Mill Creek Musings: Lost in the Stratosphere (1934)

Tom ‘Soapy’ Cooper (William Cagney) and Richard ‘Woody’ Wood (Eddie Nugent) are both lieutenants in the U.S. Army.

As two of the Army’s best pilots, they often work together on very dangerous missions. Risking their lives together all of the time makes the men close friends, but they also engage in friendly rivalries.

Many of their rivalries are of the romantic type. They frequently find themselves fighting over the same girl, arguing over who will take her on a date first, or who will take her on a better date. They go to great lengths to sabotage each other’s romantic efforts, but it’s all in good fun.

(Image via Quality Information Publishers)
(Image via Quality Information Publishers)

But when Woody’s hometown fiance Evelyn (June Collyer) comes to town, only to have Cooper unknowingly date her too, Woody finds it hard to forgive ol’ Soapy. (Evelyn tells Soapy that her name is “Ida Johnson,” taking on the name of her maid – portrayed by Hattie McDaniel – to conceal her identity.) Still, the men must continue working with each other, and they’ll soon be sent out on their most hazardous mission yet.

Lost in the Stratosphere was directed by Melville Brown (Check and Double Check). The screenplay was written by Albert DeMond (Code of the Prairie) from an original story by Tristram Tupper (Girl Overboard).

Lost in the Stratosphere appears in the 50 Timeless Family Classics set from Mill Creek. The picture quality of Mill Creek’s print is quite good. However, the sound is somewhat muffled. The dialogue can be difficult to make out at times, though throughout most of the film’s run it isn’t too bothersome. The print is complete, filling the film’s original run time of about 64 minutes.

Lost in the Stratosphere mixes a bit of comedy and some adventurous flight action into its story but it’s largely a soapy, romantic melodrama.

(Image via Toutlecine)
(Image via Toutlecine)

The timeline of events is a bit strange. Was Woody already engaged to Evelyn by the time he and Soapy were partnered up in the army? If so, he really has no reason to be mad about the whole ordeal. He’s been running around on Evelyn, taking dates and competing with Soapy for women even though he’s already got a fiance. On top of that, Soapy truly didn’t realize that “Ida” was Evelyn. Woody’s got a “woe is me” complex that makes him a little bit obnoxious.

The biggest draw for me in watching this film was the chance to see William Cagney, brother of James, in one of his few before-the-camera roles. Bill did most of his work in Hollywood as a producer rather than a screen star. He looks quite a bit like this brother and has some of the same mannerisms, which is fun to see.

The shared mannerisms do make it difficult for the viewer to judge Bill’s performance objectively. James Cagney is one of my absolute favorite actors, and it’s hard for anyone to complete his level of talent and charisma in my book. With James and Bill sharing some of the same smirks and speech patterns, it’s impossible not to compare them.

However, all of the performances in the film are decent. None of the actors involved are top-tier, but they get the job done. Lost in the Stratosphere makes for an alright time-filler if you’ve got an hour to spare. The score: 2.5/5


4 thoughts on “Mill Creek Musings: Lost in the Stratosphere (1934)

  1. In that photo above, you can definitely see a resemblance between James and William! I wondered if the two ever worked together, so I checked IMDb, and sure enough, he had an uncredited part as James’ brother in ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’, his last film as an actor.


    1. All of the Cagney siblings look a lot alike! Would have been fun to see all three of them in a film together. Jeanne appeared in a few of James’ films but she never worked with William as far as I know.


      1. You’d think James would’ve found a spot for William in ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’…even if it was just a cameo. Oh wait, I just checked…William was an associate producer on ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. He could’ve put himself in the movie!


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