On this day in history, exactly one hundred years ago, Igor Sikorsky braved the dangers faced by every early airman and made the world’s first flight in a four-engined aircraft. At the time, many people did not believe the news, thinking that an aircraft of such dimensions (27 m wingspan) could never get off the ground. But Sikorsky’s plane proved its worth, and eventually developed into just about every heavy passenger and cargo aircraft known to the world. (Sikorsky’s was a bi-plane, but otherwise the basic design still holds.)
Exactly twenty-four years later, the world’s first commercial transatlantic roundtrip was in its final phase (completed on May 14, 1937). That event probably helped to inspire the movie Non-Stop New York, which reminds us that Sikorsky’s design is not the only possible solution. At least not in the imagination of film-makers.
Non-Stop New York is a fairly straight-forward thriller, quite light and typical of the 30s. The plot is simple (but not stupid, mind), the dialogue is well-paced and the actors are good. In particular Anna Lee shines in the leading role. What sets it apart, however, is a touch of science fiction. The film is set two years into the future (1939), because the plot leads up to a transatlantic passenger flight which is the setting for the second half, and transatlantic passenger flights just did not happen in 1937. (Actually they did, with rigid airships, but the Hindenburg disaster that same year probably did not inspire the script writer to use that kind of vehicle.)
Notice how the shadows in the above image fall differently on the plane and on the ground.
In one respect the film was rather prophetic, because the world’s first transatlantic passenger flight was indeed made in 1939, but the design and scale of the movie’s aircraft came to surpass reality by far. The plane in the movie has spacious cabins, a bar, dining room, and even an outside observation deck! Its interior reminds more of a miniature ocean liner than an airplane.
But while there is a touch of sci-fi, it is no more than a touch. In terms of mood and intent, this is a pure romantic thriller. As such, it stands on its own and is well worth watching. The curiosity factor is just an added bonus.
This film is best enjoyed in anticipation of a long flight, to get in the right mood.
Non-Stop New York
Running time: 1 h 37 min
Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Anna Lee, John Loder
Image quality: Acceptable
Resolution: Medium (720×528)
Sound quality: Good
Best file format: DivX (690 M)