Crack-Up (1936 film)


1936 Theatrical Poster
Directed by Malcolm St. Clair
Produced by Samuel G. Engel
Written by Charles Kenyon (screenplay)
Sam Mintz (screenplay)
John F. Goodrich (original story) (credited as John Goodrich)
Starring Peter Lorre
Brian Donlevy
Music by Samuel Kaylin
Sidney Clare and Harry Akst (Song: "Top Gallants")
Cinematography Barney McGill
Edited by Fred Allen
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • December 14, 1936 (1936-12-14) (1937)
  • February 01 (01-02)

(Premiere: New York)[N 1]

Running time
65 min.
Country United States
Language English

Crack-Up is a 1936 American film directed by Malcolm St. Clair. Peter Lorre plays a harmless, half-addled aircraft enthusiast who is actually a ruthless spy desperate to get his hands on the blueprints for an experimental aircraft. He faces off against Ace Martin, played by Brian Donlevy, the pilot of the aircraft, whose motives are spurred by feeling cheated by his own company. The supporting cast includes Helen Wood, Ralph Morgan and Thomas Beck.


Although shot on a sound stage, the dangerous repair of the "Wild Goose" used a full-size mock-up of an airliner.

At the christening of the "Wild Goose," an experimental aircraft designed for transatlantic flights, a number of significant industry figures from the Fleming-Grant Airways Corporation are present. President John R. Fleming (Ralph Morgan) introduces the test pilots, Ace Martin (Brian Donlevy) and Joe Randall (Thomas Beck), along with Joe's fiancée, Ruth Franklin (Helen Wood). The eccentric Colonel Gimpy (Peter Lorre) convinces company people that he loves aviation and joins the group. He is really Baron Rudolph Maximilian Tagger, the head of a foreign spy ring, who plans to steal plans for the company's new secret "D.O.X." bomber design.

Gimpy seeks out a disgruntled Ace Martin and offers him money to betray his employer. Ace uses Joe, his young protégé, to obtain the plans, telling him he had made the blueprints. The Baron's Operative #77 (J. Carrol Naish), secretly working for another spy organization, attempts to get the plans, offering Ace three times more money. The meeting between the two is watched by the baron, forcing Ace to kill the spy and keep the plans to bargain directly with the baron.

On the maiden flight of the "Wild Goose", Ace and Joe are flying to Berlin with the company president on board. When they are in the air, Colonel Gimpy reveals that he has stowed away to accompany them. A gas cap comes loose, jeopardizing the flight. Ace volunteers to climb out onto the wing and secure the gas cap.

At the War Department, officials tell Ruth that Joe has been unwittingly drawn into a spy operation. She radios the aircraft, now far off course over the Atlantic Ocean, convincing Joe to turn Ace in. Reacting angrily, he tries to shake Ace off the wing, but is restrained by the others. When Ace returns, a struggle over the controls leads to a burst of steam spraying over Ace's face, blinding him and the aircraft being forced to ditch in the ocean.

With death imminent, as water fills the cabin, Ace shoots the baron and gives Joe the only life jacket, along with the bomber blueprints, so that he will be rescued by a nearby steamer. The three doomed men left on board smoke a last cigarette as the "Wild Goose" sinks.



Principal photography for Crack-Up took place from late September to late October 1936, primarily at the 20th Century Fox studios.[2] A Lockheed Electra, from the nearby Lockheed Aircraft plant, stood in for the experimental "Wild Goose" research aircraft.[3]


Crack-Up was a low-budget B movie that was enhanced by the sinister presence of Lorre who "... plays his limited role with a refreshing sense of sardonic humor."[4] Leonard Maltin's review opined, "Not-bad espionage tale, with Lorre highly amusing as a spy trying to secure plans for experimental airplane; Donlevy's the test pilot he tries to bribe."[5] On the DVD release of Crack-Up, the reviewer for DVD Talk gave a positive recommendation: "A lot of 'Crack-Up' doesn't make a lick of real-world sense, but in its own crazy way, the film is quite entertaining."[6]

See also



  1. Crack-Up has been variously listed as both a 1936 and 1937 release.[1]


  1. "Overview: Crack-Up (1937)." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 12, 2014.
  2. Wynne 1987, p. 172.
  3. "Original print information: Crack-Up." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 12, 2014.
  4. Erickson, Hal. "The Crack-Up (1937)." AllMovie. Retrieved: September 12, 2014.
  5. Maltin, Leonard. "Leonard Maltin Movie Review: Crack-Up." Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved: September 12, 2014.
  6. Reimer, Justin. "Crack-Up." DVD Talk, July 4, 2014. Retrieved: September 12, 2014.


  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 0-933126-85-9.

External links

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