The Wings of Eagles

This post is part of the “Try It, You’ll Like It!” Blogathon, hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies Silently, where we write about “gateway films” that might bring non-classic-film lovers into the fold!

The Wings of Eagles (John Ford, 1957)

A biography of Navy flier-turned-screenwriter Frank W. "Spig" Wead.

In the shitload of films John Ford and John Wayne made together, most of them were Westerns and this is mostly what the collaboration between the two men is now remembered. However, they also made many war films like They Were Expendable. The writer of this feature film was Frank Wead a retired Army man also a friend of John Wayne. So ten years after the death of Wead in 1947, Ford and Wayne made an homage to the once pilot and screenwriter with a movie based on his life.

Shot in Metrocolor, a process that was made by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer laboratory for color film that was in fact Kodak Eastmancolor film, The Wings of Eagles is a respectable biopic filled with Fordian comedy and male bravura. With Ward Bond, Dan Dailey, and Ford red haired favorite Maureen O’Hara. O’Hara and Wayne have made many films together and their chemistry is as good as in The Quiet Man. In fact, Ford was one of the greatest director of actors and despite being a terrible human being to them, especially with Wayne, he could get outstanding performances from his actors in average films.

Which is the case here with his good hearted film that presents great performances but a poor script and not much interest for the viewer. There’s the usually camaraderie of his male films and the Army/Navy theme is central to the issues of his protagonist. Is it a Ford film; yes. Is it an essential Ford film; not really. It is interesting for his fans and fans of John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.

The later, who recently passed away was probably one of the most beautiful actress of her time. In The Wings of Eagles, she is 37 years old and looks prettier and sexier than she was at 25. Honestly, I have a huge star crush on her and her intelligent looks, her noble Irish traits and her inimitable onscreen presence. Everybody knows about John Wayne’s natural charisma and screen magnetism, but for me O’Hara has had bigger impact in the male pictures that she was involved with Ford and Wayne. She was a strong counterbalance to her co-stars.

Finally, despite not being the best film of its time or of its stars, The Wings of Eagles showcase the mastery of Ford and the star presence in Wayne and O’Hara. For many classic film lovers, classic actors are the main reason the will watch and rewatch some films that are not in the usual lists or tops but that are dear in their hearts.

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