Daily Projections, 11-31-2018: Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Title: Only Angels Have Wings
Director: Howard Hawks
Country of Origin: USA
Year: 1939
Screening format: Blu-ray
Setting: Home
First viewing? No

Notes: With a cast including Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Sig Rumann, you’d expect a film to deliver on the laughs – and it has it’s moments – but Only Angels Have Wings is not a comedy. Far from it. What begins with a few quips and a dose of witty repartée, quickly veers into grief and tragedy, only to be pulled up again a few minutes later. So are the contours of a film following the lives of remote airmail pilots whose spirits are batted around as violently as their planes are. Despite it’s South American setting, Only Angels Have Wings often feels more like a western than an adventure flick (though there’s plenty of adventure in the offing). Hawks’s Baranca is as much a frontier in Angels as the west was in Red River. It is a place where men (and women) with a past can find a second chance. Where barside staredowns feel like gunslinger duels and taking your life into your own hands for the greater good and the good of another is rewarded with begrudging respect. The dialogue is snappy thanks to Grant and Arthur, so much so that moments of silence become genuinely suspenseful and the crackle of a radio sounds like a sigh of relief. Cary Grant and Jean Arthur are great as ever. Richard Barthelmess, too. Great effects for 1939.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s