land on the estate of a millionaire who's the target of Carson's planned jewel heist. The cast of characters includes Latin bombshell Lupe Velez as a sassy servant girl; frequent Marx Brothers foil Margaret Dumont as the lady of the house, obsessed with foreseeing the future in a crystal ball; and annoying ingenue Marjorie Lord, twenty years before she played Danny Thomas' sitcom wife on television.
Wheeler, the baby-faced, curly-haired one of the team, spent more than a decade in vaudeville before being signed for the Ziegfeld Follies. Woolsey, the cigar-chomping one with the round glasses, started out to be a jockey, but his career ended when he was thrown by a horse. He made his way into show business, and, eventually the Follies. In 1928, Ziegfeld teamed the two men in the show Rio Rita, and when the show was made into a film in 1929, Wheeler and Woolsey went along as comedy relief. Their manic, wisecracking humor was a natural for talking films, and RKO signed them to a contract.
During the early thirties, Wheeler and Woolsey were the studio's most popular stars. In those anything-goes pre-Production Code days, the duo's films were filled with double entendres and provocative situations. The coming of the Code managed to muzzle them somewhat, but their comedy was so fast-paced that they usually managed to slip a few things past the censors. Early in High Flyers, for example, they inadvertently get high on what is presumably cocaine.
Like many comics who honed their skills in vaudeville, Wheeler and Woolsey knew their way around a musical number, and the highlights of High Flyers come when they get to show them off. Woolsey performs an energetic "gaucho" comic song and dance with Lupe Velez. Wheeler does a spot-on Chaplin imitation, and dances a la Bill Bojangles Robinson. Lupe Velez's attempt to show her versatility - impressions of Dolores Del Rio, Simone Simon, and Shirley Temple - is also funny in an unintentional way. However, she redeems herself when she wraps up the performance by singing a lusty song, "I Always Get My Man" in her own voice.
Velez had made her film debut in a Laurel and Hardy silent short, Sailors Beware! (1927), then went on to appear in a string of dramas. But her flair for comedy soon became evident, and by the time she appeared in High Flyers, she was well established as a comic actress. By 1940, she had embarked on a comedy series of her own, the Mexican Spitfire films, co-starring Leon Errol. But her private life was less successful. A failed marriage to actor-athlete Johnny Weissmuller was followed by a string of tempestuous relationships, and in 1944 she committed suicide.
For Margaret Dumont, playing a society matron in High Flyers was no stretch. For one thing, that's exactly what she was. Her husband was a millionaire industrialist. And she had been playing the dignified foil to the Marx Brothers on stage and screen since 1929. The surprise in High Flyers, though, is seeing her play a somewhat daffy matron, more Billie Burke than typical Margaret Dumont. As the lady who's into crystal gazing and dotes on her kleptomaniac bull terrier, she brings a discreetly screwball touch to the proceedings.
Shortly after completing High Flyers, Robert Woolsey was bedridden in August, 1937. He died in October of 1938. After Woolsey's death, Wheeler continued acting in films, theater, and television as a single, but he was never able to equal the success he had as part of the team. By the time he died in 1968, the team of Wheeler and Woolsey had been all but forgotten by movie audiences.
Director: Edward F. Cline
Producer: Lee S. Marcus
Screenplay: Bert Granet, Byron Morgan, Benny Rubin, based on the play The Kangaroos, by Victor Mapes
Cinematography: Jack MacKenzie
Editor: John Lockert
Costume Design: Renie
Music: Roy Webb, Dave Dreyer, Herman Ruby
Cast: Bert Wheeler (Jerry Lane), Robert Woolsey (Pierre Potkin), Lupe Velez (Juanita Morales), Marjorie Lord (Arlene Arlington), Margaret Dumont (Martha Arlington), Jack Carson (Dave Hanlon), Paul Harvey (Horace Arlington).
by Margarita Landazuri
The working title of this film was The Kangaroos. High Flyers was the last film that Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey appeared in together. Woolsey died of kidney disease in 1938. In addition to Wheeler's imitation of Charlie Chaplin, this film includes Lupe Velez's imitations of Dolores Del Rio, Shirley Temple and Simone Simon. In February 1937, Hollywood Reporter announced that Betty Grable was to be the film's star. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, January Duggan and Robert O'Connor were cast in the film, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.