The Grand Central Air Terminal was one of the favorite shooting locales among
Hollywood directors. Though rumored to have been filmed at the Terminal, the
closing scenes of Casablanca were actually shot on a sound stage. However, some
of the movies that WERE filmed at the airport include the following:
"Bright Eyes" (Fox 1934) Directed by: David Butler. Cast: Shirley Temple,
James Dunn, Jane Darwell, Judith Allen, Lois Wilson, Charles Johnson, Jane Withers.
"Hats Off" (Grand National 1937) Directed by: Boris Petroff. Cast: Mae
Clarke, John Payne, Helen Lynd, Luis Alberni, Richard Gallaghar, Franklin Pangborn,
"Hollywood Hotel" (Warner Bros. 1937) Directed by: Busby Berkely. Cast:
Dick Powell, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Benny Goodman, Raymond Paige, Hugh Herbert,
Ted Healy, Glenda Farrell, Johnnie Davis, Alan Mowbray.
"Sky Giant" (RKO 1938) Directed by: Lew Landers. Cast: Richard Dix, Chester
Morris, Joan Fontaine, Harry, Carey, Paul Guilfoyle, Robert Strange, Max Hoffman,
"Sky Raiders" (Universal 1941) Directed by: Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor.
Cast: Donald Woods, Kathryn
"Sherlock Holmes in Washington" (Universal 1943) Directed by: Roy William
Neill. Cast: Basil Rathbone, Niguel Bruce, Marjorie Lord, Henry Daniell, George
Zucco, John Archer, Gavin Muir, Edmund MacDonald, Don Terry.
"Air Hostess" (Columbia 1933) Directed by: Albert S. Rogell. Cast: Evelyn
Knapp, James Murray, Thelma Todd, Keene Thompson.
"Central Airport" (Warner Bros. 1933) Directed by: William Wellman. Cast:
Richard Barthelmess, Tom Brown, Sally Eilers, Glenda Farrell, Grant Mitchell,
John Wayne (bit part).
"Going Up" (Douglas MacLean Associated 1923) Directed by: Lloyd Ingraham.
Cast: Douglas MacLean, Hallam Cooley, Francis McDonal, Mervyn LeRoy.
Pancho Barnes and the Associated Motion Picture Pilots
In 1929, since so many would-be pilots were attempting and getting work, the
nucleus of the aviators formed a union called "The Associated Motion Picture
Pilots." Pancho Barnes (whose maiden name was Florence Lowe) was its first president
and they would meet at her home in San Marino, California. Some of the charter
members included Pancho, Frank Clarke, Boots Le Boutillier, Ira Reed, Dick Grace,
Al Wilson, and Dick Rinaldi. They set pricing and were able to keep producers
from seeking lesser qualified pilots.
Howard Hughes' Hells Angels
While the motion picture Wings was wrapping up, another epic was in pre-production.
Howard Hughes' Hells Angels became the motion picture that set new standards
for large budget aviation shows. Hughes sent aeronautical experts all over the
world with cash in hand to purchase planes for his film. He soon had at his
disposal the largest fleet of aircraft ever assembled except by governments.
More than 50 World War I aircraft were purchased and reconditioned for flying.
He then hired over a hundred pilots including all of Hollywood's foremost stunt
pilots. Frank Clarke was the chief pilot, Frank Tomick was chief camera ship
pilot, and Harry Perry was in charge of aerial photography. Clarke was noted
for his daring stunts in the air and many of the thrilling wing-walking and
plane changing stunts originated with Clarke while at the Venice Airport (south
of Santa Monica) where he learned to fly in 1918.
Hughes leased several hundred acres of land in the San Fernando Valley, and
built a base of operations that was photographed as an allied base. The airfield
came to be known as Caddo Field and later as the Metropolitan Airport. It is
now known as Van Nuys Airport. Over the hill in Chatsworth, an exact replica
of a German airfield used by German flying ace Baron Van Richthofen was built.
In October 1927, actual filming of the movie began with Ben Lyon, James Hall,
and Greta Nissen as the principal players. Hughes spent three years and close
to two million dollars in creating the biggest war picture ever made at the
time….all in true Howard Hughes style.