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The Lion Has Wings (1939)

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:
Mrs. Richardson
Wing Commander Richardson
Queen Elizabeth I (archive footage)
Briefing Officer
Brian Worth ...
Schulemburg - German Air Chief of Staff
Ivan Brandt ...
Air Officer
G.H. Mulcaster ...
Controller (as G. H. Mulcaster)
Herbert Lomas ...
Head of Observer Corps
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!


Drama | War


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Release Date:

19 January 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El león tiene alas  »


Box Office


£30,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording Noiseless Recording)


(archive footage)|

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Because it was started and completed so soon after the declaration of war and was seen to show how useful films could be in wartime, this film is considered to have done a lot towards allowing the British film industry to remain active throughout World War II. Conversely, during World War I, all cinemas were closed and filming effectively stopped for the duration. See more »


The close up shot of the Spitfire firing it's guns show the undercarriage is in the lowered position, proving the footage is actually from a ground firing test. See more »


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

Opening credits prologue: 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 »


Featured in The South Bank Show: Michael Powell (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

A fascinating look into history
24 May 2015 | by See all my reviews

I rate THE LION HAS WINGS (1939) a 7/10 on the strength of the fascinating documentary footage that makes up much of the first half of the film. (The scenes involving the actors are considerably less fascinating.)

THE LION HAS WINGS is a British propaganda film that seeks to stir up support for the war effort by appealing to a sense of British pride, with particular focus on Britain's air supremacy in its war with Germany.

The early portion of the film uses documentary footage to paint a picture of idyllic British life, in sharp contrast to the military state being run by Adolf Hitler. Hitler, surrounded by a sea of guards, is contrasted with Great Britain's King George VI, who walks openly among his people. The film succeeds in demonizing Hitler as an unscrupulous leader with an outdated hunger for conquest. The film even makes use of archival footage of one of Hitler's early speeches as it drives home the point that he's broken lots of promises by annexing neighboring lands. Excerpts are highlighted from "Mein Kampf" outlining the true ambitions of a man who does not want peace (at least until Germany rules Europe).

The movie is very interesting from a historical standpoint. It covers recent events in world history and also offers a look at British society in the 1930s, touching upon things like sports and recreation, hospital care, and housing improvements. There's footage from an air show, demonstrating the talents of British flyers, as well as some really cool looks at airplane and ammunition manufacture and the "balloon barrage" defense against air strikes. In addition to the archival footage of Hitler and King George VI, we get to hear British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's radio address informing the British people that war is declared. With the narrator guiding you along, the movie is quite educational.

The actors take over around the halfway point and the film becomes more of a dramatization of bombing raids abroad and the RAF's defense of the homeland. This may have been just the thing to arouse patriotism at the time, but it's rather hum-drum now. These dangerous and exciting missions have been brought to life much better in other films.

The main players are Ralph Richardson and the always lovely Merle Oberon, as a young couple who answer the call when their country needs them. What story is there is no great shakes, but it serves its purpose within the film. There are others in the cast, though most of the parts are minor. Flora Robson has a cameo as Queen Elizabeth I in a scene about England's defense against the Spanish Armada (a scene borrowed from the 1937 film FIRE OVER ENGLAND).

THE LION HAS WINGS ties England's proud naval heritage with Britain's more recent mastery of flight, comparing the ace pilots of the RAF with Sir Francis Drake and the other great English seamen. And the film makes it very clear that Great Britain had no choice but to go to war with Hitler's Germany, after repeated offenses on the continent and no effort to discuss a peaceful settlement. As the narrator puts it, the British people prefer to win sports matches, but they can win wars, too, if they must. It's also stressed that the highly skilled airmen of the RAF bomb only strategic military targets, not cities full of innocent civilians (another dig at the evil dictator).

Released at a time when Great Britain had just entered what would become World War II, THE LION HAS WINGS makes sure the British people know what they're fighting for and appeals to their nationalistic pride to win support for what may have been, at the time, an unpopular war.

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