Affable “Dutchy” Van Ruyter (Sig Ruman) runs a troubled airfreight service from the South American port of Barranca to the United States. His cynical but skilled chief pilot Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) and his corps risk their lives navigating fog that’s often, as one pilot jokes, “only 200, 300 feet thick.” They also ride a treacherous pass in the Andes mountains which, as that pilot explains, is 14,000 feet high “at the low point.”
Two women enter Geoff’s netherworld of men and machines. Old flame Judy (Rita Hayworth) accompanies husband and newest pilot in the crew, Bat MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess). Fresh off the banana boat, showgirl Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) falls for Geoff faster than a Travel Air 6000 monoplane in a nosedive. Meanwhile Bat, loathed for an episode in his past—leaving his mechanic to die in a crash—tries to confront his demons alone, except, up in the air no one’s really alone; if there’s any confronting to be done, Bat and his mechanic must do it together….
Popcorn and Inspiration: ‘Only Angels Have Wings’: We’re Never Alone