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I was to be a guard at the phony gate as the stars passed through but I was not in the picture when released. I was a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps at Kelly Field. I am sorely disappointed that some movie studio has the picture locked up so no one can now obtain a copy except at an exorbitant price on eBay. This picture seemed to be the "launch pad" for many in the cast. It was fun to see and hear stars such as Brian Donlevy and Ray Milland complaining about the hot weather at San Antonio. During the filming a plane crashed on the runway and the pilot burned in it. It seemed so very ironic that it happened in front of the cameras in reality while so much boring stuff was staged. I saw the movie in New Your on my way to Europe in WWII. Forrest Lee Green
I was either 12 or 13 when I saw this movie and it probably had much to
do with my becoming a United States Air Force pilot. Shortly after I
saw the movie my father and I attended the grand opening of Ellington
Field in Houston and I saw a P-38 and fell in love with aviation.
I have seen the movie again in recent years and after twenty-nine years in the Air Force tend to pick the movie apart for the "Hollywood" production which is frequently quite different from the real world. However, it was an outstanding movie for its time and I probably have many fellow aviators that this movie influenced when they were young and impressionable.
Although I WANTED WINGS' claim to fame is that it won the Special Effects Oscar of 1941, the reasons to see it today reside with the marvelous performances of a very young and sensitive William Holden and a stunning Veronica Lake. Holden, Milland and Morris are three cadets who want to enter the Army Air Corps. The film shows their basic training and progress, not without melodramatic stops and starts. The film is overlong and quite dull when it concentrates on the training. It gets interesting, though unbelievable, when the melodrama enters. Milland is a rich kid, drawn to national photographer, Moore, but falls in with Lake during a down moment. Lake is Holden's former flame, the one that left him feeling rotten and worthless and propelled his entry into the Corps to "make something of himself." She sets her sights on Milland and when he comes to, she won't let go. Her gold-digging interests are mainly in his wealth. She fabricates a pregnancy. Holden marries her and thus leaves the Corps to protect his friend from scandal. It all comes out right in the melodramatic ending. Lake is exceptional in her star-making performance that is strong enough to have netted a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nom. Holden is quite fine in a very understated, underplayed performance. The sound is exceptionally good and also deserved an Oscar nom. The effects are "okay" but not in any way outstanding. They consist of a simulated practice air raid drill on the City of Los Angeles at the start of the film and a forced landing, take off and crash at the end (obviously done with miniatures - you can even see a string at one point attached to the plane). The middle of the film uses a lot of back projection in its training segments. What probably copped the Oscar was a clever bit of matte printing at the end (the plane crashes and breaks apart, obviously done with miniatures, and the camera pulls in to look into the plane from its torn aperture and we see live action as it pulls in). This could have been a good 90 minute film but with the extra 41 minutes, it does tire the audience. See it however for Lake and Holden.
I Wanted Wings has its place in Hollywood history because of winning
the Best Special Effects Oscar for 1941. It's story about three men who
wanted to become pilots in the Army Air Corps and the women who loved
them is a bit dated.
Ray Milland, William Holden, and Wayne Morris are three very different types looking to be pilots. Milland is a well known playboy from the Long Island horsey set, Morris a good natured football jock, and Holden a poor garage mechanic who wants to better himself. It all comes real easy for Milland while the other two have to sweat out under the tutelage of Flight Instructor Brian Donlevy who they keep running into no matter where they go in the Army Air Corps.
The women in their lives are Constance Moore photo journalist doing a cover story for a magazine like Life or Look and sultry nightclub singer Veronica Lake. Holden and she have a past, but she's got her eyes set on Milland's millions.
I Wanted Wings is of course at its best in the air. Director Mitchell Leisen is invading territory that normally belonged to William Wellman, still Leisen does a nice job with material he normally wouldn't be assigned to. I'm guessing Paramount wanted Wellman for director, but he was probably tied up someplace else.
These guys are all a wee bit too noble though, especially Holden who was getting type cast in what he called his 'Smiling Jim' roles. As for Milland, I'm not sure why everyone keeps going out of their way to pull his chestnuts out of the fire.
Veronica Lake got her first real big break it's with here that Leisen's talents shine. This was where the famous peekaboo hairdo with the accompanying come hither glance was invented.
I agree with other reviewers that the film was too long by about 25 minutes. Still I Wanted Wings should please the aviation fans out there.
