Cast & Crew
Len Kendrick, whose father J. P. owns Amalgamated Air Lines, breaks a cross-country flying record and is cheered by a crowd of fans as he lands at the airline's Portland, Oregon airport. In the crowd are Kay Armstrong, an Amalgamated stewardess who is dating Wad Madison, a veteran pilot, and her sister Penny. Although the playboy Len prefers Kay, he goes out with Penny, who eventually follows him to New York on the pretext of furthering her show business career. While Kay grows frustrated by Wad's fanatical dedication to flying, Penny is dismayed by Len's heavy drinking. In spite of Penny's warnings, Len violates an aviation rule that stipulates that pilots should not fly within twenty-four hours of imbibing alcohol and makes a flight after a night of drinking. During the trip, Len experiences mechanical trouble but bails out just before the airplane crashes. His co-pilot, however, is killed. After bribing a bartender, Len is cleared of suspicion in the crash but is rejected by Penny. Broke, Len returns to Portland to fly for his father, who convinces Wad to abandon his plans to marry Kay and tutor Len. Oblivious to Wad, Len begins to romance Kay, who is impressed by the younger pilot's easy charm. When a jealous Wad finds Len drunk at Kay's apartment, he criticizes Kay for encouraging Len's bad habits. Resentful of Wad's possessivenness, Kay snubs him and, during a flying lesson, rejects his marriage proposal. Kay then writes to Penny, asking her advice about marrying Len, unaware of her sister's previous involvement with him. Concerned, Penny flies to Portland and meets secretly with Len to ask him to end his affair with Kay or have his crimes exposed. When he refuses to comply, Penny starts to telephone Kay, but is slugged by Len and fractures her skull on his mantlepiece. Leaving Penny unconscious, Len rushes to his next flight to Salt Lake City and asks Kay to marry him as soon as they land. By the time they reach Salt Lake City, however, Kay receives word that Penny is in the hospital and demands that they take Wad's flight back to Portland. When the airplane experiences engine trouble, Wad prepares to make an emergency landing, but Len locks him out of the cockpit and flies the craft to Portland. Accused publicly by Len of cowardice, Wad punches his rival and is fired by Kendrick. Wad then visits Penny, who is recuperating from surgery, and learns the truth about Len. Terrified, Wad dashes to the airport, where he hears that Len and Penny's flight to Salt Lake City has been trapped in a blizzard for hours. Eventually Wad connects with Len via radio and orders him to land, but Len, who has knocked out his co-pilot, chooses to jump rather than face a possible crash. After Len's parachute fails to open, Kay takes over the controls and, by following Wad's instructions, makes a safe emergency landing. Hailed as heroes, Kay and Wad, who has been re-hired by Kendrick, embrace.
Frank M. Thomas
J. Robert Bren
Edmund L. Hartmann
J. Roy Hunt
Van Nest Polglase
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
Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items add Edith Craig, Hooper Atchley and Jack Mulhall to the cast, but their participation in the final film has not been confirmed.