Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Flying Padre: An RKO-Pathe Screenliner


Screenliner? Maybe the reference is to streamliner, or airliner, but to me it brings to mind plastic garbage can liners, which probably didn’t exist in 1951. At only eight and a half minutes, this is the shortest and, to me, the most interesting. If you are of my generation or older, you will recall that movies often used to play as double features. You could really make a night of it at the movies. In addition to the features, there would be a color cartoon, maybe a travelogue (Come see beautiful Lower Slobbovia!), maybe even a newsreel, though I don’t recall seeing many of those. Their day had passed. But these little filler pieces gave work to legions of movie-biz hopefuls. This is where Kubrick found his first two jobs making films. This one is not bad, though there is absolutely nothing distinguished about it—just as there’s nothing special about the others. If the credits didn’t say “Directed by Stanley Kubrick” I have no doubt these three little features would be moldering on some archive shelf, unseen since the day they were made. This one concerns a Catholic priest in New Mexico whose parish covers a huge area. He presides at eleven mission churches, and flies a little single-engine puddle-jumper to get from one to the other. We see him at a funeral, saying mass, giving communion, and then flying to an isolated ranch to pick up a mother and her sick baby and take them to the hospital in Tucumcari. That’s it. So start the Looney Tunes already, Mr. Projectionist!