Only Angels Have Wings

1939

Action / Adventure / Drama / Film-Noir / Romance

41
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 83%
IMDb Rating 7.7 10 10428

Synopsis


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Director

Cast

Cary Grant as Geoff Carter
Rita Hayworth as Judy MacPherson
Thomas Mitchell as Kid Dabb
Jean Arthur as Bonnie Lee
720p.BLU
866.99 MB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
2hr 1 min
P/S 2 / 8

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by mmallon4 9 / 10

Flying Down To Rio

Only Angels Have Wings is the culmination of the 1930's aviation pictures (and boy there were a lot of them), helmed by director Howard Hawks who previously directed The Dawn Patrol and Ceiling Zero and even features the casting of Richard Barthelmess, star of such flying pictures The Dawn Patrol, The Last Flight and Central Airport. With World War II on the horizon this genre would never be the same again. Like in The Dawn Patrol, the pilots in Only Angels Have Wings have methods of dealing with reality as the film really examines the psychology of early aviators and the danger they went through to get the job done; Hawks called Only Angels Have Wings the truest film he ever made. Why do flyers do what they do? As Kid (Thomas Mitchell) puts it, "I couldn't give you an answer that'd make sense".

The first 30 minutes of the movie takes place in real time in what is my favourite section of the film in which a whole host of emotions are presented with a short period of time; a real piece of film magic. As we are introduced to the cast and become attached to pilot Joe Souther (Noah Beery Jr.) as he and his buddy become friends with an American tourist Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) only for him to be killed in a flying accidents moments later when he's called on short notice to deliver mail. Death is such a normal occurrence that the squadron leader Geoff (Cary Grant) has no problem eating the steak ordered by Joe prior to his death only moments ago while the pilots even sarcastically ask each other "who's Joe?" when Bonnie questions them on their ability to carry on like nothing happened; a denial of reality in order to deal with reality. Just how healthy is that? Well as Bonnie puts it, "All my life I've hated funerals, the fuss and bother never brings anyone back, just spoils remembering them as they really are". This 30 minute section of the film successfully goes from one emotion to the polar opposite from joy to tragedy and back to joy again. I still however can't find myself fully engaging in the joy of Jean Arthur and Cary Grant playing the piano knowing one of their flying comrades just died a horrible death. Likewise at the beginning of the film we also see an interesting method of getting free drinks from a bar if you're friendly with the owner; I must try that one out some time.

Jean Arthur's role of Bonnie Lee, a lone adventuress from Brooklyn is a change of pace for the actress as she leaves her usual urban dwellings. Arthur differs from other Hawksain women due to her absence of sex appeal, she's simply not that kind of an actress but rather more inherently innocent and sweet hearted. Hawks wanted Arthur to play Bonnie subtly sexy way with Arthur stating, "I can't do that kind of stuff". The scene in which she invades Geoff's room in order to take a bath was never going to be Clark Gable or Jean Harlow in Red Dust with Arthur playing the role, resulting in a scene which is playful without being flirty of sexual. Just listen to her as speaks of how "It's so cold and rainy outside and nice and warm and cosy in here" – it couldn't be delivered in a more innocent manner. I feel Jean Arthur represents the way young boys will innocently feel about women before hitting puberty.

I feel the rest of the film doesn't reach the emotional heights which the first forty minutes accomplished partially due to the lack of the Jean Arthur touch with her being absent for lengthy portions of the film but it is still blessed with a great cast of players. Cary Grant plays a Clark Gable type role, a no nonsense leader under extraneous pressure in the part of Geoff Carter while silent era star Richard Barthelmess uses his greatly expressive face which carries the baggage of his character. Plus what's a Hollywood movie from the 30's without a central to east European comic relief character in the form of Sig Ruman. The one cast member who doesn't do anything for me is Rita Hayworth whom I've never particularly been a big fan off but there is still the bizarre amusement of Grant pouring water over her hair.

Only Angels Have Wings even opens up the potential to be The Wages of Fear of the air when Barthelmess is required to transport nitroglycerine by plane but the movie doesn't take this far creating a missed opportunity. Regardless the aerial footage of the plans is an impressive sight with long uncut shots as the camera moves along with the aircraft. The film doesn't identify what country the story takes place however I like when classic films leave details like that ambiguous; let your imagination fill in the blanks.

Reviewed by clanciai 10 / 10

An aviation expert testing his wings at extreme length and making it.

This is above all an aviation film made by an aviation enthusiast and expert and seen through his eyes. Everything is good about it, as it is the ideal product of aviation craftsmanship turned into a movie. It's a great drama at high levels, but what makes it thoroughly enjoyable as well is the sparkling dialogue - many of Howard Hawks' legendary quotes are from here. All the actors are also superb, Cary Grant as the coolest of bosses with extreme responsibility with the obligation to risk his employees' lives, Sig Ruman as the Dutch bartender compensating his coolness with the warmest of hearts, Jean Arthur accidentally falling in with the drama and adjusting to it with difficulty but finally getting it, Rita Hayworth not getting drunk enough so Cary Grant has to water her, and Richard Barthelmess as the critical pilot branded with an unforgivable failure in his past; while the one who steals the show and who etches into your memory is Thomas Mitchell as the grounded pilot with nonetheless more experience and human knowledge than any of the others, representing the tragedy with human depth. It's perhaps the greatest of aviation films, at least up to the 1940s, and it's difficult to find any later one on the same level - one that almost touches it is David Lean's "Breaking the Sound Barrier" 13 years later. This is one of those films you'll remember forever and always return to in a kind of self-torturous delight of life excitement at the extreme.

