I Wanted Wings (1941)

130-131 or 135 mins | Drama | 18 July 1941

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HISTORY

The following written statement appears in the opening credits: "This production was actually filmed at Randolph, Kelly and March Fields. The splendid collaboration of the United States Army Air Corps is gratefully acknowledged." This written dedication appears after the film's opening credits: "Birthplace of man's wings, America today watches her skies with great concern, for in these skies of peace the nation is building the upper battlement of its defense. To the officers and men of the United States Army Air Corps who climb on strong wings to man these high ramparts, and to the young men of America who will take their places beside them, this motion picture is dedicated." Randolph Field and Kelly Field near San Antonio, TX were U.S. Air Force bases; Randolph Field was the site of basic flight training for cadets and Kelly Field was the site of the Air Corps Advanced Flying School until 1942. March Field in Riverside, CA, was then known as the home of the B-17 Flying Fortress.
       According to news items in HR , J. Theodore Reed was the first director assigned to I Wanted Wings ; however, he resigned as director on 7 Sep 1940 after pre-production and two weeks of shooting on location in San Antonio, TX. Mitchell Leisen took over direction after Reed's departure. No contemporary information has been found to confirm the reason for Reed's departure, but modern sources indicate that his work was unsatisfactory to Paramount executives, who then called Leisen in to complete the film. Leisen, in a modern interview, states that he scrapped all of Reed's footage and started fresh. Leisen was originally scheduled to direct Paramount's New ... More Less

The following written statement appears in the opening credits: "This production was actually filmed at Randolph, Kelly and March Fields. The splendid collaboration of the United States Army Air Corps is gratefully acknowledged." This written dedication appears after the film's opening credits: "Birthplace of man's wings, America today watches her skies with great concern, for in these skies of peace the nation is building the upper battlement of its defense. To the officers and men of the United States Army Air Corps who climb on strong wings to man these high ramparts, and to the young men of America who will take their places beside them, this motion picture is dedicated." Randolph Field and Kelly Field near San Antonio, TX were U.S. Air Force bases; Randolph Field was the site of basic flight training for cadets and Kelly Field was the site of the Air Corps Advanced Flying School until 1942. March Field in Riverside, CA, was then known as the home of the B-17 Flying Fortress.
       According to news items in HR , J. Theodore Reed was the first director assigned to I Wanted Wings ; however, he resigned as director on 7 Sep 1940 after pre-production and two weeks of shooting on location in San Antonio, TX. Mitchell Leisen took over direction after Reed's departure. No contemporary information has been found to confirm the reason for Reed's departure, but modern sources indicate that his work was unsatisfactory to Paramount executives, who then called Leisen in to complete the film. Leisen, in a modern interview, states that he scrapped all of Reed's footage and started fresh. Leisen was originally scheduled to direct Paramount's New York Town (see below), and as a result of his shift to I Wanted Wings , Charles Vidor took over direction of that film. In Jul 1940, Paramount hired Arthur Rosson as second unit director, and the interoffice Paramount communication regarding his employment reads: "We desire to employ Arthur Rosson as a second unit director....Mr. Rosson has worked here a number of times with Mr. [Cecil B.] DeMille and I think he would work for us....The work will be just as difficult, but the screaming will not be quite so loud."
       The following information was derived from the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library: Author Captain John H. Fite was then Chief of the Motion Picture Unit Technical Data Branch of the War Department. Fite also reviewed and selected the footage from the U.S. Army film Wings of the Army that was used in this film. According to a 4 Oct 1939 letter, author Beirne Lay, Jr. was involved from the very beginning of the project with developing the screen story and getting the cooperation of the Air Corps. On 29 Jun 1940, Paramount received official notification from the War Department Motion Picture Board of Review that the script was deemed acceptable dependent on minor changes, and that Paramount would receive the full cooperation of the Air Corps as long as the production did not interfere with regular military procedure. Writers Robert Riley Crutcher and Michael Fessier were hired to work on the script. Although their initial agreement with Paramount was for them to receive screen credit, neither name appears on the film. A 29 Jul 1940 agreement notes that screenwriter Sig Herzig was hired to "sharpen characterizations through dialogue and add humor to the script."