As a former Air Force pilot, I noticed that none of the pilots wore their wings while in their workaday blouses (as opposed to flight suits or more formal jacket and tie uniforms). That must have been standard just before WW II. The film is hardly a gung-ho recruitment poster. It shows some unconvincing cowardice (from Ray Milland) and some slightly more convincing insecurity (from Wm. Holden). It does have some good shots of training planes doing aerobatics -- and those must have been responsible for the Academy Award for special effects. Holden's emergency landing in a small field is also well done. The film hints at the kinds of things pilots have to learn, but doesn't educate us to the process. The early version of the B-17 did not have a tail-gun, so that design feature permits Veronica Lake to stowaway late in the film. By the way, the base security at March Field must have been really lax! Lake is wonderful as a sinuous singer (voice dubbed) in a glimmering gown. That she turns out to be Holden's ex-ember strains credulity. But this sub-plot is strong, simply because of Lake and Holden, who is given the only three-dimensional character in the film and who deals with his character with restraint. The love plot between Milland and Moore is bland, except for the brief instant when she grants him permission to kiss her. While the film was made in 1941, the pilot class that Holden, Milland, and Wayne Morris (who later became a Navy ace) is 38a -- early 1938. The film, then, is supposed to depict a time-span of a little more than two years, though we are given few signals about when it happens -- other than the elegant late 30s autos -- or how much time the action consumes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I must admit I watched this film because of Veronica Lake and I was not disappointed. This being her first big role , she really holds her own with big stars William Holden, Ray Milland and easily outshines Constance Moore. It is proof to me that given the right role and direction, Veronica Lake had the acting talent. As it is, this film is very long and has some dull spots along the storyline, but it makes up for them when Veronica Lake's character appears. Lake and Holden have good chemistry, look good together and it would have been even better if this film was a little shorter and if the script had more focus on Holden and Lake. The story for the most part follows the training and personal lives of three recruits in the Army Air Corps, Ray Milland, William Holden, and Wayne Morris and was made as a salute to the Army Air Corps and an inspiration to those interested in joining. It is easy to see why this film was a hit with the young male audiences of 1941 and this film still adequately holds interest for anyone keen on WW II aviation and those interested in Veronica Lake's early stardom.
This film is a wonderful depiction of pre-WWII pilot training. Veronica Lake is wonderful as she chases her man. And although it was considered romantic in 1941, today it would be considered stalking. The film was made at Kelly and Randolph Fields in San Antonio, Texas. Today you can visit the places where the film was made and see the exact same buildings and features as are in the film. Even some of the artwork seen in the film still hangs in the same place at Randolph Field today. Many of the military actors in the film were actual military members at the time. Although a little long, it gives you a fascinating glimpse into the world of prewar pilot training. The film is a must see or own for any true military history buff.
Mitchell Leisen was drafted in to do this one after shooting had
started when it wasn't coming together under the original director. He
did a good job of the flying shots but the clichéd, inconsistent script
stops this from being any more than passable.
The movie is also long, unusual for Leisen as he liked fast paced movies, and I guess some of this is due to scenes capturing the feel of the air force at work. However by the time you get back to the court martial scenes at the beginning you have almost forgotten what the trial was about.
I liked Brian Donlevy - thought he was convincing. Bill Holden was just starting out. Ray Milland always reminds me of a second rate Cary Grant, except he managed to do something later in his career that Cary was unable to do - win the Oscar for best actor. There is no development at all for his character in the script. Didn't mind Veronica Lake though she was apparently not a lot of fun to work with in this her first movie.
This movie is also referenced in Leisen's next movie "Hold Back the Dawn" as the movie Leisen is making when the Charles Boyer character comes in to tell his story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...whose only desire is learning to fly.Like some other Leisen movies
of the era ("to each is own" " hold back the dawn") it is a very very
long flashback framed by short scenes of a trial,the verdict of which
we learn at the end ;it's not on a par with the two movies I mention
above ;Veronica Lake is given a particularly thankless part and all
that concerns her character is not really plausible:she is able to
enter a military base effortlessly and even to get into the cabin of
her husband 's plane ;Besides ,she becomes a murderess more because the
script writers want to justify her death-not a spoiler:we learn it in
the first minutes-than because of her motives (we hardly know her
victim:a phone call and that's it).
Things go better when Leisen depicts the three musketeers's camaraderie and enthusiasm,and their endearing relationship with their instructor,their hopes ,and their fear of being part of the washed out third .Acting is good,particularly Brian Donlevy as the instructor;on the other hand ,although Ray Milland's talent cannot be denied ,his character is not that nice and he redeems himself in extremis during his trial.They have moments of depression ,of self-doubting and of self-denial.A mediocre flick such as eighties "top gun" found a lot of its inspiration here.
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