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Barthelmess and Fairbanks Are Superb
drednm2 December 2007
Terrific war film starring Richard Barthelmess as a veteran British pilot in France whose job is to make raids behind enemy lines in what are basically suicide runs. He complains to his commander (Neil Hamilton) about the green kids he gets, but of course war is hell and there's nothing anyone can do. It seems like every day they send out 5 or 6 planes and 2 or 3 come back. The guys drink heavily to hide their anguish. Barthelmess and Hamilton fight constantly until Hamilton is promoted and Barthelmess gets his desk job.

Now it's his job to send out the fliers. His best friend (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) becomes the squad leader as the green kids keep showing up for duty. Then Fairbanks' kid brother arrives. What follows breaks up the friendship between Barthelmess and Fairbanks, but the war drones on.

Excellent cinematography of aerial fights and bombing raids. The ending is simply superb, one full of heroism and irony.

Barthelmess and Fairbanks are excellent, and Hamilton is also good. Supporting cast includes Frank McHugh, William Janney, James Finlayson, Clyde Cook, and Gardner James.
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Earlie talkie Top Gun!!!
raskimono16 March 2004
This fine movie directed by Howard Hawks is more potent for its absolutely dazzling aerial photography and filming, one of the best I've ever seen - much better than the eighties Top Gun. First, let me say the late twenties to late thirties was the height of what is known as the Aviator movie. Many hits were scored using this genre including this one which was a blockbuster in 1930. The thirties aviator movies in their flight sequences have a certain feeling to them. They are so realistic in look, and this is achieved without music being used, but just the whirring of the engines gaggling, give it a prescient omniprescence that advances in movie technology, Digital imagery and CGI can't duplicate. I mean, any of the thirties aviator pictures sparkle in their flight segments. It must be the way they were shot. I wonder what technique was used. The story for this movie which won an Oscar was written by John Monk Saunders who obviously knew the genre well. He also wrote Wings, the first Academy award winner, Legion of the Condemned, an even bigger hit than Wings with Gary Cooper, Devil Dogs of the Air and West Point of the Air. The leads are Richard Barthelmess and Doug Fairbanks jr. Barthelmess gives the real performance here while Fairbanks gives the movie star performance. They are involved in WWI and are ace pilots and best of friends. The film has a pandemic tone and regurgitating pace that feeds the ennui of war. Like the pilots of Top Gun, they tend to go against orders given by their boss, silent screen leading man, Neil Hamilton who has the tough job of sending men on their missions, missions in which lives will surely be lost. He doesn't like it but he has to follow orders. That is the theme of the movie, obeying and serving your job because it is necessary. Life is hard and fulfilling your function/role against all odds is rote. Tough choices have to be made for the greater good. Cliche but true. That is the irony of war and when one falls, another must takes his place. Barthelmess eventually takes Hamilton's job and in his shoes feels the pressures the man felt and the toughness of following necessary orders. It is not an anti-war movie, more than it is a WAR IS HELL! but heaven is only one more day of hell away. Slow because of early talkie cameras which needed absolute silence to be recorded and were static without any movement, but sets are highly believable and bombing raids uncharacteristically realistic. Dialogue though is a bit pedestrian with certain heavy-handed moments, in today's glare, and performances not up to par in certain areas but overall, a fine movie.
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Virtuoso Film-making
barnesgene17 June 2007
This is what film-making is all about! The Vitaphone audio recording process challenges itself almost continuously in this early talkie. You aurally count the number of planes coming in (off-camera) while watching the reaction of the principals inside the office. You even get the correct fidelity of the wind-up gramophone as characters talk over it. Meanwhile, you watch aerial dogfights that switch seamlessly from soundstage re-creations to actual footage made by a camera mounted at the front of an aeroplane, without any jarring sense of displacement. The melodrama remains palpable with very little over-acting. I'm taking one point off for that occasional over-acting, and for the really dumb use of Southern California semi-desert topography in which the planes take off and land. It wouldn't have been that hard to find a location with a few more trees and more grass. Oh, well. The movie still must have knocked the original audiences' socks off.
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As good as its remake and worth remembering
calvinnme4 October 2009
This is an early talkie starring Richard Barthelmess as Dick Courtney and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as Doug Scott, a couple of World War I aces and the best of friends, at least at the beginning of the film. Neil Hamilton (police commissioner Gordon in the 60's Batman TV series) is Major Brand, in charge of handing out commands and assignments among his group of fliers. One day Courtney and Scott pull off a daring air raid that they have been ordered not to do by Brand. When they return, their success causes Brand to be promoted just as he is about to punish Courtney, and now Barthelmess' Dick Courtney is named as replacement and the new commander of the unit.