       The MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library indicate that Joseph I. Breen, director of the PCA, was concerned that there be no indication that the characters "Sally" and "Jeff" have an "illicit sex affair." In an 8 Jul 1940 letter, Paramount executive Luigi Luraschi responded that although the "tartiness" in Sally's character will be properly cleaned up," producer Arthur Hornblow, Jr. insisted that "the device she resorts to--that of having a baby," remains because only a "strong motivation" of that nature would ensure the credibility of the story. On 29 Aug 1940, Breen responded that "with regard to Sally's remark, 'I'm in trouble,'" it was only acceptable to use this phrase as a "device on Sally's part to frighten Jeff, it afterwards being proved to be a lie...."
       Although this film was billed as Veronica Lake's feature film debut, she appeared in several films between 1939 and 1940 under the name Constance Keane. Her name was changed for I Wanted Wings . According to a HR news item, Paramount filmed a "personality trailer" to be screened in theaters to "introduce Veronica Lake to the public." The trailer was produced by Lou Harris and narrated by Y. Frank Freeman. According to modern sources, her voice was dubbed for the singing sequence. Information in the Paramount Collection reveals that Hedda Hopper was cast in the film to play "Jeff Young's" mother, but left Randolph Field unexpectedly during production to attend a radio broadcast in Los Angeles. The information implied that her scenes may not have been completed before she left. Hopper did not appear in the viewed print, nor was she mentioned in reviews.
       HR news items note that the original script for I Wanted Wings was written with Rita Hayworth in mind; however, Columbia refused to loan her to Paramount for the part of "Sally" because they deemed the role inappropriate for Hayworth, even after Paramount ostensibly made script changes. News items indicate that Lana Turner and Susan Hayward were also considered for lead roles, and information in the Paramount Collection reveals that the studio was considering Patricia Morison as well. A HR news item reported that dancer Mary Cassiday was cast in the film; however, her appearance in the film is doubtful. The following cast members and roles were listed in an early Paramount billing sheet, but may not have been in the final print: Herbert Rawlinson ( Mr. Young ); Harlan Warde ( Cadet ); and Bob Ireland ( Bombardier ). Because of potential problems with scheduling, Paramount considered casting John Howard rather than Ray Milland, according to information in the Paramount Collection. A HR news item notes that John Trent, who had been a professional pilot prior to his acting career, was hired by the North American Aircraft Company of Inglewood, CA, following his appearance in this film to fly planes from California to Canada for shipment to Great Britain. This film marks the feature film debuts of Alan Hale, Jr. and Renny McEvoy, son of humorist J. P. McEvoy.
       I Wanted Wings benefitted from the Army's full cooperation and from author Beirne Lay, Jr.'s firsthand knowledge of military flight training. According to modern sources, producer Arthur Hornblow Jr. timed the filming of the training sequences to coincide with the arrival of new cadets at Randolph Field, TX, and Army planes were made available to Paramount. The educational Film and Radio Discussion Guide indicated that 1,050 cadets, 540 officer and instructors and 2,543 enlisted men provided a background for the filmmakers and an estimated $25,000,000 worth of flying equipment was made available for filming. The Guide noted that this film offered the public their first glimpse inside a B-17 Flying Fortress while in flight. HR news items and the Guide discussed some of the unique filming techniques for the aerial sequences, for which unit director Arthur Rosson directed the scenes from the control tower by three-way radio connected to stunt pilot Paul Mantz and Lieutenant Fred Gray, head of the flight formation squadron and an Air Corps flight instructor. Aerial cameraman Elmer Dyer called the shots. Modern sources note that the invention of the triple-head process projector by Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings and Louis Mesenkop, for which they won an Academy Award for Special Effects in this film, added cinematic verity to certain flight scenes.
       According to information in the Paramount Collection, I Wanted Wings cost over $1,000,000 to produce and came in $262,454.87 over budget. A Feb 1941 HR news item noted that the footage was cut from 15,000 ft. to the release footage of 13,962 ft., which was its length when approved by the PCA. However, the film was approved by the New York State Censor board at 12,825 ft. Reviewers who quoted the running time as 130-131 min. saw a preview of the roadshow release, which was a long version to be shown with an intermission. It is not clear if the "long" version was 15,000 ft. or 13,962 ft.. Paramount planned to release the film for regular bookings in a shorter version. Exh later noted that the film retained its "original length" for the regular release. News items further note that a special preview screening was planned for Randolph Field, TX, which would be preceded by a full Army Air Corps show displaying 300 war planes, described as "the biggest single display of its kind ever held in the southwest."
