I couldn’t resist seeing both Alice Faye and Constance Bennett in a 1939 movie called “Tail Spin,” which tells the story of aviatrices flying in “powder puff” competitions. Bennett, who plays a wealthy socialite named Gerry Lester, looks glamorous as she flies custom built planes. Faye, who plays Trixie Lee, looks like Rosy the Riveter as she plays the working-class aviatrix who must beg and borrow to keep her rickety airplane in the air.
Trixie and Gerry don’t get along, and even have a few slaps at each other in the hanger locker room. But, like Cary Grant in “Only Angels Have Wings,” also from 1939, they share a stoicism about the dangers of flying. The film features several crashes and some impressive stunt flying. In one scene, Trixie gets a face full of motor oil from her leaking engine and ends up crashing on a highway.
Other notables in the cast include Jane Wyman as an aviatrix and Henry Davenport as Gerry’s father. Davenport played Grandpa in “Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), which is probably his best-known role. Since many film historians consider 1939 to be Hollywood’s best year, I always enjoy seeing a movie from that year. Although not a classic, Tail Spin is refreshingly different — an action adventure film featuring aviatrices.