Now instead of risking death himself, Courtney is the one ordering others into harm's way, and it is cracking him up as he turns more and more to drink. However, he still has Scott's friendship until a new recruit arrives and is ordered into a fatal battle. Now it is Scott who not only has no use for Courtney, but no use for life itself, and it is up to Courtney to make sure that Scott doesn't throw his life away.

This film, like many early talkies, is long on talk but short on the kind of aerial action you'd probably expect in a film about World War I fliers. Only towards the last third of the film do you see much in the way of dogfights. The focus is mainly on the fliers themselves and the futility of war. Barthelmess gives a great and poignant performance as Dick Courtney, and he lasted longer in talking pictures than most silent film actors due to his great skill. Also remember that most of the films made about World War I during this time were essentially anti-war films. By the beginning of the depression, WWI seemed a wasted effort in both money and manpower, and these early talking picture war films reflected that attitude.

The version of this film starring Errol Flynn is what most people remember. It's too bad this version didn't at least rate as an extra feature on that DVD. It makes for an interesting comparison.
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If They Live, They'll Be Veterans
bkoganbing1 June 2007
Although William Wellman is the Hollywood director most associated with air films, not counting of course the self indulgent Howard Hughes, Howard Hawks with The Dawn Patrol and with Air Circus and Only Angels Have Wings can certainly hold is own against the formidable Mr. Wellman on his own turf.

This may have been Howard Hawks's first sound feature and he debuted magnificently with a story about a group of fliers from the United Kingdom's Royal Flying Corps of World War I. John Monk Saunders wrote the original story for the screen that netted The Dawn Patrol an Academy Award for that category.

The story centers on three men. Group commander Neil Hamilton who has to send his men up against some of Germany's best fliers and two of his senior pilots, Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Hamilton is a troubled man indeed, having to send barely trained kid pilots and he hears about it from Barthelmess and Fairbanks.

One fine day, oddly enough to do a daring assault that Barthelmess and Fairbanks pull off, Hamilton gets a promotion up to the staff headquarters. In a curious bit of poetic vengeance he names Barthelmess his replacement.

Of course when Barthelmess now is seeing the war from Hamilton's point of view, he starts to behave differently. What he does and the choices he makes are the basis for the rest of this story about some of the United Kingdom's most gallant generation lost in the first terrible total war of the last century.

As Fairbanks and Barthelmess criticize Hamilton in what he does, I do wonder about when they were the fresh recruits. They became the veterans more than likely by sheer chance that they did survive. Yet that never plays a part in their thinking.

The aerial combat sequences are excellently staged, Howard Hughes and William Wellman could hardly have done better. They were so good that they got used again in the 1938 remake of this film.

The Dawn Patrol also marked the film debut of Frank McHugh who graced Warner Brothers films for the next 20 years. I've said in many comments and on their respective pages that it could almost not be a Warner Brothers film without either Frank McHugh or Alan Hale or both in a given feature, they appeared so often. The brothers Warner, got their work out of those two.

