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Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Romance | 15 May 1939 (USA)
At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air freight company is forced to risk his pilots' lives in order to win an important contract.



(screen play)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bat Mac Pherson
Judy MacPherson
Dutchy (as Sig Rumann)
Victor Kilian ...
Gent Shelton
Tex (as Donald Barry)
Joe Souther
Manuel Álvarez Maciste ...
The Singer (as Maciste)
Milisa Sierra ...
Lily (as Milissa Sierra)
Lucio Villegas ...


When the ship San Luis makes a stop at the port of Barranca, to deliver mailbags and load bananas, cabaret singer Bonnie Lee leaves the boat for some hours to look around. She meets a gang of American flyers, who works for a warm-hearted Dutchman. He is the owner of a scrubby hotel, but also of the shaky Barranca Airways, lead by the tough flyer Geoff Carter. The only way to fly out of Barranca is through a deep pass at 14.000 feet above the ground. As the weather is often stormy and foggy, the flights are extremely difficult, and several flyers have already lost their lives. Bonnie falls in love with Geoff, who reminds her of her father, a trapeze artist who worked without safety net. She decides to leave the boat and stay at the hotel. But Geoff is scared of being detained by a woman. He wants to continue his risky lifestyle uninterrupted. The situation is aggravated when a new flyer, Bat MacPherson, turns up with his wife Judy. He once caused the death of a young flyer, by leaving ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Romance as glorious as the towering Andes! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

15 May 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Kid mentions that there are no bananas, parodying the novelty song, "Yes! We Have No Bananas" written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn. See more »


When Joe's plane clips the tree and loses the right wing, the plane rolls to the left. In fact, asymmetric lift would roll the aircraft to the right due to greater remaining airfoil surface on the left side. See more »


Bonnie Lee: I'm hard to get, Geoff. All you have to do is ask me.
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Featured in American Masters: Cary Grant: A Class Apart (2004) See more »


Some of These Days
(1910) (uncredited)
Written by Shelton Brooks
Partially played on piano by Cary Grant and hummed and partially sung by John Carroll
Played on piano by Jean Arthur and accompanied by the restaurant band
See more »

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User Reviews

This film flies on Hawks' wings
22 February 1999 | by (Anchorage, Alaska) – See all my reviews

For a remarkably compelling story about a fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants airmail service in South America, director Howard Hawks has assembled a cast that includes Cary Grant as the airline's owner and Jean Arthur as a tourist stranded between boats who catches his eye. While the performances are all superb (especially Thomas Mitchell as the veteran pilot Kid), it is Hawks who turns a rather ordinary plot into an extraordinary film. Watch this movie for its visual style and atmospheric mood (note especially how Hawks fills the frame with actors while Arthur and Grant are sitting at the barroom piano), and be prepared for the ride of your life!

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