Now We’re in the Air is a comedy about two fliers (a pair of “aero-nuts” called “looney Lindberghs”) who wander on to a World War I battle field near the front lines. The film was one of a number of aviation-themed stories shot in 1927 (following Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic), as well as one in a popular series of “service comedies” pairing Wallace Beery and Raymond Hatton. Louise Brooks plays the unusual role of twin sisters, one raised French and one raised German, named Griselle & Grisette, who are the love interest of the two fliers.
Arguably, Now We’re in the Air was the most popular American silent in which Brooks appeared. Generally liked by the critics, the film did big box office where ever it showed. In New York City, it enjoyed an extended run, as it did in San Francisco, where it proved to be one of the biggest hits of the year. At a time when most new releases played only one week, Now We’re in the Air ran for more than a month in San Francisco, where it was extended due to robust ticket sales. In Boston, it also did well, opening simultaneously in five theaters in the area. The Boston Evening Transcript noted, “most of the audience at the Washington Street Olympia this week were so moved by mirth that they were close to tears. Presumably the experience has been the same at the Scollay Square Olympia, the Fenway, the Capitol in Allston and the Central Square in Cambridge.” Newspapers in other large cities like Atlanta, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri reported a similar reception.
The New Orleans Item noted, “The added feature of Now We’re in the Air is the presence of Louise Brooks as the heroine. One of the cleverest of the new stars, she has immense ability to appear ‘dumb’ but like those early Nineteenth Century actresses, commended by Chas. Lamb, she makes the spectators realize that she is only playing at being dumb.” Radie Harris of the New York Morning Telegraph wrote, “Louise Brooks is seen as the feminine lead. She essays the role of twins. Which, if you know Louise, is mighty satisfactory. She is decorative enough to admire once, but when you are allowed the privilege of seeing her double, the effect is devastating.” The Boston Post added, “You see there are pretty twin sisters, Grisette and Griselle, both played by the fetching Louise Brooks, who marry Wally and Ray, who cannot tell their wives apart except by their dogs, one a poodle, one a daschund.”
The dual role played by Brooks made the film for many critics. Curran D. Swint of the San Francisco News stated, “Both the hulking and ungainly Beery and the cocky little Hatton give goofingly good accounts of themselves. Then there is Louise Brooks. She’s the girl — or the girls — in the case, for Louise is twins in the story, and about this fact much of the comedy is woven.” Across town, A. F. Gillaspey of the San Francisco Bulletin added, “Louise Brooks is the leading woman of this picture. She appears as the twin sisters. This results in some remarkable and very interesting double exposures.”
Mae Tinee, the Chicago Tribune critic who seemed to always champion Brooks, put it this way, “Louise Brooks as twins, is — are — a beautiful foil for the stars and if you think she doesn’t marry both of them before the picture ends, why, cogitate again, my darlings.”
“Wally and Ray are cousins intent upon getting the fortune of their Scotch grand-dad, an aviation nut. They become mixed-up with the U. S. flying corps and are wafted over the enemy lines in a runaway balloon. Through misunderstanding they are honored as heroes of the enemy forces, and sent back to the U. S. lines to spy. Here they are captured and almost shot, but everything ends happily.” (Moving Picture World, Dec. 17, 1927)
Now We’re in the Air was shot between August 1 and September 8 at the Paramount studio near Hollywood, as well as at the Lasky Ranch, a local aviation field, and at an amusement pier in nearby Venice. There was, as well, aerial footage shot in the area, though most of the action shown in both the balloon and airplane scenes was shot in front of a filmed backdrop. Also made use of in the film’s final scene was the then recently built faux ocean liner on the corner of the Paramount lot, back of Marathon street and a block north of Melrose.
In America’s non-English language newspapers and magazines, Now We’re in the Air was generally advertised under its American title. However, in the Spanish-language press of the time, including the New York City-based Cine-Mundial, as well as the Paramount Spanish-language house organ Mensajero Paramount, the film was promoted under the title Reclutas por los Aires. In Portuguese-language newspapers in the United States, the film was advertised under the title Agora Estamos no Ar.
Under its American title, Now We’re in the Air, documented screenings of the film took place in Australia, British Malaysia (Singapore), Canada, China, India, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa, and the British Isles (England, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, and Scotland). Elsewhere, this motion picture was known to have been shown under other-language titles including Deux Braves Poltrons (then French Algeria); Dos tiburones en el aire (Argentina); Riff und Raff als Luftschiffer (Austria); Nous sommes dans les air (Belgium); Dois aguias no ar (Brazil); Reclutas por los Aires (Chile); Rif a Raf, Piloti (Czechoslovakia) and Riff a Raff strelci (Slovakia); To muntre Spioner (Denmark); Nüüd, meie oleme õhus and Riffi ja Raffi õiged nimed (Estonia); Deux Braves Poltrons (France); Riff und Raff als Luftschiffer (Germany); O Riff kai o Raff aeroporoi (Greece); Megfogtam a kemét! (Hungary); Katu Njosnararnir (Iceland); Nou Vliegen We (Dutch East Indies / Indonesia); Aviatori per forza and Aviatori … per forza and Ed eccoci aviatori (Italy); Yagi and Kita in the Air (Japan); 弥次喜多空中の巻 (Japan); Reclutas por los aires (Mexico); Hoerawe vliegen and Hoera! We Vliegen (Netherlands); Luftens Spioner (Norway); Riff i Raff jako Lotnicy (Poland); Recrutas Aviadores (Portugal); Riff es Raffal a foszerepekben (Romania); Reclutas por los Aires (Spain); Hjältar i luften (Sweden); Deux Braves Poltrons (Switzerland).
Now We’re in the Air was considered lost until 2016, when film preservationist Rob Byrne came upon approximately 23 minutes of film in the Czech Republic’s Národní filmový archive (National Film Archive) in Prague. A restoration of the surviving material was made, the resulting fragment was premiered on June 2, 2017 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. It has subsequently been shown at the Library of Congress, and at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in 2017, where it was widely celebrated. In late 2017, LBS Director Thomas Gladysz authored a look at the film in an illustrated new book, Now We’re in the Air (PandorasBox Press). The book, pictured below, is available around the world.
RELATED ARTICLES & REVIEWS:
— “Long Missing Louise Brooks Film Found” by Thomas Gladysz (Huffington Post, March 29, 2017)
— “Now We’re in the Air Travels the World” by Thomas Gladysz (San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 2017)
— “Now We’re in the Air” by Jay Weissberg (Pordenone Silent Film Festival, 2017)