       I Wanted Wings received many accolades from reviewers chiefly for its technical merits and as a "vastly exciting motion picture and a dependable inspiration to the youth of the land" ( NYT ). HR acknowledged " I Wanted Wings is propaganda, yes--and a vibrant challenge. First feature to reach the screens under the industry's cooperation with national defense, this is stuff to make the dictator nations shudder under its impact; it is actual and factual presentation of America's strength in human valor and material." While HR called Veronica Lake's debut "glittering," the NYT review noted that she "manages to show little more than a talent for wearing low-cut gowns." However, most reviews praised all the performances.
       A scene from I Wanted Wings was reshot by Mitchell Leisen specifically to appear in a sequence for the 1941 Paramount film Hold Back the Dawn (see above), in which the character played by Charles Boyer visits Paramount studios. In a modern interview, Leisen stated that his assistant director was Chico Alonso . Ray Milland and William Holden reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on 30 Mar 1942, co-starring Veronica Lake in her Lux debut. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Dec 40
p. 532.
American Cinematographer
Apr 41
p. 169.
Box Office
29 Mar 1941.
---
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1941.
---
Film and Radio Discussion Guide
Mar 1941.
---
Film Daily
27 Mar 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Aug 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 40
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Aug 40
p 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 40
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 40
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Sep 40
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 40
p. 3, 6
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 40
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Oct 40
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Feb 41
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Mar 41
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 41
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Mar 41
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Mar 41
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 May 41
p. 9.
Motion Picture Herald
29 Mar 1941.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
5 Apr 41
p. 98.
New York Herald Tribune
13 Apr 1941.
---
New York Times
27 Mar 41
p. 29.
Variety
26 Mar 41
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Michael Gale
Gladden M. James
Charles D. Waldron
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Aerial photog
2d cam
2d cam
2d cam, 2nd unit cam
Asst cam to Elmer Dyer
Asst cam, 2d unit cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam
Transparency cam, 2d unit
Transparency cam, 2d unit
Film loader
Still cam
Still cam
Cam mechanic
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Props
Asst props
Prop shop, elec
Prop shop
Loc painter
Scenic artist
Scenic painter
COSTUMES
Ward
MUSIC
Mus score
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
Stunt pilot and pilot of cam airplane
Air Corps pilot and instructor, head of formation
Air Corps public relations officer
Asst prod mgr
Asst prod mgr, 2d unit prod mgr
Stage eng
Stage eng
Cam car driver
Best boy
P.A. man
Head elec
Asst head elec
Elec
Generator man
Head grip
Sd grip
Head grip
Grip, 2d unit
Grip, 2d unit
Loc carpenter, construction foreman
Transportation foreman
Laborer
Laborer
Laborer
Laborer
Scr clerk
Scr clerk
Loc doctor
Accountant
STAND INS
Stand-in for Constance Moore
Stand-in for William Holden
Stand-in for Brian Donlevy
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book I Wanted Wings by Beirne Lay, Jr. (New York, 1937) and the unpublished short story "Axis of Attack: 30 Degrees" by Captain John H. Fite.
SONGS
"Born to Love," music by Victor Young, lyrics by Ned Washington
"Spirit of the Air Corps," music and lyrics by Capt. William J. Clinch.