The 1938 remake with Errol Flynn, David Niven, and Basil Rathbone is the one most are familiar with. Still this one is the real deal.
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Up in the Air and Down in the Dumps
wes-connors9 October 2011
In France for World War I service, British pilots Richard Barthelmess (as Dick Courtney) and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (as Doug "Scotty" Scott) clash with commander Neil Hamilton (as Drake Brand) over his decisions to send young fliers out on suicide missions in rickety planes. But, with the Germans active nearby, Mr. Hamilton has limited options. Taking the lead, Mr. Barthelmess decides to go over Hamilton's head, completing a dangerous mission with Mr. Fairbanks co-piloting. Hamilton threatens to have him court-martialed, but a worse fate awaits Barthelmess - he is promoted to commander of the "Flight Squadron"...

Now in charge, Barthelmess must order young fliers out on suicide missions in rickety planes. Responding to his own superiors, Barthelmess includes his pal's bright-eyed young brother William Janney (as Gordon "Donny" Scott) on "The Dawn Patrol" - although it could lead to tragedy. To ease war pain, the men drink. There are few surprises in this story, which illustrates the inevitable. A little theatrical by today's standards, Barthelmess and the men perform exceptionally well. The command post scenes are vivid and the aviation exciting, with director Howard Hawks performing double duty as the dreaded "Von Richter".

******* The Dawn Patrol (7/10/30) Howard Hawks ~ Richard Barthelmess, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Neil Hamilton, William Janney
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Not quite the greatest air epic ever, still a good one though
TheLittleSongbird12 March 2017
Having a fondness for a lot of Howard Hawks' films, there was an interest in seeing one of his earliest efforts (his ninth film in fact and his first talkie). 'The Dawn Patrol' is not one of Hawks' best and there is a preference for the 1938 film with Errol Flynn, despite there being the argument of it being pointless it did feel more polished, more natural and every bit as emotional.

1930's 'The Dawn Patrol' does suffer a little from limitations caused in the transition from silent to talkie. The sound quality is primitive and very static, a music score would have helped hugely with providing even more impact and most likely masking this issue. The script can come over as creaky and artificial, and the pacing also has its creaky moments and lacks tautness.

On the other hand, Hawks directs adroitly, and the photography and scenery have a grittiness and luminous quality at all. The flying sequences still come over as remarkably powerful and rousing today, and most of the script is thoughtful and gripping, heavy-handedness wasn't too big an issue here.

'The Dawn Patrol' has a compelling story, perfectly conveying the futility and passion of war, the comrades' horrors and conflicts and showing grace even under pressure.

Characters are not stereotypes in any way, instead compellingly real characters with human and relatable conflicts. The acting is remarkably good for such an early talkie, of course there is some theatricality which to me wasn't that grave a problem. Can find nothing to fault Richard Barthelmess, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr or Neil Hamilton, who all perform with authority and poignancy.

Overall, a good film if not the greatest air epic. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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Air War
deanofrpps17 July 2006
Many on this board have compared this movie to TOP GUN which is a good movie but lacks Dawn Patrol's depth.

The early version of DAWN PATROL tells a complex tale of leadership and command best illustrated by the scene in which the commanding officer is promoted out of the unit and command falls into the hands of his highly critical, hot dog, second in command. I don't remember exactly was the CO said when he opened the orders relieving him. I believe the line goes, "Now see what you can do now that you can't do everything you want." The tension between the commander and his second is what find to be the most interesting part of the movie. Top Gun simply lacks that type of insight. Top Gun is more of an adventure story of a hot dog pilot.

Movies comparable to Dawn Patrol in the military war genre which attain the understanding of the conflict at the top.are Major Dundee, Twelve O'Clock High and surprisingly the John Wayne film Flying Leathernecks.

This film was remade in 1938 with Errol Flynn in the lead role. I'm told that it was so gripping that French spies on the Luxembourg border went to see it and missed the onset of the German invasion.
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It's Suicide, I Tell You!
rmax30482316 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Pretty good story of airmen in the First World War, flying desperate missions against German troops and superior German airplanes and pilots, including the dreaded Baron von Richter. It's bloody suicide. Yet there is gallantry in the air and on the ground. Pilots who are going down in flames salute the enemy pilot who has brought them to this sorry state. There was little of that gallantry left in World War II, except in one instance in which an American P-47 pilot damaged an enemy fighter. The pilot bailed out and sailed past the American's canopy, upright and in full salute.

