Death Flies East

Death Flies East is a 1935 American mystery film directed by Phil Rosen and starring Conrad Nagel, Florence Rice and Raymond Walburn.[1] The action takes place on an airline flight with a murderer aboard.[2] The film was an early example of the aviation "disaster film" genre.[3]

Death Flies East
Film poster
Directed byPhil Rosen
Produced bySid Rogell
Written byAlbert DeMond
Fred Niblo Jr.
Philip Wylie
StarringConrad Nagel
Florence Rice
Raymond Walburn
CinematographyAllen G. Siegler
Edited byJohn Rawlins
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
February 28, 1935
Running time
65 minutes
CountryUnited States


On a transcontinental flight from California to New York, a police detective (Fred Kelsey), found slumped in his seat is, dead, poisoned. The passengers include Evelyn Vail (Florence Rice), a nurse on parole for a murder she did not commit. The victim had also died of poisoning. The elderly doctor she worked for is still in prison. Evelyn is attempting to clear her name and bring the real killer to trial, a convict on death row at Sing Sing who can confess to the killing, if only she can get there in time.

Another passenger is John Robinson Gordon (Conrad Nagel), a college instructor who becomes involved in Evelyn's plight. He is carrying a secret armament formula to deliver to the Secretary of the Navy in Washington, D.C. He protects the valuable secret formula, clutching a briefcase at all times. John begins to suspect Evelyn but other passengers appear suspicious; who, among the other passengers, is the real murderer?



Principal photography on Death Flies East took place from December 27, 1934 to January 15, 1935.[4] American Airlines loaned a Douglas DC-2 airliner that was featured in . Interiors and flight-deck scenes, however, were shot in a studio using a mock-up.[5][N 1]


Aviation historian Michael Paris equated Death Flies East as a progenitor of the "disaster film". He wrote, "... the stereotyped collection of passengers, essential in the disaster movie, were first created in the 1930s in films such as Thirteen Hours by Air and Death Flies East.[6]



  1. The Douglas DC-2-120 s/n 1316 (NC14283) was delivered in December 1934, later sold to Indian Airlines and eventually used by the RAF as DG470.[5]


  1. Parish 1978, p. 270.
  2. Details" 'Death Flies East'." AFI ( Retrieved: May 21, 2019.
  3. Pendo 1985, p. 15.
  4. "Original film information: 'Death Flies East'." TCM. Retrieved: May 21. 2019.
  5. Beck 2016, p. 73.
  6. Paris 1995, p. 198.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2016. ISBN 9-781476-663494.
  • Paris, Michael. From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7190-4074-0.
  • Parish, James Robert. Hollywood Character Actors. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1978. ISBN 978-0-870-00384-4.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
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