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)
The film was shot between August 1 and September 8, 1927 at Paramount’s studio in Hollywood, as well as at a local ranch, a local aviation field, and at an amusement pier in Venice, California.
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 Dos tiburones en el aire (Argentina); Riff und Raff als Luftschiffer (Austria); Nous sommes dans les air (Belgium); Dois aguias no ar (Brazil); Ted my jsme ve vzduchu (Czechoslovakia); Katu Njosnararnir (Iceland); Aviatori per forza (Italy); Aviatori … per forza (Italy); 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 (The Netherlands); Luftens Spioner (Norway); Recrutas Aviadores (Portugal); Agora Estamos no Ar (in Portuguese-American newspapers); and Hjältar i luften (Sweden).
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 shown on June 2, 2017 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
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