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The Lion Has Wings (1939)

Alexander Korda's bit for the British war effort shows the world both at peace and on the verge of Nazi domination. Spliced together to form a documentary-style movie of both newsreel and ... See full summary »


Ian Dalrymple (by)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Merle Oberon ... Mrs. Richardson
Ralph Richardson ... Wing Commander Richardson
June Duprez ... June
Flora Robson ... Queen Elizabeth I (archive footage)
Robert Douglas ... Briefing Officer
Anthony Bushell ... Pilot
Brian Worth Brian Worth ... Bobby
Austin Trevor ... Schulemburg - German Air Chief of Staff
Ivan Brandt Ivan Brandt ... Air Officer
G.H. Mulcaster G.H. Mulcaster ... Controller (as G. H. Mulcaster)
Herbert Lomas Herbert Lomas ... Holveg
Milton Rosmer ... Head of Observer Corps
Ronald Adam ... German Bomber Chief
Robert Rendel ... British Chief of Air Staff
John Longden ... Unnamed Character


Alexander Korda's bit for the British war effort shows the world both at peace and on the verge of Nazi domination. Spliced together to form a documentary-style movie of both newsreel and acting. This first of its kind in propaganda films of World War II, shows the might of the English Empire and its eagerness to stand up to the oppressors of morality and free will. Crude, but effective propaganda cinema that sets the tone for things to come. With its stiff upper lip attitude that pays tribute to the nation's pride and shows the black plague of Nationalism spreading across Europe that England shall be motivated, ready, and willing to retaliate. Written by Cinema_Fan

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Timely - Thunderbolt adventure romance of the Royal Air Force!


Drama | War


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English | German

Release Date:

19 January 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El león tiene alas See more »


Box Office


£30,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording Noiseless Recording)


Black and White (archive footage)| Black and White

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The twin-engine bombers taking off on the mission to bomb the German pocket battleships at Kiel are a mix of Vickers Wellingtons, Type 290 Mark Is and Type 408 Mark 1As. Note the advanced, unusual, yet very strong and lightweight geodesic construction of the fuselage visible during the interior shots and through the perspex windows from the exterior. Produced from 1936 to 1945, over eleven thousand four hundred Wellingtons of all types were made. See more »


The swastikas on the tails of the attacking Dorniers are shown the wrong way around although the ones on the body of the attacking bombers are shown correctly. See more »


Queen Elizabeth I: I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and valour of a king, aye, and a King of England too...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: The producer expresses his gratitude for the co-operation which he received from the cast, production personnel, newsreel companies, the General Post Office and other documentary film units during the making of this picture. See more »


Featured in War Stories (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

A fascinating look into history
24 May 2015 | by jimjo1216See all my reviews

I rate THE LION HAS WINGS (1939) a 7/10 on the strength of the fascinating documentary footage that makes up much of the first half of the film. (The scenes involving the actors are considerably less fascinating.)

THE LION HAS WINGS is a British propaganda film that seeks to stir up support for the war effort by appealing to a sense of British pride, with particular focus on Britain's air supremacy in its war with Germany.

The early portion of the film uses documentary footage to paint a picture of idyllic British life, in sharp contrast to the military state being run by Adolf Hitler. Hitler, surrounded by a sea of guards, is contrasted with Great Britain's King George VI, who walks openly among his people. The film succeeds in demonizing Hitler as an unscrupulous leader with an outdated hunger for conquest. The film even makes use of archival footage of one of Hitler's early speeches as it drives home the point that he's broken lots of promises by annexing neighboring lands. Excerpts are highlighted from "Mein Kampf" outlining the true ambitions of a man who does not want peace (at least until Germany rules Europe).

The movie is very interesting from a historical standpoint. It covers recent events in world history and also offers a look at British society in the 1930s, touching upon things like sports and recreation, hospital care, and housing improvements. There's footage from an air show, demonstrating the talents of British flyers, as well as some really cool looks at airplane and ammunition manufacture and the "balloon barrage" defense against air strikes. In addition to the archival footage of Hitler and King George VI, we get to hear British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's radio address informing the British people that war is declared. With the narrator guiding you along, the movie is quite educational.

The actors take over around the halfway point and the film becomes more of a dramatization of bombing raids abroad and the RAF's defense of the homeland. This may have been just the thing to arouse patriotism at the time, but it's rather hum-drum now. These dangerous and exciting missions have been brought to life much better in other films.

The main players are Ralph Richardson and the always lovely Merle Oberon, as a young couple who answer the call when their country needs them. What story is there is no great shakes, but it serves its purpose within the film. There are others in the cast, though most of the parts are minor. Flora Robson has a cameo as Queen Elizabeth I in a scene about England's defense against the Spanish Armada (a scene borrowed from the 1937 film FIRE OVER ENGLAND).

THE LION HAS WINGS ties England's proud naval heritage with Britain's more recent mastery of flight, comparing the ace pilots of the RAF with Sir Francis Drake and the other great English seamen. And the film makes it very clear that Great Britain had no choice but to go to war with Hitler's Germany, after repeated offenses on the continent and no effort to discuss a peaceful settlement. As the narrator puts it, the British people prefer to win sports matches, but they can win wars, too, if they must. It's also stressed that the highly skilled airmen of the RAF bomb only strategic military targets, not cities full of innocent civilians (another dig at the evil dictator).

Released at a time when Great Britain had just entered what would become World War II, THE LION HAS WINGS makes sure the British people know what they're fighting for and appeals to their nationalistic pride to win support for what may have been, at the time, an unpopular war.

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