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The Wings of Eagles (1957)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, War | 22 February 1957 (USA)
A biography of Navy flier-turned-screenwriter Frank W. "Spig" Read.


John Ford


Frank Fenton (screenplay), William Wister Haines (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Complete credited cast:
John Wayne ... Frank W. 'Spig' Wead
Dan Dailey ... 'Jughead' Carson
Maureen O'Hara ... Min Wead
Ward Bond ... John Dodge
Ken Curtis ... John Dale Price
Edmund Lowe ... Adm. Moffett
Kenneth Tobey ... Capt. Herbert Allen Hazard
James Todd James Todd ... Jack Travis
Barry Kelley ... Capt. Jock Clark
Sig Ruman ... Manager
Henry O'Neill ... Capt. Spear
Willis Bouchey ... Barton
Dorothy Jordan ... Rose Brentmann


U.S. Navy pilot Frank 'Spig' Wead is a fun-loving and rowdy adventurer, but also a fierce proponent of Naval aviation. His dedication to the promotion of the Navy's flying program is so intense that his marriage and family life suffer. When an accident paralyzes him, Spig finds a new means of expressing his love of flying: screenwriting. Successful and acclaimed, he finds the U.S. entry into World War II to be an irresistible call. Pleading that he be reinstated in the Navy despite his paralysis, Spig finds he has an enormous contribution yet to make. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TOGETHER AGAIN FOR LAUGHS!...those two wonderful Johns of "The Quiet Man" - director John Ford and favorite star John Wayne, with that red-headed honey, Maureen O'Hara, in a high-flying romantic comedy! See more »


Biography | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

22 February 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alas de águila See more »


Box Office


$2,644,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,300,000, 31 December 1957

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$3,650,000, 31 December 1957
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)| Perspecta Stereo


Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Immediately after filming ended, John Wayne was dismayed when the U.S. government sided with the Soviet Union in the Suez Crisis, and took no action in response to the Soviet invasion of Hungary. See more »


When Wead meets John Ford to discuss film writing, the director has four Oscars in his office. Presumably the date is 1930-31 but Ford's first Oscar for "The Informer" was 1935. His fourth was 1942. Furthermore, Wead already had contributed to three previous films from 1929 onward. See more »


Min Wead: [Phones rings while their cuddling] Let it ring.
Frank W. 'Spig' Wead: Why not, It probably just Washington. Oh I forgot - you know you're in the arms of a new lieutenant commander in the United States Navy.
Min Wead: Star-Spangled Spig.
Frank W. 'Spig' Wead: And a squad leader.
Min Wead: All I know is I'm in the arms with a fellow named Spig that I'm nuts about. Hey! How about getting back to your necking with a little more enthusiasm.
Frank W. 'Spig' Wead: Right!
See more »


Edited into The Story of Mankind (1957) See more »


The Wearing of the Green
Heard when the police arrive to break up the fights
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User Reviews

Garish Side Of Ford
16 May 2015 | by Bill SlocumSee all my reviews

John Ford's willingness to play it up big in his movies was normally one of the director's great strengths. But sometimes it got away from him. A good example is this tribute to his friend "Spig" Wead.

Wead (John Wayne) is a U. S. Navy officer chafing to get up in the air. The way he sees it, "How else are we gonna get aviation?" To that end, he takes on the Army, Navy superiors, and even his wife, Min (Maureen O'Hara). His commitment to air power is such that it cancels out everything else, until a sudden accident forces a change of focus.

"Spig Wead," Min fumes at one point. "Never listen to anybody else. Just do exactly what you wanna do all the time."

"The Wings Of Eagles" is one of Ford's stranger movies. Sudden shifts in tone predominate. The film starts out a light-hearted service romp with pratfalls and car chases. Then sudden tragedy occurs. More light-hearted antics follow. Then Ford drops the big boom on Spig. The next half-hour centers on a long, painful convalescence.

Ford did mood shifts in his films all the time, of course. Normally, the gears didn't grind so loudly as they do here.

"Wings Of Eagles" is perhaps best known for Ford's insertion of an autobiographical element, a director named "John Dodge" who enlists Wead as a screenwriter, which Ford actually did after Wead's Navy career came to a sharp end. An argument can be made that Ford is actually presenting us with a double self-portrait: Wead comes off here as difficult, selfish, alcoholic, career-obsessed, and unable to hold onto relationships, all flaws Ford's biographers say the director had in spades. No wonder Ford can't decide whether to play it as comedy or tragedy.

Wayne is flat-out brilliant here. Just a year after making "The Searchers" with Ford, the actor was in his peak thespian form and plays the valleys of Wead's life with candid abandon, even shedding his hairpiece this one time on screen. For 15 minutes, he's required to carry major scenes with his face buried in a pillow, and pulls it off. I never got tired of watching him.

The same can't be said of the rest of this movie. The mawk runs thick with this one, with O'Hara doing a lot of crying into the camera while Spig flies around the world to prove something or other. Much of the rest of the time is spent on merry fisticuffs with rival Army aviators, or eye-rolling reaction shots from cigar- chewing Dan Dailey as Spig's enlisted buddy Jughead.

Spig's virtual abandonment of his family is one of the movie's constant themes. When Min tells one of her daughters about Spig's latest aviation record, the girl replies: "Would it be a record if Daddy came home?"

O'Hara has some good scenes, too, and so does Dailey, the latter especially as a prod to Spig's eventual rehabilitation. Both worked well with Ford and knew how to make use of the director's loose reins.

Yet Ford for some reason holds off on the happy endings. Normally, this might be a strength, but here it comes off as a bit wanton, especially when the film pushes so many light-comedy buttons. Through the chuckles, Spig suffers and suffers. After a while, so do we.

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