Paul Mantz — Flying the Honeymoon Express (1935) 🇺🇸

Wallace Beery, Frank Clarke, Paul Mantz |

February 01, 2022

Paul Mantz has piloted many stars to the altar, yet he rarely knows their names because he never sees a motion picture.

by Kirtley Baskette

Cupid wore wings and so, quite appropriately, does Paul Mantz.

Paul Mantz is Hollywood’s Flying Cupid. He hasn’t chubby cheeks, nor a rosebud mouth nor curls, and he doesn’t work his medicine with a bow and arrows — he uses a stick. To be specific, he packs matrimonially minded movie stars into his swift Lockheed plane and zooms them the two hundred and seventy-five miles or so to Yuma, Arizona, or Las Vegas, Nevada, beyond reach of California’s three day “gin-marriage” law.

Any hour of the day or night — and ninety-five out of one hundred times the scene is well after decent bed time — comes an insistent jingle from the telephone at the Mantz ménage.

“Yeah,” says Paul Mantz sleepily.

“This is so-and-so,” says a voice, “and we wanta get married.”

“Okay,” yawns the Honeymoon Pilot, shaking the sleep out of his eyes, “that’s your business. Which’ll it be — Yuma or Las Vegas, and when do we start?”

“Yuma,” they usually say, because for some reason the tiny town that sprawls out on the Arizona desert is the favorite hitching post of Hollywood. “How about twenty minutes?”

“Make it a half hour,” compromises “Mendelssohn Mantz” obligingly. “And don’t forget the ring.”

They meet him at his hangar at the United Airport in Burbank, ten miles out from Hollywood. The blushing movie bride and the nervous movie groom standing on one foot while Mantz warms up the famous “Honeymoon Express” which has carried more stars via the stars to the altar than any other one bridal carriage in town.

Paul Mantz is discreet. He tends to his business and watches the motor rather than the snuggling embraces of the movie love-birds about to brook their better judgments. But there’s one thing he has noticed — invariably movie honeymoon couples are in an awful hurry, and that puzzles him.

“How fast can we make it?” they always ask. And he tells them. “An hour and twenty minutes to Yuma, if we’re lucky, in the fast plane — a little longer in the other cabin job.”

They always pick the fast one — the “Honeymoon Express” — even though it costs one hundred and forty dollars to the one hundred and five dollars fare in the slow ship.

Sometimes he warns. “It’s not too safe — plenty of fog.” But that doesn’t mean a thing when screen stars sniff the enchanting aroma of rice. “Fog!” they cry. “Can a little fog cool our love, darling? Contact!” Love not only laughs at locksmiths but old Jupe Pluvius the weatherman as well, on occasions.

Besides, there is a well-founded belief around Hollywood that with Paul Mantz at the controls you’re going to get there — all in one piece — nor wind, nor rain nor sleet nor snow — the male (and the female) go through — to Yuma’s marrying judge.

There’s a hundred per cent record of safety to back this belief — in over four thousand hours of flying — in exactly thirty-three honeymoon sky-rides. But Mantz and his Cupid-cargoes have had their moments.

One night he hurtled the “Love-in-bloom Limited” through pea-soup vapors four thousand two hundred feet high, carrying a Columbia studio executive, Jerome Safron, and his actress bride-to-be, Nancy Cornelius, to Yuma.

But let him tell it—

“We shot over Yuma and you couldn’t see your hand in front of you — it was that dark. The field at Yuma is small and unlighted, so if you come in at night, you have to be an owl to find a place to sit down. I threw over one flare, but it didn’t do any good I was too low to waste another when I saw if I kept on I’d smack right into a concrete culvert.

“We had been riding a tail-wind, but often down there in the desert the wind on the ground blows in just the opposite direction. I didn’t have time to explain — I just did a ground loop, pulled her back from that culvert and sat down.

“‘My goodness, what was that?” they gasped when it was all over.

“‘Just a fast turn,’ I said, but I don’t think they believed me. Anyway, the next morning I read in the paper where I had ‘landed on my back’ and cracked up! That’s just what I had kept from doing!”

As a matter of fact, Paul Mantz, like Will Rogers, (who, by the way, called on Paul to take him up the other day to see Wiley Post drop his landing gear when he made the stratosphere attempt with his Winnie Mae) has to depend on the papers to find out about the movies and usually the celebrities he flies to be Yu-mated. Although he got his Hollywood start stunt flying for air-thrillers, and still flies for aerial photography, he never goes to movies.

Half the time he doesn’t know who his romantic passengers are.

One night a couple called and said they had honorable intentions. Mantz flew them to Yuma, witnessed the knot-tying, dropped the newlyweds off at Caliente and flew home to a welcome bed.

