Cast & Crew
During the Japanese invasion of China, a truck transporting civilian passengers by night, on the Assam Road to India, is forced to stop because a Chinese munitions truck is stuck in the muddy road. All lights are turned out when enemy Japanese bombers fly overhead, but Albert Pasavy, a trader, accidentally flips the headlights on while trying to ignite the cigarette lighter. The Japanese see the lights and bomb the road. The munitions truck is destroyed, so Lt. Tang commandeers the other truck to transport his now-wounded men and takes everyone back to a secret air field in Chungking. American captain Nick Stanton, who is attached to the Chinese Air Force, is furious that civilians have been brought to the secret base until he meets Ann Richards, a beautiful American Red Cross nurse. Woman-starved Nick cannot resist kissing Ann, but later resents her insistence that she and her companion, Madame Wu, who is on a secret diplomatic mission, be flown immediately to India. Nick flippantly recommends that Ann wire the minister of the interior for permission, but after he catches passenger Countess Olga Karagin in his office embroidering a map showing the secret bases along the Assam Road, he insists that they all return by truck to Chungking. Olga is arrested for spying, and as the passengers unwillingly board the truck, Ann gets a wire from the minister of the interior ordering Nick to fly the passengers to India. Nick grudgingly agrees, but en route, the plane is shot down by Japanese bombers. Nick manages to land the plane safely in the jungle and only his co-pilot, Capt. Po, is injured. Before the radio fails, Nick and Po learn that Olga committed suicide but revealed before her death that her superior is still among them. Nick and Po plan to build a raft to float downriver, but the next morning, the Rev. Doctor Van Der Lieden is found missing. Just as the group is about to embark on the raft, Van Der Lieden returns with a basket of food he claims he received at a nearby monastery. Fearing exposure, the passengers disobey Nick's command that they continue by raft, and follow Van Der Lieden on the three-hour hike to the monastery. Once there, however, Van Der Lieden reveals that he is a Nazi commander working with the Japanese forces. Nick negotiates for the safety of the hostages, and Van Der Lieden agrees to allow Po to repair the plane if Nick wires his superiors to trade Olga for the hostages. To stall for time, Nick sends the wire, knowing that Olga is dead. The return wire is encoded, and Nick pretends that the hostage exchange is proceeding according to plan. In the meantime, the male hostages are kept in cells, while Ann and Madame Wu are held in a chapel. When Van Der Lieden finally decodes Nick's message and reads its true contents, Nick and Maj. Raoul Brissac, who is with the French Free Legion, try to escape, but Pasavy, concerned for his own life, betrays them to Van Der Lieden. Van Der Lieden watches Pasavy grovel before him and then coldly shoots him. Nick kills Van Der Lieden, and after he helps free the women, they all escape under enemy fire. Japanese troops follow them into the jungle, where Brissac sacrifices his own life to save the others by pulling the pin on a grenade, killing himself along with the Japanese. Nick, Po, Ann and Madame Wu then fly to safety. Having fallen in love, Nick and Ann vow to reunite after the war.
Lee Tung Foo
Lorin L. Raker
Ellen Drew, 1914-2003
She was born Esther Loretta "Terry" Ray on November 23, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri. The daughter of a barber, her family moved to Chicago when she was still an infant and she lived a very quiet childhood far removed from the glamour of Hollywood. She was encouraged by some friends to enter a beauty contest when she was just 17. After winning, she tried her luck in Hollywood, but found that they were no immediate offers for her particular talents.
She eventually took a waitressing job at C.C. Brown's, a famed Hollywood Boulevard soda fountain, and had virtually abandoned her dreams as a starlet when William Demarest, a popular actor's agent and well-known character actor, spotted her. Demarest arranged a screen test for her at Paramount, and she was promptly placed under contract for $50 a week.
For the first few years, (1936-38), Drew got only bit parts, and was often uncredited. When she finally got prominent billing in the Bing Crosby musical Sing You Sinners (1938), she decided to change her name, from Terry Ray to Ellen Drew. She earned her first major role in Frank Lloyd's If I Were King (1938) opposite Ronald Colman, yet for the most part of her career, rarely rose above "B" material and second leads. Still, she had some fine exceptions: Preston Sturges' enchanting comedy Christmas in July (1940), with Dick Powell; Tay Garnett's lighthearted war romp My Favorite Spy (1942) co-starring Kay Kyser; Julien Duvivier's taut The Imposter (1944), holding her own with a brooding Jean Gabin; and Mark Robson's chilling low-budget chiller Isle of the Dead (1945) opposite Boris Karloff. Drew made some notable television appearances in the late '50s including Perry Mason and The Barbara Stanwyck Show, before retiring from the entertainment industry. She is survived by her son David; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Ellen Drew, 1914-2003
The working titles of this film were Sky Over China and China Pass. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, this film was Walter McEwen's first producing effort for Paramount. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Veronica Lake was initially considered for the lead in this film. Albert Dekker was included in the cast in an Hollywood Reporter production chart, but he was not in the released film. Night Plane from Chungking was Robert Preston's final film before being inducted into the Armed Forces, he did not appear in another film until 1947, when he co-starred in The Macomber Affair. Harry Hervey's unpublished story, known both as "Sky Over China" and "China Pass," was also the basis for Paramount's 1932 film Shanghai Express, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook and Anna May Wong (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3993).