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Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Approved  |   |  Adventure, Drama  |  15 May 1939 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 8,084 users  
Reviews: 64 user | 68 critic

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.

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Title: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »

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Cast

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

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

Taglines:

1939's Greatest Screen Adventure! See more »

Genres:

Adventure | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

15 May 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Richard Barthelmess had deep scars that resulted from an infection due to plastic surgery. The only way to cover them up was with heavy make-up, but Howard Hawks convinced him to leave them the way they were because "those scars tell the story and are important to your character." Hawks also removed planks to make Barthelmess appear smaller, to reflect his character's inferiority among his fellow pilots. See more »

Goofs

In the immediate aftermath of Joe's crash, distant shots show Bonnie with her left arm cocked at a right angle, but close shots show it limp at her side. See more »

Quotes

Geoff Carter: You got the job.
Bat Kilgallen - MacPherson: Maybe I ought you pat you on the back.
Geoff Carter: You don't have to. Just do what I tell you to do.
Bat Kilgallen - MacPherson: You mean anything that's a little too tough for somebody else, huh?
Geoff Carter: Yeah, that's about it. Look, fella, I'm knee-deep in friends around here, but you're one guy I can send out in any kind of weather on any kind of job, and only worry about the ship getting back.
Bat Kilgallen - MacPherson: I see.
Geoff Carter: On those terms, you still want the job?
Bat Kilgallen - MacPherson: I don't know any other way I'd want it.
See more »

Connections

Featured in American Masters: Cary Grant: A Class Apart (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

The Peanut Vendor
(1931)
Music by Moïse Simons
Lyrics by L. Wolfe Gilbert and Marion Sunshine
Played on piano by Jean Arthur and accompanied by the restaurant band
Partially sung by Cary Grant
See more »

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User Reviews

 
And You Thought FedEx Delivery Men Had It Rough
7 February 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A very strange movie in its own way, "Only Angels Have Wings" is about a group of mail carriers living, working and carousing somewhere in South America. Supposedly it's very dangerous to fly mail back and forth from this particular frontier town, and the life expectancy of a flier isn't long. Therefore, when sexy Jean Arthur shows up on a stop-over and gets a hankering for boss Cary Grant, the sexual tension rests in whether or not Grant will be alive long enough to make forming a romantic attachment worthwhile.

With a second world war looming on the horizon, one can see how this story was both relevant and irrelevant at the same time: relevant as a parallel for the many American men who would soon be in the position of not knowing whether or not they would be alive from day to day; but sort of irrelvant too, since we're talking about delivering mail here, not going to war!! I can't imagine a movie made today about the dangers of being a FedEx delivery man (unless you count "Cast Away").

Anyway, Cary Grant is horribly miscast as the crusty man in charge, who puts up a callous front and tries to convince everyone that he doesn't care when one of his men dies. I can only take Grant seriously when he's in a tuxedo and being dapper; here they outfit him in ridiculous parachute pants pulled up to his nipples---I kept expecting him to drop to the floor and start break dancing.

As for the female lead, Jean Arthur could do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned. Rita Hayworth shows up in an early role as another love interest for Grant, and one-time silent film star Richard Barthelmess struts in playing Grant's mail carrier arch rival (!), looking for all the world like he's still acting in silent films.

Director Howard Hawks creates an authentically foggy and sweaty South American atmosphere, and for all the surface silliness of the plot, he fashions a pretty compelling movie about the instinct to challenge death that dominates these characters' lives. I don't hear this movie mentioned along with the other classics released in the golden year of 1939, but it more than holds its own against the more popular films of that year.

Grade: A-


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