The British pilots we see -- almost all of them American -- are jovial enough in their day room or whatever it is. If someone is shot down, the loss is overcome by an excess of booze and song. The gramophone plays a scratchy "Poor Butterfly" (how apt) and the men drink and sing "The world is made up of lies/ So hurrah for the next man who dies." The pilots are in good shape, pretty chipper, compared to their commander, who is filled with guilt and rapidly becoming a neural shambles. He snaps at the men, barks out orders, and has no sense of humor. The men can't understand this until one of them, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., is promoted to Flight Commander and takes his place.

The film is an early talky. There is no underscore: we hear only the men singing and the gramophone playing. And it's stagy. There aren't many outdoor scenes; the men swill booze and argue and play cards in the day room. The message itself is overstated.

But, ah, the scenes of flight. Great whirling masses of biplanes, some spinning down and trailing smoke. Lots of stunts with airplanes too. It's more like a comic book than like reality but, well, consider the period. The special effects aren't bad. More realism and a more complex message can be found in a relatively recent movie like "The Blue Max." Howard Hawks is uncredited but listed as a German pilot. Well, there is only one German pilot we get to see anything of. He's a victim of one of the fliers on our side and has been brought to the day room for a bash before being taken off to the Gefängnis, where he must have woken up with a terrible hangover. He looks nothing like a young Howard Hawks. True, Hawks was trained as a flier in the Army but somebody is pulling the wool over somebody's eyes around here.
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Note quite as pretty as the 1938 remake, but it's still a dandy film
MartinHafer3 June 2007
It's obvious that this film didn't have the budget of some of its more famous contemporaries (HELL'S ANGELS and WINGS), as there were less aerial stunts and more of an emphasis on story. However, this wasn't really a bad thing, as the story itself did have more depth than the other two films--focusing on the pressure on WWI pilots and the fragility of their lives. In many ways, it reminded me of WWII films, COMMAND DECISION and 12 O'CLOCK HIGH because they, too, talk about the burden of leadership and responsibility of sending men to their deaths. So it's obvious that this is NOT your typical "war is fun" type film you so often see! As far as the film goes, it was quite dandy but unfortunately, the 1938 version really wasn't all that different. About the only noticeable difference was that more actors actually spoke with British accents in the remake. Because they are so very similar, I recommend you only see one unless you are a real purist. And, if I needed to say which one, I'd say the later version is slightly better--mostly because it is a bit more polished. The 1930 version lacks background music (something shared by most films in 1930), though otherwise they are neck and neck as far as which one is best. Interestingly, the 1930 version also features James Finlayson (of Laurel and Hardy movie fame) in a supporting role.
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GManfred24 April 2016
That's normally the answer to all orders given to the fliers in the day room of "Flight Commander". It signifies neither assent or disagreement, just obedience to official orders. You have to watch the face or listen to the tone to decide whether the recipient is enthused, annoyed or resigned. Such is life on the western front of an RAF outpost during WW1 - and where life is a fragile commodity.

Also known as "The Dawn Patrol", it was remade in 1938. That's the one I knew from Million Dollar Movie on Ch. 9 in NYC, and it would play for a whole week. I loved it and watched it as often as I could. I thought no one could beat Errol Flynn and David Niven in the two lead roles, until I saw the original, "Flight Commander" which starred Richard Barthelmess, Neil Hamilton and Douglas Fairbanks,Jr. (Basil Rathbone played the Neil Hamilton role as Commander of the doomed fliers in the '38 version). The acting was far superior in the earlier version, but the later one had better production values. It seems some of the same great aerial footage was used in both films.

If I had to pick one, I like this (1930) version better as it was emotionally more satisfying; it had more 'heart'. And Richard Barthelmess was an excellent actor who for some reason couldn't last in talking pictures. I also thought this may have been Fairbanks' best acting job. Well, that's my take on the two films, and that's the best part of going to the movies - it's often subjective, and there's no accounting for taste.
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Great WW1 drama
grantss26 April 2014
Great WW1 flying drama. A very gritty and accurate look at life, and death, in a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) fighter squadron. Details fairly well the burden of command, of sending pilots to almost certain death.

