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William A. Seiter
1889. An Irish lord marries a beautiful gypsy but falls off his horse and dies. His family, who hates the gypsy, chase her out of home and she takes refuge in Spain. 1937. Nearly half a century later, the gypsy, fleeing the Spanish Civil War, returns to Ireland in the company of Maria, her pretty granddaughter. Maria falls for handsome Kerry, a young horse trainer, but the trouble is that she was engaged to a man in Spain. One day, the Spanish fiancé reappears. Written by
"Wings of the Morning" (1937) has the distinction of being the first Technicolor film shot in the British isles, made when the great cinematographer Jack Cardiff was operating a camera. It also introduced the Irish tenor John McCormack to the public. Wings of the Morning might have been important for being French actress Annabella's first English-speaking film, but Annabella was two years away from becoming very famous for another reason which basically stopped her film career.
Annabella has a dual role here, actually a triple role, in a film that takes place first in the 1800s and then in the present day. First, she is Marie, a gypsy, who is with other gypsies in Ireland in 1869. The Lord Clontarf (Lesley Banks) gives the gypsies rights to live on his land in perpetuity. He falls in love with Marie and the two marry, a union that is definitely controversial. When Lord Clontarf is killed in a fall while riding, Marie jumps on the gypsy caravan, and ever the roamers, they leave the area.
Fifty years later, Annabella plays Maria, Duchess of Leyva, who is Marie's great-granddaughter and engaged to Don Diego (Teddy Underdown). The gypsies must flee Spain due to a revolution, so they return to the Clontarf land in Ireland. Marie (now played by Irene Vanbrugh) is worried that Maria will not get out of Spain, but she does, dressed as a boy. While so dressed, she meets horse trainer Kerry Gilfallen (Fonda), a Canadian.
Eventually he discovers he's a she and falls for her. Maria has traded her great-grandmother's horse, Wings of the Morning to Kerry, not realizing the importance of the animal. Marie intends to enter it in a race in order to win money for Maria's dowry.
Henry Fonda was such a handsome young man, and always a good actor, but he doesn't come off as Canadian with that drawl of his. Despite being new to English, Annabella does a very effective job in all of her roles
she was, after all, a huge star in France. Singer John McCormack had
a beautiful Irish tenor, but what a bore - no career in movies for him.
As far as the film itself, it's an interesting story but in the end, not a great film. The color isn't as sharp as we're used to today, but it doesn't diminish the incredible beauty of the Irish countryside.
Annabella met actor Tyrone Power on the set of Suez in 1938 and the couple married in 1939. Their boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, did everything he could to break them up -- he offered Annabella some films that were to be made in Europe -- but she refused to leave Power. Once they married, the star buildup for Annabella stopped. She would star on Broadway, work for the war effort, do radio, and a production of "Liliom" with her husband, finally returning to France after they were divorced in 1948. From what she said in interviews -- je ne regrette rien.
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