High Flyers (aka 'The Kangaroos) is a 1937 RKO Radio Pictures musical comedy film, directed by Edward Cline and stars the comedy team Wheeler & Woolsey. The film would be the last film the duo made, as Robert Woolsey died a year later.
Jeremiah "Jerry" Lane (Bert Wheeler) and Pierre Potkin (Robert Woolsey) are a couple of midway "pilots" on a carnival ride who have never actually been in the air. The duo leave their job when they are hired by smuggler Dave Hanlon (Jack Carson) to fly a real seaplane (not knowing it is a stolen police aircraft) in order to retrieve a lifesaver thrown from an ocean liner and deliver it to him. They think that the lifesaver contains news photos, but inside it they soon find cocaine,[Note 1] which blows in their faces and intoxicates them, and a box of stolen jewels. Jerry and Pierre eventually crash-land on the Arlington estate, owned by Horace and Martha Arlington (Paul Harvey and Margaret Dumont).
Initially, the Arlingtons believe that the duo are police officers, and readily allow them to stay in their home. In a series of musical numbers, the two flirt outrageously with the Arlingtons' daughter Arlene (Marjorie Lord), and their maid Juanita (Lupe Vélez).
Unfortunately, the Arlingtons are good friends with Hanlon. When Hanlon is informed that Jerry and Pierre are at the Arlington estate, he convinces the family that the two men are lunatics from an asylum. Arlene and Juanita then attempt to humor than until the "doctors" (actually Hanlon's cronies) can come and remove them.
Hanlon and the "doctors" show up at the mansion in order to "bump off" Jerry and Pierre, and get the smuggled jewels. However, like many other small items that have gone missing over the preceding weeks, the jewels have been hidden by the Arlingtons' kleptomaniac dog. A frantic and confusing search around the manor soon occurs, with dozens of cops added into the mix. Eventually the criminals are captured, but when Horace examines the jewels he finds they are paste. However, an explanation is in the box, from the man who was carrying them on the ship: suspecting a crime was being planned, he had switched the jewels and arranged for the real ones to be sent to Arlington's office.
High Flyers was based on the 1926 Broadway play The Kangaroos by Victor Mapes; The Kangaroos was also the working title of the film. In February 1937, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Betty Grable was to be the film's star, but Lupe Velez, a well established comic actress, took the lead role.As in the previous Wheeler and Woolsey film, On Again-Off Again (1937), and throughout production of this film, Robert Woolsey was suffering from kidney disease. Although it occurs in the middle of High Flyers, the "I'm a Gaucho" musical number with Woolsey and Lupe Vélez would be the last scene he shot. Ultimately, this would be Wheeler and Woolsey's last film.
After Woolsey's death, Bert Wheeler would continue to work regularly on the stage, and later did four more films (two features and two shorts). He would also occasionally appear on television well into the 1960s, most notably as "Smokey Joe" in the short-lived series Brave Eagle. At one point in the film, Wheeler does an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. Wheeler's Chaplin impersonation was a part of his stage act before he teamed with Robert Woolsey, and Chaplin himself was very fond of Wheeler's impersonation of him. Lupe Velez's imitations of Dolores Del Rio, Shirley Temple, Marlene Dietrich and Simone Simon, were also featured. 
The aircraft in the film was a Sikorsky S-39B, an American light amphibious aircraft. 
TV Guide in a later one-star review of High Flyers was less than kind: "A barely passable Wheeler-Woolsey effort in which the comic pair pose as flyers and find themselves in the center of a jewel-smuggling ring. When the gang of thieves take to the air, they are dim-wittedly nabbed by the amateur pilots. You've seen it all before, and for the last time with this comedy team--Woolsey died about a year after this film's release."
|Regie:||Edward F. Cline|
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