Incredibly good flying action scenes, especially for 1930. Great cinematography, for the time. The non-action scenes are good too, filled with drama and the realities of living with a Sword of Damocles over one's head.

Reasonably good performances all round. No real stand-outs. Pity that American actors had to be used for some parts, as it ruins the authenticity somewhat.

For some reason the movie was remade 8 years later, also as The Dawn Patrol, and with Errol Flynn in the lead role. Copied the plot to the letter and didn't add much, so not sure why it was made. Was still a good movie though.
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The Dawn Patrol (1930)
MartinTeller6 January 2012
The troubles facing a World War I British flying squadron with a high casualty rate. It's a somewhat conventional war movie that's a little rough around the edges as an early talkie, but wins you over with strong character work, especially from the leads Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Richard Barthelmess and Neil Hamilton. Although the film could use some scoring to enhance the experience (there's only a bit of diegetic music from the phonograph), there are two fantastic action sequences with stunning aerial photography and stunts, particularly the raid on the German camp. The handing over of power (and guilt) to a new commanding officer is an interesting device that I don't think I've seen explored in another film, at least not quite the same way. There are some flaws: a few poor performances and an over-reliance on clunky exposition (it makes me groan whenever I see someone on the phone repeating everything in question form: "What's that you say? We've got to take the bridge!?"). Although ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS is not a wartime film, I think it's a slightly better look at the camaraderie and the stakes among flyboys, largely thanks to the high-powered cast. But that doesn't mean this one isn't worthwhile, it definitely has some rewards.
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Happy landings
AAdaSC27 August 2018
Squadron commander Neil Hamilton (Brand) is very troubled in his position on the Front during WW1. He sends aircraft on missions as well as carrying out the dawn patrol. There are always casualties and he faces challenges from his more experienced flyers, especially Richard Barthelmess (Courtney) who questions the decisions to send out inexperienced pilots in sub-standard aircraft to take on German military veterans. But Hamilton is following orders and doing his job. Wartime creates personal tensions and hierarchical divides which becomes clearer to Barthelmess as the film develops. Maybe Hamilton isn't such a bad guy after all? The dawn patrol must continue.

James Finlayson of Laurel & Hardy fame pops up in this film and within seconds he throws out a "Doh!" - a quality moment. The cast are fine and you'll have to excuse some over-acting, eg, Gardner James (Hollister) who plays a pilot who loses his best friend. The film succeeds in setting the scene of camaraderie and shows how human life was expendable. There are good action scenes worthy of "Hell's Angels" (1930), laugh-out-loud moments of dialogue and the themes explored are quite poignant and moving. The cast give the film depth and it is a memorably enjoyable film.

One moment had me laughing about health and safety and how times change. I went for a recruitment selection day to become a UK air traffic controller. I fancied the salary. Anyway, one question they asked us was regarding the procedure for a plane that is coming in for a crash landing. Contrary to what everyone said - switch on all the runway lights - the strategy is actually the opposite and it is recommended that you kill the lights. This is so the plane doesn't crash and cause a larger inferno than anticipated. In the film, they light a paraffin line to attract a plane towards their camp. Ha ha - not any more they wouldn't. As for the air traffic controller job, I was unsuccessful although I suspect I was the victim of positive discrimination. There was one particularly dodgy muslim candidate who kept asking about military airspace to everyone's disbelief. I bet he got selected in the politically correct nonsense that is called Britain. Happy landings.
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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
mmallon424 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The 1938 version of The Dawn Patrol is one of those remakes which is a perfectly fine film in its own right but you do have to question is it necessary especially when it is largely a shot for shot remake with various changes made to the dialogue. The original Dawn Patrol from 1930 is a superb film to begin with and one of the better films of the early sound period. But do the technological advancements between 1930 and 1938 make the remake the better film or does the original still come on top? While I like both these films, I have to side with the original over its more famous counterpart. However, when your remake has Errol Flynn, David Niven and Basil Rathbone, I can't be too critical on its existence.

