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HISTORY

According to a production directory in the 18 Feb 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, the project began 7 Nov 1927, with stars Ben Lyon, James Hall, and Greta Nissen. Miss Nissen was not involved in the final film.
       The 1930 Var review of the film listed a running time of 110 min., while the 1940 Var review of a reissue listed a running time of 96 min. On 31 Oct 1927, 22-year-old millionaire Howard Hughes, the founder and president of the Caddo Company, put into production what, by 1930, would become a $4,000,000 film. Hell's Angels broke all previous records for the amount of money spent on a single motion picture, and its enormous expense was unrivaled until 1940, when the final cost of Gone With the Wind was tallied. The idea to film a World War I aviation picture was suggested to Hughes by Marshall Neilan in the fall of 1926, and Hell's Angels was begun nearly a year later as a silent film, at Metropolitan Studios. Paramount director Luther Reed was the first to direct the film, and did so for two months before quitting in January of 1928 because of, according to modern sources, Hughes' annoying interferences. Neilan, who parted ways with Hughes early on, apparently left for the same reason.
       Following Reed's departure, Hughes decided to direct the picture himself. Hughes took a special interest in the air sequences of the film, and personally oversaw the acquisition of forty warplanes, some of which were authentic World War I fighters. Hughes' fleet of airplanes constituted the largest fleet of ... More Less

