Heartbreak (1931 film)

Heartbreak (aka Love and War) is a 1931 American Pre-Code war drama film directed by Alfred L. Werker and starring Charles Farrell, Madge Evans and Paul Cavanagh.[1] The film was set primarily in Italy as an exotic locale but was actually filmed in California with the San Gabriel Mountains east of the Los Angeles Basin, standing in for the Italian Alps. The popularity of aviation films on World War I such as Heartbreak was still strong, but by 1934, was perceptibly waning.[2]

Directed byAlfred L. Werker
Produced byWilliam Goetz
Written byWilliam M. Conselman
Leon Gordon
StarringCharles Farrell
Madge Evans
Paul Cavanagh
Music byGeorge Lipschultz
Hugo Friedhofer
CinematographyJoseph H. August
Edited byMargaret Clancey
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • November 8, 1931 (1931-11-08)
Running time
63 minutes
CountryUnited States


In the years before the United States' involvement in World War I, John Merrick (Charles Farrell) and Jerry Somers (John Arledge), attach├ęs to the American embassy in Vienna, attend an elaborate fundraiser at the aristocratic Walden home where John meets the lovely Countess Vilma Walden (Madge Evans) and romance blooms.

Vilma's twin brother, Count Carl Walden (Hardie Albright), a combat veteran, along with Vilma and Carl's father (Claude King) asks John when Americans will fight against Austria. Kapitan Wolke (Paul Cavanagh), a family friend, emerges as a rival for the affections of Vilma. A heated confrontation takes place between John and Wolke.

When the United States goes to war, John requests a post at the Italian front where Carl is stationed. John returns to the Walden home and breaks the news to Vilma, Vilma then promises to return to the pool by the house, each day until John's reflection appears beside her own.

After duty in France, John is transferred to the Italian front where he faces an enemy squadron, led by Wolke and his "second-best" flier, Carl. In the air over the Italian Alps John spots Wolke's aircraft and shoots it down, landing nearby to try to rescue the pilot. John is astonished to discover that the pilot is actually Carl, who had borrowed Wolke's aircraft for the mission.

John is overcome with grief and announces that he is through with killing. After refusing to join his squadron on a flight against the enemy, John steals an aircraft and flies to the Walden house behind enemy lines. He confesses to Vilma that he killed Carl and begs her forgiveness, but she refuses.

For his desertion, John is court-martialed with Jerry, his defense attorney, unsuccessfully defending him. Despondent and apathetic, he is found guilty and receives a dishonorable discharge and a sentence of hard labor.

Peace finally comes and John goes to visit the Walden estate, now turned into a home for war orphans. As Vilma sits by the pool, she sees John's reflection beside hers, and the reunited couple embrace.



In August 1931, Fox rented the three modified Nieuport 28s for Heartbreak ; a Travel Air 4000 was also leased.[3] A Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 is also in German markings as Wolke's aircraft.[4] Garland Lincoln and Frank Clarke did the flying in the aerial battles over the San Gabriel Mountains east of the Los Angeles Basin.[5][N 1]


Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo, in Aviation in the Cinema (1985) noted Heartbreak was premiered at the Roxy Theater in New York, and when brief, noteworthy flying sequences took place, "... this portion of the aerial action took place on a large screen." [7]

Aviation film historian James Farmer in Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1984) noted Heartbreak, has "... excellent flying sequences."[4]



  1. The recreated British base at the Triunfo airfield, near Thousand Oaks, California was used as a setting for many aviation films, including Heartbreak. [6]


  1. Solomon 2011, p. 330.
  2. Paris 1995, p. 41.
  3. "Aviation Films - H: 'Heartbreak'." Aerofiles.com, 2019, Retrieved: July 4, 2019.
  4. Farmer 1984, p. 313.
  5. Wynne 1987, p. 112.
  6. Farmer 1987, p. 102.
  7. Pendo 1985, p. 113.


  • Farmer, James H. Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1st ed.). Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: TAB Books 1984. ISBN 978-0-83062-374-7.
  • 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.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Solomon, Aubrey. The Fox Film Corporation, 1915 - 1935: A History and Filmography. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2011. ISBN 978-0-78646-286-5.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 978-0-93312-685-5.
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