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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


Thrilling As Love Born Amid A Thousand Fabulous Adventures! 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?


For the role of Judy MacPherson, Howard Hawks screen-tested Dorothy Comingore, Rochelle Hudson and Rita Hayworth. He selected Hayworth because she had a face "that the camera likes." See more »


When Geoff is accidentally shot, in the excitement of the moment, various characters refer to "Papa" and "Kid" interchangeably. See more »


Geoff Carter: Wait a minute, you little fool, why don't you use your ...
[sees that she's crying]
Geoff Carter: Oh, come on. Stop it.
Bonnie Lee: I don't know how you can act like this when that poor kid, he's ...
Geoff Carter: [coldly] Yeah, I know, he's dead.
Bonnie Lee: Yes, he's dead!
Geoff Carter: That's right. And he's been dead about 20 minutes, and all the weeping and wailing in the world won't make him any deader 20 years from now. If you feel like bawling, how do you think we feel?
Bonnie Lee: Oh, I'm sorry...
Geoff Carter: Oh, come on. Go outside and walk around - and stay there until you ...
See more »


Featured in Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady (2000) See more »


The Arkansas Traveler
Written by Sanford Faulkner
Piano background music played in the restaurant
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User Reviews

It is all about respect
29 April 2005 | by (Copenhagen, Denmark) – See all my reviews

If you ever wondered what all the fuss about Howard Hawks was all about, this is the film to catch. It is a first-hand lesson in what the Hawks universe was all about, and it is unsurpassed entertainment from the word go. Two hours of undiminished tension, action-wise, sexually, whatnot.

New York showgirl Bonnie (Jean Arthur) is on a stop-over in small-town Barrance somewhere in South America. Here she meets Geoff (Cary Grant), the leader of a small band of mail pilots having to cross a perilous mountain pass on a daily basis, and casualties are to be expected. Within little more than ten minutes of screen-time the young man, who had asked Bonnie out to dinner, is dead in a spectacular crash scene, and from there on the plot and the action pick up space. Bonnie is dismayed by the way the dead pilot's colleagues seem not to care about his death, they just go about their business and pretend he was never there in the first place, so as not to be reminded of their own mortality. "Joe died flying", says Geoff. "That was his job. He just wasn't good enough. That's why he got it". Dismayed as she may be, though, Bonnie cannot leave, since she is falling in love with Geoff but fast.

In this confined space, made even more confined by the dense fog and pouring rain that characterize the local climate, the scene is set for one of Hawks' perceptive gatherings of a group of people to have us observe the dynamics of people interacting, different ethos at work in a seemingly laconic male environment, the love, the rivalry, the camaraderie. The fear. Further upsetting the close-knit community is the arrival of a new fryer (Richard Barthelmess in the best performance of his mature years) who has to prove himself doubly because once in his life he turned yellow. With him he has Rita Hayworth, Geoff's old girl-friend ...

This is quintessential Hawks, just in the way that Barthelmess' character has to strive to earn any ounce of respect from his peers. But in every frame it is a deserved classic, and great performances abound.


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