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The Dawn Patrol (1938)

 -  War | Drama  -  24 December 1938 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,739 users  
Reviews: 30 user | 14 critic

British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war.

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(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Courtney
...
Major Brand
...
Scott
...
Phipps
Melville Cooper ...
Watkins
...
Bott
Carl Esmond ...
Von Mueller
Peter Willes ...
Hollister
Morton Lowry ...
Donnie
Michael Brooke ...
Squires
James Burke ...
Flaherty
Stuart Hall ...
Bentham
Herbert Evans ...
Mechanic
Sidney Bracey ...
Major Brand's Orderly (as Sidney Bracy)
Leo Nomis ...
Aeronautic Supervisor
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Storyline

In 1915 France, Major Brand commands the 39th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. The young airmen go up in bullet-riddled "crates" and the casualty rate is appalling, but Brand can't make the "brass hats" at headquarters see reason. Insubordinate air ace Captain Courtney is another thorn in Brand's side...but finds the smile wiped from his face when he rises to command the squadron himself. Everyone keeps a stiff upper lip. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They roared through the dawn . . . with death on their wings ! See more »

Genres:

War | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

24 December 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Patrulha da Alvorada  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Most of the aerial footage comes from Warner Bros.' previous 1930 version (The Dawn Patrol (1930)). See more »

Goofs

The amount of engine oil on Flynn's face. See more »

Quotes

Capt. Courtney: [Asking Phipps to translate to the German POW] Ask him if he'll drink a toast to the dead.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Twelve O'Clock High (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

Plum and Apple
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung a cappella by Errol Flynn, David Niven and James Burke
See more »

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User Reviews

Flynn in Excellent Drama of WWI Aviators...
3 September 2003 | by (Las Vegas, Nevada) – See all my reviews

THE DAWN PATROL, Errol Flynn's final film of his busiest year as an actor (1938), is a fascinating counterpoint to his usual swashbuckling and light comic roles. A remake of Howard Hawks' 1930 classic, this is a tale of war-weary WWI aviators, called upon to risk their lives daily, in broken-down aircraft, on missions they consider impossible (a timeless war theme that would reappear in such WWII classics as COMMAND DECISION and TWELVE O'CLOCK HIGH). Directed by WWI veteran Edmund Goulding, best known for his big-budget romances (GRAND HOTEL), the film counterpoints the gritty, harsh realities on the ground with the nearly surreal quality of early air battles, as bi-planes with open cockpits whirl and swoop like insects, and enemy airmen would occasionally drop out possessions of dead pilots over airfields, in a chivalrous gesture.

Fellow pilots Courtney and Scott (portrayed by real-life friends Flynn and David Niven, again showing the rapport they had demonstrated so effectively in 1936's THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE) are battle-tested veterans, hell-raising survivors of a squadron decimated by the war. Seeing a constant influx of 'green' kids replacing lost friends, and knowing too well that the rookies' inexperience will quickly cost them their lives, the pair vent their anger against their commander, the coldly 'by-the-book' Maj. Brand (in a remarkable performance by frequent Flynn nemesis, Basil Rathbone). Courtney constantly condemns and belittles Maj. Brand, accusing him of placing 'The Mission' over the lives of the men under his command, which makes Courtney a hero in the eyes of the fliers.

Finally, Brand cracks, and is approved for reassignment, and Courtney is chosen to replace him. In a powerful scene, Brand lets his cold 'facade' down, and reveals, bitterly, to the younger man that seeing his men sent on suicide missions, daily, had literally crushed him. Unknown to the squadron, Brand had constantly begged HQ to ease up, but had been 'shot down' each time, as the missions were essential. "Now it's YOUR turn," Brand sneers, "See how YOU enjoy it!"

Brand's words are prophetic, as Courtney quickly discovers himself in the same situation, as the despised scapegoat, with Scott assuming the role of spokesperson and savior to the squadron. And the most dangerous mission yet has just come down from HQ...

DAWN PATROL is a powerful film, with great performances from the entire cast, particularly Flynn, who had often begged the WB to give him roles beyond his 'swashbuckler' image. The critical praise it garnered proved Flynn's versatility as an actor (although public demand would keep him 'locked' into adventure films), and raised David Niven up to 'star' status.

It remains one of the BEST films about the 'Great War', and shouldn't be missed!


24 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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