It's in the Air (1935 film)

It's in the Air (aka Chiseling Chiselers', In the Bag' and Let Freedom Ring) is a 1935 American comedy film directed by Charles Reisner and written by Byron Morgan and Lew Lipton.[1] The film stars Jack Benny in his final film for MGM, Ted Healy, Una Merkel, Nat Pendleton, Mary Carlisle and Grant Mitchell. It's in the Air was released on October 11, 1935, by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.[2]

It's in the Air
Directed byCharles Reisner
Produced byE.J. Mannix
Screenplay byByron Morgan
Lew Lipton
Story byByron Morgan
Lew Lipton
StarringJack Benny
Ted Healy
Una Merkel
Nat Pendleton
Mary Carlisle
Grant Mitchell
Music byWilliam Axt
CinematographyCharles Edgar Schoenbaum
Edited byWilliam S. Gray
Distributed byLoew's Inc. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Release date
  • October 11, 1935 (1935-10-11)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States


Con men Calvin Churchill (Jack Benny) and "Clip" McGurk (Ted Healy), in the business of fixing races, boxing matches and other sporting events, are forced to go on the run when Henry Potke (Nat Pendleton), special investigator from the Revenue Department, is after them for tax evasion. Potke tracks the con men to a hotel room, where they trick him by claiming they are suffering from a highly infectious influenza. Potke flees in terror.

In a hurry to skip town, Calvin tells Clip to go to Desert Springs, California, to see his wife Alice (Una Merkel), who is a tennis instructor at a resort. Calvin meets W. R. Gridley (Grant Mitchell), a devious schemer who uses his lovely daughter Grace (Mary Carlisle) to convince Calvin to buy an air balloon. Calvin thinks that Gridley is the sucker, however, and negotiates a free aircraft ride to find the perfect location for a stratospheric flight in his new balloon. Calvin introduces Clip as one of the most daring balloonists in America. Clip, however, is afraid of heights.

Alice tells Calvin that she will not return to him until he quits his devious schemes but no sooner does he comply, than she witnesses him fleecing some hotel guests to pay for his room. When Calvin's photo appears in a newspaper, Potke heads off to the resort.

After leaving $85,000 in cash with Alice, Calvin tries to find Clip, who is in hiding, afraid to be forced to fly in the balloon. At the launch; the two hucksters finally arrive, and soar off into space. They make radio contact at a record 73,900 feet and after they broadcast their promoters' advertisements, Calvin and Clip find themselves in trouble when the balloon falls apart.

Forced to parachute to safety, Calvin tells reporters about his desire to be reunited with his wife. Potke arrives to announce that the charges for delinquent tax payments have been dropped, and Calvin and Alice reunite for good.



Principal photography on It's in the Air took place from mid-July to August 17, 1935.[3] The film, followed Lost in the Stratosphere (1935) as one of the few 1930s aviation films that focused on high altitude balloons.[4][N 1]


Frank Nugent, writing for The New York Times, called It's in the Air, an "... engaging a bit of nonsense", He further described, "Metro's new comedy team proves its superiority over the material placed at its disposal.The dialogue may read like a radio continuity, and most of the situations admittedly are as old as the "Cheating Cheaters" theme, but you probably won't be aware of that when Mr. Benny and Mr. Healy surge into action. When they take off in their balloon with the Revenue Bureau's Nat Pendleton as a supercargo and with Stratosphere Healy clutching a bottle of smelling salts—even a professional scowler is apt to find himself chuckling as heartily as the benighted little man who always used to read the subtitles aloud.If Metro regarded this Benny-Healy union as an experiment, let it be informed now that it was a success."[6]

Aviation film historian James H. Farmer in Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1984) considered It’s in the Air, (simply) "A hilarious comedy."[7]



  1. The proposed Benny-Healy comedy team featured in It’s in the Air was the only pairing of the comedians as Benny went back to radio shortly after.[5]


  1. "Overview: 'It's in the Air' (1935)." (Turner Classic Movies), 2019. Retrieved: July 11, 2019.
  2. "Review: 'It's In The Air'." TV Guide, 2019. Retrieved: July 11, 2019.
  3. "Original print information: 'It's in the Air' (1935)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 11, 2019.
  4. Pendo 1985, p. 302.
  5. Sterling 2003, pp. 250–254.
  6. Nugent, Frank (F.S.N.) "Review: 'It's in the Air'." The New York Times, November 8, 1935. Retrieved: July 11, 2019.
  7. Farmer 1984, p. 316.


  • 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.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Sterling, Christopher H. Encyclopedia of Radio. New York: Routledge, 2003. ISBN 978-1-57958-249-4.
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