The next morning with his orange juice he read that he had Cupided Leslie Fenton and Ann Dvorak. The man had said his name was Fenton, and he had a pretty bride, but that was all the significance Mantz had attached to his fares.

Another night a striking blonde and a short man with a toothbrush moustache drove up to the hangar. They said they were in the market for a sky-jaunt across the state line, and, as usual, they were in a hurry.

“The slow ship is the only one in the hangar,” they were told. “The Lockheed won’t be in until later.”

“How fast can you make it?”

“Couple of hours each way.”

They said they’d rather wait in the air than in Hollywood, and glancing nervously behind as if they expected a posse to come over the horizon any minute, they climbed into the cabin.

Screaming bold-faced headlines announced to Paul Mantz the next morning that Jean Harlow and Hal Rosson had eloped by air.

Most stars and their to-be’s, for some strange reason, try desperately to keep their wedding flights a secret from the press. What a difference a few hours makes isn’t quite clear (could it be a better publicity break?), but all assume the attitude of fugitives from justice. The very word “reporter” or “photographer” is enough to make them dart glances over shoulders and speak in hoarse whispers.

Evelyn Laye and Frank Lawton were in the same nervous hurry, and Director Al Hall and Lola Lane played tag with the press.

They can’t beat the game, of course, because the Los Angeles papers have correspondents in both Yuma and Las Vegas who stick as close to the marriage bureaus as fly-paper to a rubber heel. Maybe it’s fun — like hare and hounds — anyway, they resort to all sorts of tricky ruses to keep secret news which if kept out of the headlines the next day would probably send them into a relapse.

When Evelyn Venable and Hal Mohr decided to do something about it recently, they planned the romantic exit coolly and carefully. In fact, it’s the only marital excursion Paul Mantz can name as being arranged for ahead of time. But instead of making arrangements themselves, they sent out a friend who said he was getting married. And just to throw everyone, including Paul Mantz himself, off the track they arranged for a daylight flight !

Paul Mantz tries to make his customers as comfortable as possible in his splicing special, which, by the way, is exactly the same kind of plane as the one used by Amelia Earhart to span the Pacific from the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, Mantz accompanied her to Honolulu as technical advisor. She makes her headquarters in his hangar when she’s in town.

But inside his air wedding wagon, which is devoted to less epic but just as sensational uses, he has all the comforts of home so the fugitive lovers can’t blame him for any headaches that might possibly follow. The seats are big and soft, and there are two pairs of head-phones so they can listen to him talking back and forth to the ground, or enhance the mood with broadcasted sweet music. A speaking tube connects with his pilot’s compartment, discreetly walled off to bar all normal noises.

On one trip, however, when he was piloting a Los Angeles playboy and his actress intended to the Arizona nuptial oasis, he heard what he thought was a shot, followed by a bullet-like thud.

“Good heavens!” he thought, “He’s murdered her already — or vice versa.” He looked around to face two wide grins. A few minutes later another shot sounded and the thud seemed uncomfortably close to his ear. This time a pair of even wider grins. It happened two or three more times, but after all he had to fly, so he didn’t look back again until just before he landed. To his horror, a pair of limp bodies lay stretched back against the seats!

Mantz landed, jumped out and wrenched open the door. Then he saw his “shots.” Empty champagne bottles still rolled about on the floor. They had been popping the corks at him, but using the bubbles themselves!

He had to pour the prospective groom out of the plane and prop him up at the wedding. And after he had winged them back to Hollywood, the happy husband rewarded him with a rubber check.

It’s such things as that which make for never-a-dull-moment in the life of Hollywood’s Flying Cupid. Mantz usually officiates as best man, witness, and partner in crime to thwart newspapermen before he gets through with a movie nuptial flight. He not only has to fly the plane, but he must dig the veteran Yuma marrying Judge Freeman out of bed, arrange for “John,” the airport manager, to trundle the blissfully incapable charges into town in his sand-blasted flivver, and do all kinds of odd jobs, not to mention occasionally risking his very excellent health.

After Director William Wellman and Dorothy Coonan had said “I do” to the parson in Las Vegas, Wellman, who is an old friend of the aviator, had an idea.

“Let’s don’t go back to Hollywood,” he said. “Let’s go to San Francisco!”

“Wait a minute,” argued Mantz. “It’s not the best flying weather, you know, and to get to Frisco from here we have to cross the High Sierras, Yosemite and Death Valley.

Any one of them is poison in case of trouble.’

“That’s all right,” said the director. “Will you go?”

“Why — sure,” said Mantz.

“Well — I’ll go anywhere you’ll go,” declared the director. Mantz thought such confidence must be deserved, so off they hopped, and, of course, made it.