According to a production directory in the 18 Feb 1928 Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World, the project began 7 Nov 1927, with stars Ben Lyon, James Hall, and Greta Nissen. Miss Nissen was not involved in the final film.
       The 1930 Var review of the film listed a running time of 110 min., while the 1940 Var review of a reissue listed a running time of 96 min. On 31 Oct 1927, 22-year-old millionaire Howard Hughes, the founder and president of the Caddo Company, put into production what, by 1930, would become a $4,000,000 film. Hell's Angels broke all previous records for the amount of money spent on a single motion picture, and its enormous expense was unrivaled until 1940, when the final cost of Gone With the Wind was tallied. The idea to film a World War I aviation picture was suggested to Hughes by Marshall Neilan in the fall of 1926, and Hell's Angels was begun nearly a year later as a silent film, at Metropolitan Studios. Paramount director Luther Reed was the first to direct the film, and did so for two months before quitting in January of 1928 because of, according to modern sources, Hughes' annoying interferences. Neilan, who parted ways with Hughes early on, apparently left for the same reason.
       Following Reed's departure, Hughes decided to direct the picture himself. Hughes took a special interest in the air sequences of the film, and personally oversaw the acquisition of forty warplanes, some of which were authentic World War I fighters. Hughes' fleet of airplanes constituted the largest fleet of military aircraft owned and commanded by a private individual. Over the course of three years, the Hell's Angels production was plagued with a number of fatal and near-fatal air mishaps. The film, both directly and indirectly, claimed the lives of two pilots and an assistant, who were killed in three separate air tragedies.
       When the completed silent version of Hell's Angels was previewed in Mar of 1929, Hughes, at the urging of co-director James Whale, decided to scrap the film and reshoot it in sound. Hughes borrowed M-G-M writer Joseph Moncure March for the task of rewriting the script. When Moncure viewed the silent version of the film, he reportedly called it "depressingly bad." Production resumed in early Sep 1929. Not only were thousands of feet of film scrapped for the new production, but so was the star, Greta Nissen, who was dismissed because of her strong Norwegian accent. Filming began on the sound version of Hell's Angels without a female lead. Although Hughes was presented with a number of candidates, including June Collyer, Ann Harding, Carole Lombard (then known as Carol Peters) and Dorothy Mackaill, he was apparently not satisfied with any of them. Hughes decided on Jean Harlow after being introduced to her by leading man Ben Lyon, who reportedy picked the neophyte actress out of a group of dancers who were performing at a nearby sound stage. In the ensuing months, friction developed between Harlow and Whale, who was having difficulties getting a professional performance out of the inexperienced actress. Hell's Angels marked the feature film debut of actress Marian Marsh (1913-2006), who at the time was billed as Marilyn Morgan.
       The final scene of the film, the battle scene involving the brigade, was shot on 7 Dec 1929 and involved 1,700 extras--merely a fraction of the 20,000 extras that were employed for the entire production. In addition to sound, the film featured a two-color Technicolor sequence for the ballroom scene, and about forty percent of the film was shown in tinted colors. All totalled, a record-breaking 2,254,760 feet of film (about 560 hours) was shot and developed for the picture--the largest amount of negative discarded for a single film. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Chicago Tribune
24 Aug 1930
p. E1.
Exhibitors Herald and Moving Picture World
18 Feb 1928
p. 33.
Exhibitors Herald-World
31 May 1930
p. 123.
Film Daily
24 Aug 1930
p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
4 Aug 1930
p. B16.
New York Times
1 Aug 1930
p. 8.
Variety
4 Jun 1930
p. 25.
Variety
17 Jan 1940
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Curt Furberg
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial staged by
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Adpt and cont
Adpt and cont
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Asst photog
Chief elec
Chief elec
ART DIRECTORS
Settings
Settings
Settings
Settings
MUSIC
Mus arr
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Tech eng
Chief of aeronautics
German tech
German tech
German tech
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 November 1930
Premiere Information:
New York and Los Angeles premiere: 27 May 1930
Production Date:
7 November 1927--late April 1930
Copyright Claimant:
The Caddo Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 May 1930
Copyright Number:
LP1363
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Suund System
Black & white with color sequences
Two-color Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
125
Length(in feet):
10,390
Length(in reels):
14
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Munich, Germany, Roy Rutledge, an Oxford student, is visiting his classmate and friend, Karl Arnstedt, along with his pleasure-loving brother, Monte. When Monte is challenged to a duel by the Baron von Kranz, who catches him with his wife, Monte absconds, leaving Roy to take his place. Later, the boys join their Oxford friends at home, where Roy continues his blind infatuation with Helen, a glittering social butterfly. With the outbreak of war with Germany, Roy enlists in the Royal Fighting Corps, while the cowardly Monte is accidentally recruited through a kiss. At a charity ball given by Lady Randolph, Helen snares Monte with her charms, and they begin a clandestine affair. On a mission to bring down a German zeppelin, the brothers barely escape death, unlike their friends Elliott and Karl. They meet Helen again in France, in Lady Randolph's Canteen, and she is exposed as a coldhearted flirt. Monte is openly accused of cowardice by fellow officers, and as a result both brothers volunteer for a mission behind enemy lines. When the brothers are captured by the Germans, Monte frantically agrees to reveal the English position to save his life. Roy tries to effect a desperate plan to save him but at length is obliged to shoot him. When he himself refuses to give information to the enemy, he is ordered before a firing squad. The brothers' sacrifice is not in vain, however, for their brigade's attack on the Germans is a complete ... +


In Munich, Germany, Roy Rutledge, an Oxford student, is visiting his classmate and friend, Karl Arnstedt, along with his pleasure-loving brother, Monte. When Monte is challenged to a duel by the Baron von Kranz, who catches him with his wife, Monte absconds, leaving Roy to take his place. Later, the boys join their Oxford friends at home, where Roy continues his blind infatuation with Helen, a glittering social butterfly. With the outbreak of war with Germany, Roy enlists in the Royal Fighting Corps, while the cowardly Monte is accidentally recruited through a kiss. At a charity ball given by Lady Randolph, Helen snares Monte with her charms, and they begin a clandestine affair. On a mission to bring down a German zeppelin, the brothers barely escape death, unlike their friends Elliott and Karl. They meet Helen again in France, in Lady Randolph's Canteen, and she is exposed as a coldhearted flirt. Monte is openly accused of cowardice by fellow officers, and as a result both brothers volunteer for a mission behind enemy lines. When the brothers are captured by the Germans, Monte frantically agrees to reveal the English position to save his life. Roy tries to effect a desperate plan to save him but at length is obliged to shoot him. When he himself refuses to give information to the enemy, he is ordered before a firing squad. The brothers' sacrifice is not in vain, however, for their brigade's attack on the Germans is a complete success. +

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

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.