Reviewed by pyrocitor 9 / 10

"It's like being in love with a buzz saw!"

"Things happen awful fast around here!" exclaims Jean Arthur, after an unceremonious smooch from curmudgeonly wooer Cary Grant. It's a great moment - not only for being one of the few pieces of Hawksian snappy patter in a largely more serious film, but equally a piece of dialogue that serves not only microcosmic for Only Angels Have Wings, but Hawks' machine-gun-bantering career as a whole. Here, the breakneck pace bypasses the zippy frivolity of Bringing Up Baby and the Machiavellian mania of His Girl Friday, and lends itself to something altogether more grim. Only Angels Have Wings may not be a war movie, but it's undeniably coloured by the political climate and distant rumblings from Germany of its time. It's a film driven by acrid fatalism, yet seasoned with peppy resilience, both stagnantly stationary yet driven by furious momentum. And the drama and energy generated by its duelling influences are both infectious and superb.

In the aviation outpost of Barranca, cheating death is always only a phone call away, as the ominously omnipresent drone of background planes reminds us. Then, enter the players. We start with innocent enough flirty repartee, as Arthur is intoxicated with the fumes of adventure and derring-do of her pilot pursuers. Then, as suddenly as it is matter-of-fact, one of our cheery protagonists is killed - a bad crop of weather turned botched landing. And the comrades of the departed sing a raucously mocking song as they pick up and send his replacement out before his crash fumes have dissipated. And we wait for a punchline to come, to defuse and save the situation, and code it as safe and all in good fun. And it never comes.

Are these men, formerly charming and debonair, secretly sadistic and cruel? No - they've simply been ground down by too much death to react any differently. And this heady realism, and the grim humour it spawns, is what helps Hawks' drama soar above (ha) the heads of its fellow flyboy films. Hawks doesn't valourize his pilots with cloying heroism: he drags them through the muck - literal and emotional - and paints them with such a belligerently unwavering code of honour (as their peer bullying dynamics when introduced to one whose self-preservation cost the life of his mechanic demonstrates) that they're not heroic so much as simply standing. But, courtesy of his characteristic overlapping dialogue (employed with more restraint here) and flair for vivid, colourful ensemble characterizations, we see the cracks and misty eyes behind their devil-may-care gregariousness. And it's hard to imagine a more magnetically compelling human drama for it.

It helps that the film is gorgeously shot, melding classical grandeur with a noir murkiness, as valiant pilots, striding towards their aerial steeds, are besieged by shadowy torrential rain, mud, and blood. The impressively textured sets add to the film's rustic grandeur, as do the spectacular aviation sequences and aerial scenery shots (again, had the U.S. entered the War at this junction, it's impossible not to imagine such sequences being twisted into enlistment propaganda, a-la Top Gun). At two hours in length, the film isn't as lean and concise as it could be, though this length does allow for considerable immersion into the world of the pilots, as if rapt attention will help them cling to life. Similarly, the intertwining love subplots, particularly Arthur's lovesick pining amidst this world of fast-living, toe the line of being Classical Hollywood plot devices of convenience (the accidental gunshot is really pushing it), though this slightest breach of realism is only a mite bothersome.

Still, Arthur's careful performance sells it all beautifully, undercutting her playful banter with an undercurrent of acidic self-loathing. She may not act like the quintessentially spunky, take-charge, sexually aggressive 'Hawksian woman' (as was legendarily to his chagrin), but she's certainly kicking herself for it, and enjoys her nimble wordplay too mirthfully not to enormously take to. Similarly, Cary Grant at his surliest is still infinitely charismatic (albeit somewhat wolfish), and he's on top form here. Guarding himself against the hardships and horrors of his profession with an armour of sarcasm, like a fast-talking Rick Blaine from Casablanca, he metaphorizes the pilot experience by refusing to carry a match, but plays it as a surprisingly tender trope, which makes his rakish commander a lot easier to warm to. Richard Barthelmess gives a tremendously nuanced performance as the ashamed pilot who left his mechanic to die, his craggy gruffness perfectly etching out self-loathing yet self-preservation on his face, while Rita Hayworth is impressive indeed for holding her own sparring with Cary Grant in her first major cinematic role. It's a Wonderful Life's Thomas Mitchell is nearly unrecognizable here as aging but still twinkling pilot 'Kid', while Sig Ruman demonstrates consistently pitch-perfect comedic timing as the beleaguered yet lovable owner of the aviation company.

Only Angels Have Wings is a top-notch, classy affair, as Hawks' airtight, bravado directorial work and the cast's stellar performances help keep grim emotional realism aloft with spirited, thrilling storytelling. Exhibiting taut, magnetically thrilling storytelling far ahead of its time, the film is a prime example of Classical Hollywood with which to charm the acquainted and lure in the uninitiated. Those on the fence should be sure to call heads with Kid's lucky coin when deciding whether or not to check it out. In so many ways, this film has wings.

-9.5/10

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