All the punch of the original stage play [by Frank Wead] is intact in Ceiling Zero. The Broadway stage version, which Warner bankrolled for a moderate success, depended on its dialog and whatever excitement it could steam up through offstage effects. Picture replaces the effects with visible illustration and the difference is considerable and for the better.
James Cagney reverts to the Public Enemy days in that he meets violent death at the finish. Up to then, as a daring and not strictly rational flyer, he has been a devil with the ladies, a pilot who loses his license through irresponsible acts and a man who is indirectly to blame for the death of a close friend.
Perhaps 65 of the picture’s 95 minutes unfold in the superintendent’s office of a commercial air line. It’s here that the exciting drama behind the business of peacetime flying is so graphically and compellingly painted.
Structure of the stage play is faithfully followed.
Stuart Erwin as the ill-fated Clarke turns in a trouping job that always equals Cagney and Pat O’Brien, and now and then even transcends theirs. He approaches his big stuff in a quiet manner, but when he gets there he’s in. June Travis is a lovely looking girl for the heart interest.