The Lion Has Wings (1939)

 |  Drama, War  |  19 January 1940 (USA)
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Alexander Korda's bit for the British war effort shows the world both at peace and on the verge of Nazi domination. Spliced together to form a documentary style film of both newsreel and ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Wing Commander Richardson
Queen Elizabeth I (archive footage)
Robert Douglas ...
Briefing Officer
Anthony Bushell ...
Brian Worth ...
Austin Trevor ...
Schulemburg - German Air Chief of Staff
Ivan Brandt ...
Air Officer
G.H. Mulcaster ...
Herbert Lomas ...
Milton Rosmer ...
Head of Observer Corps
Ronald Adam ...
German Bomber Chief
Robert Rendel ...
British Chief of Air Staff
Unnamed Character


Alexander Korda's bit for the British war effort shows the world both at peace and on the verge of Nazi domination. Spliced together to form a documentary style film of both newsreel and acting. This first of its kind in propaganda films of World War II, shows the might of the English Empire and its eagerness to stand up to the oppressors of morality and free will. Crude but effective propaganda cinema that sets the tone for things to come. With its stiff upper lip attitude that pays tribute to the nations prides and shows the black plague of Nationalism spreading across Europe that England shall be motivated, ready and willing to retaliate. Written by Cinema_Fan

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Timely - Thunderbolt adventure romance of the Royal Air Force!


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Release Date:

19 January 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El león tiene alas  »

Box Office


£30,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Included in the special features on Criterion Collection's The Thief of Baghdad. See more »


The section of the film detailing Germany's prewar conquests contains several errors. The narrator states that Germany occupied the Rhineland in March, 1934. In fact, it was in 1936. Immediately after, a map inaccurately depicts the dismembering of Czechoslovakia in October 1938 and March 1939. The 1938 map depicts Germany annexing the Sudetenland, which is somewhat incorrectly drawn upon the map, but neither it nor the narration shows Hungary annexing the southern portion of Czechoslovakia, nor Poland taking the Teschen district in the center north of the country, both of which occurred simultaneously with Germany's occupation of the Sudetenland. (The narrator also speaks of the Sudetenland going "back" to Germany, though in fact it had never been part of Germany.) When the final dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 is depicted, Germany is shown annexing outright not only the western Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia (which it did annex), but the center of the country as well; meanwhile, the extreme eastern end of the country is labeled "Slovakia", the nominally independent satellite state recognized by Germany. In fact, Slovakia was located in the center of the country, in areas inaccurately depicted as annexed to Germany; the eastern portion labeled "Slovakia" in the film is in fact an area then known as the Carpatho-Ukraine, which was annexed by Hungary the day after Germany occupied the Czech lands in the west (and is today part of Ukraine). See more »


Narrator, original British version: This is Britain, where we believe in freedom...
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Crazy Credits

The producer expresses his gratitude for the co-operation which he received from the cast, production personnel, newsreel companies, the General Post Office and other documentary film units during the making of this picture. See more »


Features Triumph of the Will (1935) See more »

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User Reviews

A period piece for aviation enthusiasts.
18 February 2002 | by (dundee) – See all my reviews

The Korda brothers,although expatriate Hungarians, made some of the finest British films in the thirties and forties. They managed to create films that reflected the contemporary cultural ethos (including the imperialist ethos) that the country's political establishment wanted, and it comes as no surprise that their first film after the outbreak of the Second World War should be a patriotic morale booster. Indeed, this was the first film made in Britain about the conflict that had just started.

This film was made in a great hurry, and it shows. A large part of it consists of re-used peacetime newsreel film with a special commentary. This sounds pretty dire, but some of the cutting is interesting - contrasting a Nuremburg Rally with a race meeting, and Nazi speakers with Prince Monolulu (a well known tipster)yelling "I've got a horse."

Other parts are sections from different films. Scenes from 'Fire Over England' (with Flora Robson) compares the Nazi threat with the Spanish Armada. Other footage is from a pre-war instructional film about air raid precautions, in which a mock air raid takes place.

The actors are almost superfluous, and you wonder what they are doing there. One assumes that they were thrown in as a way of appealing to the ordinary cinema audience, who might otherwise have stayed away from a totally non-fiction film.

However, it is the aviation scenes that are the main attraction. Some of them are bizarre. At this stage, there was no footage of German aircraft available, so dog fights were recreated using shots of British aircraft (including some obsolete types), and a repeated shot of a Focke Wolf airliner (!) taking off. (At least it had German markings and looked like a bomber!).

The best shots were taken at an airfield housing a Spitfire squadron. Whilst there, the film crew accidently recorded the return of a group of bombers from a raid on warships near the Kiel Canal (the first R.A.F. raid of the war, and a major headline event at the time).

Two points. Although radar had already come into use, this could not be shown. Thus, the Spitfires are scrambled on the basis of information from a spy, corroborated by sound detectors and the naked eye. And, at one point, the German bombing force are foiled by a balloon barrage!

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