Only Angels Have Wings (1939)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

USA, 1939.  Columbia Pictures Corporation.  Screenplay by , based on the story Plane From Barranca by Howard Hawks. Cinematography by .  Produced by Howard Hawks.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  Podcast:  My Criterions.  Academy Awards 1939.  

This exquisite drama has long been regarded as Howard Hawks’ masterpiece, though there are so many strong entries in his oeuvre that I leave it up to the viewer to decide which is their favourite. The exciting action takes place in the heart of a South American jungle, where a group of American pilots work for a small airline owned by . Circus performer Jean Arthur, as full of bright intelligence as ever, steps off a boat bound for America and walks into the restaurant where pilots cool their heels between flights, pursued by two air jockeys before she meets their head honcho (). From there begins a twisting character piece in which love, loyalty, professionalism and integrity are all challenged, punished and rewarded. The photography is beautifully evocative, while the cast all deliver excellent performances, including a young and irresistible in her Hollywood debut. One of the many films that have put the year 1939 in history books as the year Hollywood really outdid itself.

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