The Dawn Patrol from 1930 was Howard Hawks' first feature-length talkie. Although his trademark overlapping dialogue is absent (The Criminal Code made the following year would be his first film to feature this trademark) it still has the Hawksian themes male bonding and the tensions created from a small group of people being forced together under an impossible strain. In both movies the squadron use humour to combat tragedy and drink to deal with reality, which does raise the question of how they are able to fly if they drink so much? But I digress. There are also no women in sight; both films are a man's movie through and through. There was no shortage of aviation films in the 1930's, a world in which death was always around the corner. Simply put, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Both versions of The Dawn Patrol are close to the history they are recreating. Cast and crew from both productions had been involved in the war including Howard Hawks and Basil Rathbone. Watching a film about an armed conflict made by people who saw it first-hand really adds that extra element.

Hawk's Dawn Patrol is an early talkie which I believe benefits from being just that. I know many dismiss early talking pictures as being static but some films from this period would not have been as effective in my eyes if they had been made a few years later; films which benefit from the rough and gritty nature of early talkies such as war movies like All Quiet on the Western Front, Hell's Angels and War Nurse or others like the prison drama The Big House. Due to this the original Dawn Patrol feels more intimate to me than its counterpart, not to mention the sets here really do feels like they're being lit by the candles which appear on screen. The remake, on the other hand, is shinier and less gritty, not there's anything wrong with that as it is a beauty of a film in its own right but original gets my vote when it comes to aesthetics. Surprisingly, however, The Dawn Patrol is one pre-code film which appears to be absent of any pre-code material making the process of remaking it in 1938 easier.

Who succeeds more in the role of the Squadron's leader Courtney; Errol Flynn or Richard Barthelmess? Barthelmess has a more gentle and more sensitive persona yet still commanding; expressing so much through his eyes as he was a distinguished actor of the silent era after all. As strong as Flynn's performance is, the contradictory traits in Barthelmess' Courtney makes for a more interesting performance in my eyes.

The Dawn Patrol would be one of Basil Rathbone's few outings as one of the good guys, well kind off; he still has to perform the dirty work. It's interesting to see him playing a character who shows sympathy towards others and even gets revenge on Errol, one-upping him when he gets promoted to wing and names Courtney in the new in command of the patrol. Rathbone also has my favourite moment of the remake (a moment which isn't in the original) in which his assistant Phipps (Donald Crisp) speaks of how wonderful it would be if they had a dog at the squadron headquarters, only for Brand to be completely zoned out that he doesn't hear him, only to then look over at him and ask him why he's pretending to play with a dog - a great piece of dark comic relief.

But who comes on top as the better Major Brand; Basil Rathbone or Neil Hamilton? Rathbone's Brand is more commanding and more in control even though we still see signs that he is at breaking point. Hamilton is less commanding and in control but this itself I feel makes for an interesting character dynamic as someone who in this position of reasonability but clearly can't handle it. If I was to choose however I would go with Basil Rathbone. While Hamilton's performance does have more to it, Rathbone is simply a far more charismatic and cool screen presence.

Who makes for the better role of Courtney's closet friend Scott; David Niven or Douglas Fairbanks Jr? Fairbanks is an actor I've long had trouble even remembering in any role. I don't find him an engaging screen presence and will forget about his performance in a film as soon as it's over. David Niven, on the other hand, is an actor I have great esteem for while his real-life friendship with Errol Flynn translates into the film, making the friendship aspect is stronger and more endearing in the remake than in the original. Fairbanks is my only big complaint with the original Dawn Patrol so it's David Niven all the way.

