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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" Wead.

Director:

John Ford

Writers:

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

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

WAYNE -- in his biggest thriller! See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

22 February 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Alas de águila See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,644,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)| Perspecta Stereo

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

According to director John Ford, "Everything in the picture was true. The fight in the club--throwing the cake--actually happened. I can verify that as an eyewitness. I ducked it. And the plane landing in the swimming pool right in the middle of the Admiral's tea--that really happened." See more »

Goofs

During the time-frame depicted, the Machinist Mate petty officer rating badge was worn on the right sleeve. See more »

Quotes

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 »

Connections

Features Hell Divers (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

You're In The Army Now
(uncredited)
Music by Isham Jones
Lyrics by Tell Taylor and Ole Olsen
Heard as a theme
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Ford-directed Biopic of Aviation Pioneer...
17 October 2003 | by cariartSee all my reviews

If John Ford hadn't made THE WINGS OF EAGLES, Commander Frank W. 'Spig' Wead would be best known today for the impressive collection of military-oriented stories he wrote for motion pictures, during the 30s and 40s. Among his credits are HELL DIVERS (with Wallace Beery and Clark Gable), TEST PILOT (with Gable and Spencer Tracy), DIVE BOMBER (with Errol Flynn and Fred MacMurray), and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (for John Ford, with John Wayne and Robert Montgomery). He brought to his writing a love of flying, pride in the military, and an understanding that a 'greater good' must sometimes take precedence over personal happiness.

In THE WINGS OF EAGLES, director Ford illustrates how Wead's life was every bit as interesting and dramatic as anything he wrote. A close personal friend (so much so that he even cast Ward Bond to play a thinly-disguised version of himself, named 'John Dodge', in the film), Ford was witness to many of the triumphs and tragedies of the pioneer Naval aviator/engineer's life. After completing THE SEARCHERS, Ford commemorated the tenth anniversary of his friend's passing with this sensitive, 'warts-and-all' tribute.

Wead (portrayed by John Wayne, in one of his most fully realized characterizations...he even sacrificed his hairpiece, as the older Wead, for the sake of authenticity), begins the film as a typical hell-raising Ford hero, a Navy flier who loved taunting his Army counterparts (led by the terrific Kenneth Tobey), lived for the sheer joy of flying bi-planes (even when he was clueless as to HOW to fly them), and had the love of a feisty yet devoted woman (Maureen O'Hara, of course!) But, in keeping with the tone of much of the older Ford's work, Wead's life does not tie itself up into a neat, happy package, but develops into a complex near-tragedy of a man so consumed with his career that his marriage breaks down, and has his greatest dream snatched away from him when an accident cripples him. Rather than falling back on the potential aid a wife could provide, he refuses her help, relying on his Navy 'family' (represented by Dan Dailey, in one of his most popular roles) for rehabilitation. With Pearl Harbor, Wead's expertise is again called upon, and he leaves a successful career as a screenwriter to rejoin the Navy, becoming the innovator of jeep carriers...only to see his health fail him, yet again, forcing him out of the service he loved.

It is a story both sad and moving, and Wayne, so often accused of being 'bigger than life' and one-dimensional in his portrayals, again demonstrates his underrated acting talent, capturing the frustration of a man who never truly achieves the ultimate triumphs he dreams of. Wead is a 'real' person, not always likable, but someone you learn to admire for his sheer determination to contribute, and not surrender to self-pity.

With an excellent supporting cast (particularly Ken Curtis, as Wead's lifelong friend, John Dale Price), THE WINGS OF EAGLES may disappoint someone looking for a 'typical' war movie, but, as a film biography, is far more honest than Hollywood's 'usual' hokum.

'Spig' Wead would have loved it!


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