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The Dawn Patrol (1938)

Not Rated | | War, Drama | 24 December 1938 (USA)
British flying aces in World War I contend with the harsh realities of war.



(screen play), (screen play) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
Major Brand
Sgt. Watkins
Hauptmann Von Mueller
Peter Willes ...
Morton Lowry ...
Donnie Scott
Michael Brooke ...
Capt. Squires
James Burke ...
Major Brand's Orderly (as Sidney Bracy)
Leo Nomis ...
Aeronautic Supervisor


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


Roaring into each blood-red dawn . . . fighting for women they had never seen . . . for love they might never know ! ! See more »


War | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

24 December 1938 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Patrulha da Alvorada  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Maj. Brand, played by Basil Rathbone, is seen wearing the ribbon for the Military Cross. Rathbone himself was awarded this medal for bravery during the First World War as a second lieutenant. Capt. Courtney (Errol Flynn) and later Lt. Scott (David Niven) are also seen with ribbons, but Flynn and Niven were too young to serve in the war. Niven attended Sandhurst Military Academy and then served for two years on Malta. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to England and re-joined the army. Flynn's weak heart got him a 4-F deferment and he never served during the war, a fact he always said he regretted. See more »


During the final mission by Errol Flynn, four German planes take off to pursue him. However, one plane simply disappears. There are only three planes that attack him. He shoots down two, including Von Richter, but is killed by the third. See more »


Capt. Courtney: [drunkenly] Gentlemen, keep the war going please. We're going to roll in a few gutters.
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Referenced in Fiona on Fire (1978) See more »


Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile!
(1915) (uncredited)
Music by Felix Powell
Lyrics by George Asaf
Sung by the airmen in the club
Reprised by arriving replacement airmen
See more »

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User Reviews

Errol Flynn's Best Performance
5 July 2004 | by (Bob Morrell, Tonbridge, England) – See all my reviews

The Dawn Patrol - based on a book my John Monk Saunders is the story of a RFC squadron in France during the Great War.

If has three good central performances - Basil Rathbone showing an array of hyper tense emotions - David Niven changing from a happy go lucky drunken fool to a hardened leader of men and the best, by far, Errol Flynn as a guilt ridden hero whose nerves are torn to shreds.

Flynn has had so much bad press over the years and people forget that he was a great actor in the early days. This film demonstrates that superbly. There are no women in this film, no distractions. It's about men up against it, and having to watch their comrades die needlessly against overwhelming odds.

The film has moments of silence, laughter, terror all mixed together with some superb skewed camera angles in the mess to give a feeling of drunken hopelessness.

Flynn's relief at seeing Niven when he thought he was dead is a moving performance. His quiet moments when he talks about England, his control when trying to convince Nivens younger brother to go up for the first time - these scenes show real presence and talent. You feel for him and all around him.

Coming out just before the beginning of WW2 it would have given the home audiences great understanding of what they faced - a hard and bloody task, where young men will die as surely as the older ones will order them to fight.

This film should be reissued on DVD and shown around the world - it's that good. Let's write some more scripts like this and start making some decent films again.

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