7.7/10
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70 user 89 critic

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

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.

Director:

Howard Hawks

Writer:

Jules Furthman (screen play)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cary Grant ... Geoff Carter
Jean Arthur ... Bonnie Lee
Richard Barthelmess ... Bat MacPherson
Rita Hayworth ... Judy MacPherson
Thomas Mitchell ... Kid Dabb
Allyn Joslyn ... Les Peters
Sig Ruman ... Dutchy (as Sig Rumann)
Victor Kilian Victor Kilian ... Sparks
John Carroll ... Gent Shelton
Don 'Red' Barry ... Tex (as Donald Barry)
Noah Beery Jr. ... Joe Souther
Manuel Álvarez Maciste Manuel Álvarez Maciste ... The Singer (as Maciste)
Milisa Sierra Milisa Sierra ... Lily (as Milissa Sierra)
Lucio Villegas Lucio Villegas ... Doctor
Pat Flaherty ... Mike
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

1939's Greatest Screen Adventure! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

25 May 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,000,000, 31 December 1939
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Howard Hawks and Jean Arthur did not get along during filming. Arthur was not used to Hawks' highly improvisational style, and when Hawks wanted Arthur to play Bonnie much in a subtly sexy way (not unlike his other "Hawksian women"), Arthur flatly said, "I can't do that kind of stuff." Hawks told Arthur at the end of the shoot, "You are one of the few people I've worked with that I don't think I've helped at all. Someday you can go see what I wanted to do because I'm gonna do this character all over again." Years later Hawks returned home to find Arthur waiting for him in his driveway. She had just seen his To Have and Have Not (1944) and confessed, "I wish I'd done what you'd asked me to do. If you ever make another picture with me, I'll promise to do any goddamn thing you want to do. If a kid [Lauren Bacall] can come in and do that kind of stuff, I certainly could do it." Hawks and Arthur never collaborated again. See more »

Goofs

A 10,000 ton freighter pulls up to a rowboat dock to take on and discharge passengers. See more »

Quotes

Bonnie Lee: How can you eat that?
Geoff Carter: What?
Bonnie Lee: Eat that steak.
Geoff Carter: Well, what's the matter with it?
Bonnie Lee: [referring to Joe] It was his!
Geoff Carter: Well, what do you want me to do, have it stuffed?
See more »

Connections

References The Last Flight (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

Gwine to Rune All Night
(aka "De Camptown Races") (1850)
(uncredited)
Written by Stephen Foster
Piano background music played in the restaurant
See more »

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User Reviews

 
High flying, adored
5 June 2006 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Great flying sequences, some marvelous special effects, and a great cast are the highlights of "Only Angels Have Wings," directed by Howard Hawks and starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, Richard Barthelmess, and Rita Hayworth. You will also see a youthful Noah Berry, Jr., as well as Allyn Joslyn, Victor Kilian, and Sig Ruman.

"Only Angels Have Wings" is the story of mail carriers who fly often in bad conditions through a perilous mountain pass. They thrive on the excitement and danger. Their boss is Geoff Carter (Cary Grant). Jean Arthur is Bonnie Lee, a chorus girl passing through who decides she can't leave - like a lot of women in the past, she's falling for Carter. One woman who fell for him turns up as the wife (Hayworth) of a new pilot (Barthelmess) who once parachuted out of a plane and left Kid Dabb's (Thomas Mitchell) brother to die. With fliers out of commission or dead, Carter has to use him, but warns him he's only getting the most dangerous missions.

This is a testosterone-heavy movie, very much the kind of thing John Wayne would do. The romantic part of the story, between Carter and Bonnie Lee is lethargic, with fine actress Jean Arthur left standing around worrying. Hayworth, with a decidedly different hairline, has a small but showy role. The meaty roles belong to the men. Grant is terrific as a devil-may-care boss who hides his emotions, and Barthelmess, who would retire after World War II and end his long career, is very good as the disgraced pilot in a role that suited him perfectly. Underplayed, one sees the pain of his past decision on his face. Thomas Mitchell played so many great roles - this time, he's a pilot who has to face his anger as well as a physical problem. Very poignant.

Though a little disjointed and a little too long, "Only Angels Have Wings" has great atmosphere and some spectacular flying sequences and effects. Released in that golden year of 1939, it's another example of Hollywood at its apex.


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