The aerial footage from the original is reused in the remake and there is a noticeable difference in image quality between reused footage from original and the newly filmed material. Still is it an interesting side by side comparison of how movies evolved within less than a decade. The aerial action sequences are exciting to watch helped by the impressive quality of the footage while the lack of a music score and reliance on sound effects heightens the tension. I do have to ask though but can a single plane cause so much damage to an entire factory? It's still exciting stuff none the less.

There are no good guys or bad guys in The Dawn Patrol. The movies don't take a side such as when the downed German soldier is brought back to the squadron headquarters. He speaks in German but from what I've gathered in the original version of the film he calls them friends and how the fighting has "absolutely nothing to do with personal hate" and that "it is a sport/game and our duty as soldiers is clear".

Would The Dawn Patrol be classified as an anti-war film? I'm very dubious of the term anti-war film and I feel throwing the term around willy-nilly as is often the case comes off to me as a form of virtue signalling. As Francois Truffaut stated; war movies inherently glorify combat when they portray the adventure and thrill in combat. In other words, there is no such thing as an anti-war film. Watching the action scenes in The Dawn Patrol I do feel the same kind of feeling I get when I watch an action/adventure film but then I have to remind myself of the horrors of war. Is The Dawn Patrol condemning war altogether or just the tactics used during this war such as the use of young inexperienced pilots? Or is it merely showing at the end of the day war is just a necessary evil?
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Knighthood in the air
mvanhoore4 April 2014
The Dawn Patrol tells the story of a British flying squadron in WW I. Dick Courtney (Richard Barthelmess) is the ace pilot facing the problem that his squadron is sent on mission impossible almost every day. Major Brand (Neil Hamilton) is his commander who suffers under the circumstances that he has to send inexperienced pilots on those missions with the knowledge that every time his squadron is at least halved.

The first half of the film we see the struggle between Courtney and Brand. The Major is criticized and blamed by Courtney for sending all those young pilots into their untimely death. Brand defends himself because he only follows the orders of his superiors. Then Major Brand is promoted and Courtney becomes commander of the squadron. Instead of flying with his pals he faces a career behind a desk and after a while he realizes that he is in the same position as Major Brand before him. He looses himself in depression and alcohol before operating in a final heroic flight.

At first we don't see to many action in this movie. Most scenes are in Major Brand's office or at the bar of the airport. We see the companionship between the pilots but also the despair, the fear and a lot of drinking. In the second part we follow the pilots as they do their missions. Taking into account that this movie was made in the early thirties the war in the air is very well pictured. Those scenes were used again for the remake of 1938. Still I don't think that The Dawn Patrol gives a realistic view of the lives of RAF pilots during the Great War. It wouldn't be possible to consume so many alcohol and still control those early airplanes to survive the missions into enemy territory.

The film shows a lot of respect for the pilots but also for the enemy. When a German is captured he joins the drinking bout before he is taken to prison. The most striking moment in the film is the salute that Courtney gives the German pilot who has just shot him down. The pilots are portrayed as modern knights whose war in the air knows other rules and the dirty war on the ground.

So in a year wherein legendary anti war films like All Quiet on the Western Front and West front 1918 were made The Dawn Patrol was already a bit old fashioned. Although the harsh reality of war is shown by the losses of young men's lives and the hard choices that the command of squadron had to made the film also glorifies the pilots, their loyalty and their respect for their enemy. The action scenes are very well photographed but that doesn't compensate the long scenes in the office and at the bar with drunken pilots. As said better movies are made about the Great War and the circumstances the soldiers were in.
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Outflown by its 1938 clone, but still excellent
NavyOrion24 January 2012
(Note: although IMDb calls this film "Dawn Patrol" like its 1938 remake, the original title was "Flight Command," and it is occasionally screened under that title by TCM. Neither should be mistaken for the much-inferior 1940 "Flight Command" about Navy pilots, which starred Robert Taylor.)

In either version, "Dawn Patrol" is a stirring and exciting story of the courage shown by pilots who know they or their friends will likely be killed on one of their missions, and the anguish their commanders feel when sending them to their deaths. Set on the battlefields of WWI, it is filled with exciting and realistic (because it IS real) flying from the age of "knights of the air." In fact, whole sequences (especially flying scenes and the climactic attack) were lifted directly from this film for use in the remake.

