Sunday, October 9, 2011

Only Angels Have Wings

Information: TCM

Director: Howard Hawks
Cast: Cary Grant --Geoff Carter
         Jean Arthur --Bonnie Lee
         Richard Barthelmess --Bat MacPherson
         Rita Hayworth --Judith MacPherson
         Thomas Mitchell --Kid Dabb

Year: 1939
Duration (minutes): 119 or 121

Brief Synopsis: (Spoiler Alert!)

     When showgirl Bonnie Lee's ship docks in the "banana republic" of Barranca, she is delighted to meet Joe Souther (Noah Beery, Jr.) and Les Peters (Allyn Joslyn), two American flyers for a cut-rate airline owned by softhearted Dutchy (Sig Rumann). The airline is run by the hard-boiled Geoff Carter, who, despite hazardous weather conditions in the Andes and frequent crack ups, must maintain a regular schedule for six months in order to obtain the mail subsidy.
     The conviviality of the evening is shattered as Dutchy, Tex, Geoff and Bonnie watch in horror as Joe's plane crashes in the fog. Geoff's best friend, Kid Dabb, warns Bonnie to stay away from the misogynistic Geoff, whose bad experience with one woman has soured him against the entire sex, and whose motto is that he will never ask a woman for anything. Bonnie finds herself attracted to him nevertheless, and decides to remain in Barranca. Complications arise with the arrival of Bat MacPherson, a new pilot, and his wife Judy.
     Years earlier, MacPherson's cowardice caused the death of Kid's younger brother, and as a result, the other pilots object to his presence. When Geoff is forced to ground Kid because of failing eyesight, however, he is short on pilots and agrees to hire MacPherson on the condition that he fly the most dangerous missions. Meanwhile, Bonnie is on the verge of confessing her love for Geoff when Kid calls him away to test a new airplane. On the night of the last flight necessary to clinch the contract, a storm rages, and Bonnie, terrified that Geoff will not return from his mission, accidentally shoots him while begging him not to fly. With a bullet in his shoulder, Geoff is unable to fly, and so MacPerson and Kid, the two antagonists, volunteer to take over his mission.
     While they are navigating the fog shrouded-pass, a bird crashes through their windshield, breaking Kid's neck and setting the plane on fire. Rather than save himself by parachuting to safety, MacPherson crash lands the plane in a ball of flames, thus winning redemption from the dying Kid. As the weather clears, Geoff and Les prepare to take off again, but before he leaves, Geoff uses Kid's single-sided coin to ask Bonnie to stay with him.

     This film is my all time favorite. The flying sequences are amazing (especially the one when Cary gets knocked out), the action is white-knuckled, the dialogue witty, the romance between Cary and Jean feels real, the setting is exotic, and the cast is one to be awed and googled over. And the fact that Cary Grant and Jean Arthur are my favorite actor and actress, well, that's just icing on the cake.
     This film set Rita Hayworth's career on the fast track, all her previous pictures having been trivial and unimportant, and none of which showcased her talent. And it seems as though 1939 was definitely Thomas Mitchell's year: in 1939 alone he starred in four of the money makers: Only Angels Have Wings started the year off, then came Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (again starring with Jean Arthur), and just in case you've lived under a rock you're whole life, this is the year that the BIG DADDY of all epics was released: Gone with the Wind; and he then rounded off the year with The Hunchback of Notre Dame. After this film was released, Richard Bartelmess, a previous star of the silents, only made three more films. Jean was a veteran of thirty-four previous pictures, a good many of which were silents (and Jean in a silent just doesn't make sense! You couldn't hear probably the most recognizable thing about her: her VOICE). And then there's Cary . . . By the time he did this picture, he had went freelance. Two years previous he had done Topper and The Awful Truth, both of which finally had caught the people's eye.
     It's fast paced, there's not a single dull moment in it, and Howard Hawks . . . well, it's obvious why he's one of the greatest directors ever.

Jean schools Cary on how to play the piano.

     Did You Know?:
  1. Cary actually did know how to play the piano (which to me makes the above scene all the more funny).
  2. This is the film that the oft-misquoted "Judy, Judy, Judy," is mistaken to come from. Not once does Cary say this in the film.
     Bonnie Lee: What was she like, anyway?
     Geoff Carter: Who?
     Bonnie Lee: That girl that made you act the way you do.
     Geoff Carter: A whole lot like you. Just as nice, almost as smart.
     Bonnie Lee: Chorus girl?
     Geoff Carter: Only by temperment.

     Bonnie Lee: Say, isn't that girl the one he used to be in love with?
     Kid Dabb: Bonnie, when it rains, every third drop falls on one of them.

     Geoff Carter: Got a match?
     Bonnie Lee: Say, don't you have any?
     Geoff Carter: No, don't believe in laying in a supply of anything. [she hands him a match] Thanks.
     Bonnie Lee: Matches, marbles, money or women, huh?
     Geoff Carter: That's right.
     Bonnie Lee: No looking ahead; no tomorrows; just today.
     Geoff Carter: That's right.

     I could go on and on about this film, but I think this is probably enough. All I can say is this: If you haven't seen it yet, go do so!

                                                                                                Signing Off,


1 comment:

moviechick9620 said...

Darlin' this is wonderful! :)