Only Angels Have Wings (1939) – Howard Hawks

The big title in DK Canada’s The Movie Book is Casablanca, and what kind of film reviewer if I hadn’t covered it before? So it was onto the What Else to Watch list which brings me a Howard Hawks film I hadn’t heard of, and stars Cary Grant. This is all win as far as I’m concerned.

Grant stars as Geoff Carter, who wears a terrible hat and runs a tiny airline out of the port town Barranca in South America. He’s trying to make ends meet, but the flight routes are becoming increasingly dangerous.

Into the picture comes Jean Arthur’s Bonnie Lee, a performer looking for a gig on her way to Panama.

As the two begin to fall for one another, Geoff is preparing to fly a dangerous mission, but maybe Bonnie will find a way to make him stay. But who will fly instead, and at what cost?

Howard Hawks talent for getting his actors to fire off his dialogue and telling a good story is on full display here. I love that there are histories for the characters, that their loves happened before and will continue after the glimpse into their lives we get.

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While there isn’t a lot of overlapping dialogue as in other Hawks films, it moves along quickly and rapidly, as Geoff tries to keep his planes in the air, and his pilots alive. At the same time, he and Bonnie begin to develop feelings for one another, despite not wanting to become involved – the risk of the job is too high.

There are comedic moments, dramatic moments, as Bonnie begins to fall harder. Geoff refuses to let her in, knowing how dangerous the life he leads is.  With a big contract on the horizon, and pilots few and far between, Geoff may have to slip into the pilot’s seat and get all that he wants. And the girl? Well she might do anything to keep him grounded.

It makes for a grand romp, filled with drama and excitement as well as with lots of humour, a playful romance. Sure some of the aerial stuff is model work (noticeable at that) but it’s still fun, and has a flavour of exotic adventure to it!

It’s always fun for me to discover a Grant film I haven’t seen, and this one made for a fun night. So if you’ve seen Casablanca (and who hasn’t? And if you haven’t fix that, now!) maybe pick up DK Books’ The Movie Book and find something exceptional to watch tonight.

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