Another time — Mantz laughs as he tells this — he was flying producer, B. P. Schulberg, back East, not to be married, but on a strictly business trip. They were nearing a speed record when they hit the country around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and despite ominous radio reports of “zero-zero” ahead they kept on. In the thick and dangerous weather, Mantz got off his radio beam. He was flying completely blind and in a desperate situation which grew worse every minute. He knew he had to land, and that any landing in these sightless conditions would probably result in a fatal crack-up.

Taking his courage in his teeth he side-slipped down through a low, black cloud-bank and by expert and daring maneuvering skimmed a lane of trees and sat down on a narrow road.

He climbed out with a prayer of thanks. Schulberg climbed out. Mantz, realizing his good fortune, expected ardent congratulations.

The producer yanked at his watch and frowned.

“Well, there goes our schedule all shot to the devil,” he said.

But if he was mortified then, think of the time when he made a hurried midnight flight to Yuma so an oft-wed director friend of his could try it again, only to have the rueful groom call him in a few weeks and bawl him out for letting him get married!

Paul Mantz has stunted daringly for pictures in his time. He has flown airplanes through low hangars with scant feet to spare from his wing tips. He still holds the record for outside loops with a stock plane — forty-six. Every week witnesses drama and high adventure in his business.

Recently he raced with death from San Francisco to Rochester, Minnesota, and had a patient on the table for a delicate brain operation at the Mayo Clinic in thirteen hours. The other day he carried a miner crushed by falling shaft timbers over the mountains to medical aid. He has flown through smoke and flame to drop food and water to trapped forest firefighters.

But of all his adventures — and this includes the mad hops of the Honeymoon Express — the most intriguing, exciting and maybe the maddest took place the day a Los Angeles newspaper man called him excitedly

“Get her ready,” he cried, “for a real honeymoon trip — at least I think that’s what it is.”

“Okay,” said Mantz.

They hopped in the usual direction — toward the Arizona line. The pilot was too busy to ask questions.

AT Needles the reporter beckoned him down. He jumped out and quickly back in.

“They’re on the highway,” he yelled. “Let’s follow it.”

They glued themselves to the ribbon of concrete which stripped the desert.

Below a car ran ahead. “There” they are!” shouted his passenger. “Land ahead of ‘em!” Mantz did. A big limousine swept unchecked past the reporter’s excited signals.

They hopped to the tiny town of Bagdad a name as fantastic as the mad chase itself.

“Just left,” shouted the reporter as he climbed back in the plane. “Get down low.”

Mantz hugged the highway, ten feet from the ground, roared over a car from which two heads popped out, looking “kind of scared.”

They sat down in front of the speeding auto again, and again. The car swept on. Barstow loomed ahead. Their quarry was securely and officially halted at the fruit inspection station. The newspaper man dashed to it with a glint in his eye while Mantz waited.

When he returned, Mantz asked him, “Well are they married?”

“They say they aren’t,” crowed the newsman, “but yes or no, have I a story!”

“By the way,” Mantz wanted to know, “who have we been chasing?”

“Garbo!” the reporter exulted, “Greta Garbo and Rouben Mamoulian!”

“Oh,” said Mantz, “I’ve heard of her. She’s pretty well known, isn’t she?”

No, Paul Mantz doesn’t go to the movies, he just does his job as the Flying Cupid of Hollywood and doesn’t try to keep up with what’s what on the screen.

And in all the thirty-three flights he has made across the state for marriage purposes, there was only one time when he had a chance to kiss the bride.

That was when the habit finally caught up with him, and he flew himself and his own bride to tell it to the marrying judge at Yuma.

Happy landings! Paul Mantz, the “Honeymoon Pilot,” brought bride Lola Lane and her husband, Director Alexander Hall, back from their knot-tying.

Mantz, besides being Hollywood’s number one Flying Cupid, is nationally known in aviation circles. He’s with Mrs. Mantz at Hawaii, advisor to Amelia Earhart

The Honeymoon Express itself, poised for a quick getaway.

Right, Evelyn Venable is about to take it with husband-to-be (now is) Hal Mohr, as pilot Mantz smiles.

Wally Beery, an expert at the controls himself, talks shop with Frank Clarke, movie stunt flyer, and Paul Mantz. He helped Wally to perfect his technique. Paul himself has stunted daringly for the movies in his time. He still holds the record for breath-stopping outside loops with a stock plane — forty-six

Here’s Paul in a top flight. Next to him are Roscoe Karns and George Palmer Putnam, publisher husband of Amelia Earhart (top). Nice smile, Myrna Loy. Amelia Earhart makes her headquarters at Monti’s hangar when she’s in Hollywood. In fact, his fast plane is the one Amelia spanned the Pacific Ocean in.

Source: Photoplay Magazine, July 1935