The pilots of a Royal Air Force squadron in World War I face not only physical but mental dangers in their struggle to survive while fighting the enemy.The pilots of a Royal Air Force squadron in World War I face not only physical but mental dangers in their struggle to survive while fighting the enemy.The pilots of a Royal Air Force squadron in World War I face not only physical but mental dangers in their struggle to survive while fighting the enemy.
Without wasting much time in plot development on these three central characters, their backgrounds are depicted briefly during the opening credits, leaving some indication to the audience to whom there are: Fredric March as Jerry Young riding his horse in a polo match, indicating he comes from a rich family; Cary Grant as Henry Crocker as foreman in a construction site socking one of his workers for speaking up to him, indicating he's a common man with a quick temper; and Jack Oakie as Mike Richards, a happy-go-lucky fellow shown eating a sandwich in a diner, indicating a simple-natured fellow good for a lot of laughs. Before the story gets underway in France, Richards is seen going on a scale to get his weight, then taking a card popping from the machine that reads, "You will soon be facing great danger." Next scene finds Mike in uniform, laughing loudly while reading the book, "A Night in the Turkish Harem." Jerry Young, an ace pilot, chooses several men to accompany him in England. He excludes Crocker, whom he doesn't like. Because of this decision, Crocker socks him in the jaw. After losing five observers within two months, Young not only becomes embittered by seeing these young men die in action before his eyes, but soon acquires Crocker as his new ace fly together on several missions. Regardless of their bitter disagreements, especially after Crocker kills a helpless enemy on a parachute, it is Crocker who sees the strain Young is going through, especially at night while talking in his sleep during one of his recurring nightmares. Realizing his emotional state, Crocker recommends for flight commander Major Dunham (Sir Guy Standing) to send Jerry on a ten-day leave, which Jerry does take. While in England, Jerry encounters an attractive blonde (Carole Lombard) at a social function who takes an interest in him. Upon his return to battle, things become seriously worse for Jerry, especially after the death of Richards in one of his air missions and witnessing John Stevens (Kenneth Howell) plunging to his death by falling out of the airplane without a parachute.
Based on a story by John Monk Saunders, one who specialized in war related themes, notably WINGS (Paramount, 1927), the first Best Picture Academy Award winner, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK is one to give the impression of being more inspired by another aviation war drama, THE DAWN PATROL (Warner Brothers, 1930) starring Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., where two men in the same corps with their dislike one another teaming up on flying missions. Quite underrated and leisurely paced, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK offers more than just an all-star cast but a realistic view on the mental breakdown of a war hero during his day-to-day air battle of aerial combat with the enemy and himself. Aside from many medals, bar drinks with his buddies and hero worshiping by others, the Jerry Young character gets to tell the new recruits, "You're fighting for humanity and for the preservation of civilization." Quite relevant today as it was then, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK adds more through its narrative in both speech and in actions.
One of the big surprises in THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK is the casting of fourth billed Carole Lombard. Her role, coming 45 minutes into the start of the movie, in what's basically an extended eight minute cameo. First shown in white gown in a drawing room observing one of the guests (March) who tells the son (Douglas Scott) of the hostess (Virginia Hammond) the true meaning of war, she then follows Young into a cab where the two meet, and soon get acquainted while sitting on the bench in the park. Lombard's character, in expensive looking fur coat, bears no name and several extreme close-ups during the park sequence. Following this scene, she's never seen or heard about again. Cary Grant, years before specializing best in romantic comedies, shows his dramatic skills in several key scenes. In 1936, Grant was also featured in another World War I story, that being SUZY (MGM) starring Jean Harlow. Interestingly, both films come to similar conclusions.
Commonly broadcast on commercial television before slowly fazed out by the 1970s, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK had its share of cable TV exposure in later years, notably on American Movie Classics (1992-93) before making its Turner Classic Movies premiere October 20, 2008. Distributed to home video in 1997 by MCA which includes original theatrical trailer, the video box to THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK features Cary Grant and Carole Lombard rather than the leading performer, Fredric March.
While the aforementioned DAWN PATROL was remade by Warners in 1938 with Errol Flynn and David Niven, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK was not, contrary to the same title used for the Paramount's 1950 production, a western starring John Payne, Rhonda Fleming and Dennis O'Keefe. That's where the similarity ends. Not as well known as some other aviation dramas, THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK makes fine viewing, especially for Memorial or Veteran's Day. (**1/2)
- Jun 12, 2011