Although it's a close call, I'd have to say this is one of the rare instances when a remake improves upon its predecessor, and recommend the 1938 film over the 1930 one, for the superior performances of the lead actors. 1938's Errol Flynn (as Dick Courtney) was more involving than 1930's Richard Barthelmess, a veteran actor whose performance retains the somewhat stilted quality of silent film era. And although Douglas Fairbanks Jr. was excellent in the 1930 version as pilot Doug Scott, David Niven in the same role positively sparkles in several more light-hearted, even comedic scenes. And of course, 1938's sneery Basil Rathbone makes for a much more despicable Major Brand (as the story calls for) than the original film's Neil Hamilton.

Furthermore, current (as of 2012) releases of 1930's "Flight Command / Dawn Patrol" are not as visually clear in all scenes as the later version, and also have a lot of scratchy sounds and low rumble in the soundtrack, which are especially distracting in quieter scenes, particularly since the 1930 film did not have a musical soundtrack. Hopefully, remastered versions of both films will someday be available.

Still, this is only nit-picking, as both the 1930 and 1938 versions of "Dawn Patrol" are excellent. But given the choice, go with Flynn and Niven of 1938.
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Not half as good as the re-make!
JohnHowardReid11 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Copyright 25 August 1930 by First National Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Winter Garden, 10 July 1930. U.S. release: 10 August 1930. 12 reels. 9,500 feet. 105 minutes. Television title: FLIGHT COMMANDER.

NOTES: John Monk Saunders was honored for his Original Story (defeating Doorway to Hell, The Public Enemy, Laughter and Smart Money) by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

COMMENT: You won't find The Dawn Patrol on any Best Films of the Year lists. In fact, it doesn't even make The New York Times supplementary list of "35 worthy pictures". The reason is simply that it's not very good. In fact it's the sort of movie that gives "old movies" their undeservedly bad name. (Amazing isn't it that this movie is shown constantly on television, while hundreds of far superior movies of the same vintage never see the light of day?)

Jumpy continuity made even more jerky by the use of silent captions, dated dialogue and stilted acting, make The Dawn Patrol a bit of a chore to sit through - especially on the ground. (No wonder Barthelmess' career declined, even though his subsequent films show him in far better light!) Fortunately, when it gets into the air, interest rises sharply - thanks to the breathtaking skill of Dyer's aerial camerawork. These scenes - and in fact all the exciting action material - were re-used (slightly trimmed) in the 1938 re-make directed by Edmund Goulding), which has the rare honor of being a re-make which is better than the original, thanks to the skills of its superior cast - Basil Rathbone, Errol Flynn, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper and Barry Fitzgerald.
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War, Sacrifice, and Planes
brandinscottlindsey22 August 2017
The Dawn Patrol is a 1930 war film focusing on the aviation aspects of the Great War. The story follows Dick Courtney, an ace pilot fighting for the Royal Flying Corps. As the plot progresses, Courtney's unit is faced with endless suicide missions and heavy casualty rates.

The movie is a true-to-form war story. Without focusing too much on the overall arc of the war and the larger picture, the story focuses instead on a select few soldiers and their own personal struggles. The conflict is well-written and the casting is decent. There are also many great action shots, such as aerial views of bombs being dropped and the resulting explosions.

Unfortunately, the movie is faced with many moments of bad acting. Examples of over-acting, over-the-top performances, bad deliveries, and overly phony death scenes abound in this film. The attempts at comedy are corny and should have been left out. Melodrama constantly bursts into the picture, with otherwise serious characters flying into "say it ain't so!" moments and "don't tell me he's g-g-g-gone!" scenes. At one point, a soldier nonchalantly dives into an opera in an otherwise songless picture.

Overall, you could skip this film. This movie might be pleasing to those who enjoy war movies or perhaps specifically those who like World War I movies. Otherwise, you're not missing much if you decide to miss this one.
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