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 July 1941
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 26 March 1941
Los Angeles premieres: 15 May 1941
Production Date:
26 August--19 December 1940
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 May 1941
Copyright Number:
LP10518
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
130-131 or 135
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
PCA No:
6652
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

Eighteen Army Air Corps bombers head toward Los Angeles to engage in a simulated air raid. At the completion of the air raid, one of the bombers crashes in the desert and the body of a woman is found in the wreckage. A military court-martial follows and pilot Jefferson Young III is charged with disobedience and admitting an unauthorized passenger onto a military plane. When Jeff pleads guilty, the court considers his military history: Jeff, heir to a New York fortune, garage mechanic Al Ludlow and football hero Tom Cassidy meet when they bunk together while training for the U.S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Field in Texas. Jeff and Al develop a strong friendship as they encourage each other through training and boost their self-confidence. When Jeff meets Al's old flame, nightclub singer Sally Vaughn, he is unaware of his friend's previous relationship with her, and Sally decides to win the heir for herself. Jeff is in love with photographer Carolyn Bartlett, who is away on a photo-shoot. However, after failing to pull a buddy from a flaming wreck, Jeff loses his confidence and visits Sally in a drunken stupor. Al saves Jeff from Sally's greedy clutches, and Jeff later reunites with Carolyn at a dance, after he apparently firmly rejects Sally. The next training session takes the three friends to Kelly Field, also in Texas, and Al is appointed senior cadet captain in charge of the group. They lose Tom when he is killed while attempting some daredevil maneuvers and his plane crashes. Al is dismissed from the Corps for allowing the stunts and his lifetime dream of flying is destroyed. Sally announces ... +


Eighteen Army Air Corps bombers head toward Los Angeles to engage in a simulated air raid. At the completion of the air raid, one of the bombers crashes in the desert and the body of a woman is found in the wreckage. A military court-martial follows and pilot Jefferson Young III is charged with disobedience and admitting an unauthorized passenger onto a military plane. When Jeff pleads guilty, the court considers his military history: Jeff, heir to a New York fortune, garage mechanic Al Ludlow and football hero Tom Cassidy meet when they bunk together while training for the U.S. Army Air Corps at Randolph Field in Texas. Jeff and Al develop a strong friendship as they encourage each other through training and boost their self-confidence. When Jeff meets Al's old flame, nightclub singer Sally Vaughn, he is unaware of his friend's previous relationship with her, and Sally decides to win the heir for herself. Jeff is in love with photographer Carolyn Bartlett, who is away on a photo-shoot. However, after failing to pull a buddy from a flaming wreck, Jeff loses his confidence and visits Sally in a drunken stupor. Al saves Jeff from Sally's greedy clutches, and Jeff later reunites with Carolyn at a dance, after he apparently firmly rejects Sally. The next training session takes the three friends to Kelly Field, also in Texas, and Al is appointed senior cadet captain in charge of the group. They lose Tom when he is killed while attempting some daredevil maneuvers and his plane crashes. Al is dismissed from the Corps for allowing the stunts and his lifetime dream of flying is destroyed. Sally announces that she has gotten "in trouble" by Jeff, who has continued to see her because she threatened to reveal their affair and ruin his military career. Al, who has always loved Sally, now marries her to save Jeff's career. Carolyn leaves Jeff after learning of his deceit and of Al's self-sacrifice. Jeff's pride at graduating from final training is compromised by the loss of his friends. Six months later in Kansas City, Sally leaves Al when, upon revealing that she lied about her pregnancy, Al admits that he knew all along and Sally mistakenly assumes that he does not love her. Sometime later at March Field, Jeff prepares a bomber for war game maneuvers and discovers that Al is the crew chief aboard the plane. Their flight instructor and commander, Mercer, who has guided their careers in the Corps, promises to get Al reinstated. Sally appears unexpectedly and begs Al for help because she is wanted for murder. Al gives her money to leave for Los Angeles, but Sally panics when she sees army officers coming into the hangar, and unknown to Al, hides in the cargo bay of the bomber. After they successfully complete their war games over a blacked-out Los Angeles, Mercer orders Jeff to return to the desert to test their new emergency flares. Al discovers a terrified Sally when he goes to get the flares and as she struggles with him, a flare ignites. While attempting to get rid of the flare, Mercer is injured when it explodes before leaving the bomb bay doors, and Al leaps to save him. They float to safety with Al's parachute, and Jeff makes a dangerous night landing to help them. After discovering that Mercer needs immediate medical help, Jeff attempts a takeoff in the dark, despite Mercer's orders to the contrary, but crash-lands the plane. Sally is killed in the crash and Jeff takes full responsibility for the accident and for her presence on the plane. At Jeff's court-martial, Al reveals the truth of his involvement and Jeff is found innocent of all charges. Mercer fully recovers, Al is sent to Kelly Field to complete his training and Jeff reunites with Carolyn. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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