Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

119 or 121 mins | Drama | 15 May 1939

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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Plane No. 4 . According to a news item in HR , Dick Rosson began as second unit director on the picture but was called back to M-G-M and replaced by Sam Nelson in mid-Jan 1939. Roy Davidson and Edwin C. Hahn were nominated for a special technical Academy Award for their special effects work on this picture. Modern sources note that technical advisor Paul Mantz also worked as chief pilot on the film and add Robert Sterling to the cast in his motion picture debut. According to modern sources, the film was based on a story fragment that Howard Hawks wrote in 1938 entitled "Plane from Barranca." In an interview, Hawks said that he conceived of the idea for the story while he was flying with a Mexican bush pilot around Mexico. On 29 May 1939, the Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio version of the story featuring the film's ... More Less

The working title of this film was Plane No. 4 . According to a news item in HR , Dick Rosson began as second unit director on the picture but was called back to M-G-M and replaced by Sam Nelson in mid-Jan 1939. Roy Davidson and Edwin C. Hahn were nominated for a special technical Academy Award for their special effects work on this picture. Modern sources note that technical advisor Paul Mantz also worked as chief pilot on the film and add Robert Sterling to the cast in his motion picture debut. According to modern sources, the film was based on a story fragment that Howard Hawks wrote in 1938 entitled "Plane from Barranca." In an interview, Hawks said that he conceived of the idea for the story while he was flying with a Mexican bush pilot around Mexico. On 29 May 1939, the Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio version of the story featuring the film's stars. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 May 39
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 May 39
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 38
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jan 39
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 39
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
9 May 39
pp. 6-7.
Motion Picture Daily
12 May 39
p. 5.
Motion Picture Herald
20 May 39
p. 43.
New York Times
12 May 39
p. 25.
Variety
17 May 39
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Story
Contr to trmt
Contr to trmt
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Aerial photog
Spec eff
Spec eff
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Plane No. 4
Release Date:
15 May 1939
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 12 May 1939
Production Date:
20 December 1938--24 March 1939
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
11 May 1939
Copyright Number:
LP8899
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
119 or 121
Length(in feet):
11,079
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
4942
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When showgirl Bonnie Lee's ship docks in the "banana republic" of Barranca, she is delighted to meet Joe Souther and Les Peters, two American flyers for a cut-rate airline owned by softhearted Dutchy. The airline is run by the hard-boiled Geoff Carter, who, despite hazardous weather conditions in the Andes and frequent crack ups, must maintain a regular schedule for six months in order to obtain the mail subsidy. The conviviality of the evening is shattered as Dutch, Tex, Geoff and Bonnie watch in horror as Joe's plane crashes in the fog. Geoff's best friend, Kid Dabb, warns Bonnie to stay away from the misogynistic Geoff, whose bad experience with one woman has soured him against the entire sex, and whose motto is that he will never ask a woman for anything. Bonnie finds herself attracted to him nevertheless, and decides to remain in Barranca. Complications arise with the arrival of Bat MacPherson, a new pilot, and his wife Judy. Years earlier, MacPherson's cowardice caused the death of Kid's younger brother, and as a result, the other pilots object to his presence. When Geoff is forced to ground Kid because of failing eyesight, however, he is short on pilots and agrees to hire MacPherson on the condition that he fly the most dangerous missions. Meanwhile, Bonnie is on the verge of confessing her love for Geoff when Kid calls him away to test a new airplane. On the night of the last flight necessary to clinch the contract, a storm rages, and Bonnie, terrified that Geoff will not return from his mission, accidentally shoots him while begging him not to fly. With a bullet in ... +


When showgirl Bonnie Lee's ship docks in the "banana republic" of Barranca, she is delighted to meet Joe Souther and Les Peters, two American flyers for a cut-rate airline owned by softhearted Dutchy. The airline is run by the hard-boiled Geoff Carter, who, despite hazardous weather conditions in the Andes and frequent crack ups, must maintain a regular schedule for six months in order to obtain the mail subsidy. The conviviality of the evening is shattered as Dutch, Tex, Geoff and Bonnie watch in horror as Joe's plane crashes in the fog. Geoff's best friend, Kid Dabb, warns Bonnie to stay away from the misogynistic Geoff, whose bad experience with one woman has soured him against the entire sex, and whose motto is that he will never ask a woman for anything. Bonnie finds herself attracted to him nevertheless, and decides to remain in Barranca. Complications arise with the arrival of Bat MacPherson, a new pilot, and his wife Judy. Years earlier, MacPherson's cowardice caused the death of Kid's younger brother, and as a result, the other pilots object to his presence. When Geoff is forced to ground Kid because of failing eyesight, however, he is short on pilots and agrees to hire MacPherson on the condition that he fly the most dangerous missions. Meanwhile, Bonnie is on the verge of confessing her love for Geoff when Kid calls him away to test a new airplane. On the night of the last flight necessary to clinch the contract, a storm rages, and Bonnie, terrified that Geoff will not return from his mission, accidentally shoots him while begging him not to fly. With a bullet in his shoulder, Geoff is unable to fly, and so MacPerson and Kid, the two antagonists, volunteer to take over his mission. While they are navigating the fog shrouded-pass, a bird crashes through their windshield, breaking Kid's neck and setting the plane on fire. Rather than save himself by parachuting to safety, MacPherson crash lands the plane in a ball of flames, thus winning redemption from the dying Kid. As the weather clears, Geoff and Les prepare to take off again, but before he leaves, Geoff uses Kid's single-sided coin to ask Bonnie to stay with him. +

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.