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In the years leading up to World War II, the Lockheed Corporation built a production facility in Burbank, California. Incredibly, the 45 buildings spread out over 550 acres were all covered by giant tarps painted by the nearby Walt Disney Company to look like a housing development in case the Japanese attacked the West Coast. This was the setting for the 1942 Warner Bros. film Wings for the Eagle starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, advertised by the studio as "It's Time-And-A-Half for Uncle Sam...and the Rest of the Time is for Love!" The plot of two men in love with the same woman takes a back seat to the need for getting planes manufactured and sent off to help with the war effort.
Originally titled Shadow of Their Wings, the film was directed by Lloyd Bacon, with a screenplay by Byron Morgan and B.H. Orkow. The original casting had Ronald Reagan co-starring but he was replaced with Morgan and Carson took Morgan's role.
Warner Bros. was given permission to shoot at the Lockheed plant, but each member of the cast and crew had to keep a birth certificate on them at all times for security reasons. The studio hyped up the connection with Lockheed in a full-page ad in Life magazine, dedicating the film "to the workers who actually build Wings for the Eagle. To the workers of America's Fighting aircraft industry...men and women devoted to the new gospel "We can! We must! We Will!"...Warner Brothers respectfully dedicated Wings for the Eagle. Wings for the Eagle is the dramatic, deeply human story of the people of the production lines. All their toil and tears and hard-won joy are in this mightily moving picture. We are deeply grateful to the War Department, to Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and to all the men and women of Lockheed for their help in making this picture. Behind sentry-barred gates much of it was filmed, without the loss of a single production hour on Lockheed P-38s and Hudsons."
Wings for the Eagle was churned out quickly between January 12 February 1942 at both the Burbank plant and the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company in Buffalo, New York. This was the first film that Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson made together. Both vaudevillians, they had met years before in their hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and remained best friends until Carson's death in 1963. During production, Morgan and Carson became close with Ann Sheridan and the three would go on war bond tours together. Later, Morgan and Carson would visit hospitals and camps throughout the South Pacific during the war.
Wings for the Eagle received excellent reviews, with Variety calling it "inspirational without being preachy" and the New York Times reviewer praising both the writers and character actor George Tobias in particular. "Actually the romantic story is no better than the old one of two men and only one girl, a story which the authors casually set aside when they have a point to make. They are more concerned, fortunately, with the urgency of the factory's getting out its quota of bombers under the deadline...Certainly it is the story of Jake, his earnest patriotism and his restrained grief at the death of his son, which takes precedence over Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan's bickerings over the hand of Ann Sheridan-however understandable that may be. And acted by George Tobias, who in a series of steady performances has shown himself one of the best actors on the studio's payroll, the character of Jake becomes the core of the film. Mr. Morgan gives a breezy and friendly performance as the fellow who learns his duty, Mr. Carson is convincing as the husband who must have reached a mental stalemate at the age of 12, and Miss Sheridan continues to toss crisp retorts like flapjacks. If Wings for the Eagle doesn't soar inspiringly it is nevertheless very definitely on the right beam."
Producer: Robert Lord
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Screenplay: Byron Morgan, B.H. Orkow; Richard Macaulay (additional dialogue)
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Art Direction: Max Parker
Music: Frederick Hollander
Film Editing: Owen Marks
Cast: Ann Sheridan (Roma Maple), Dennis Morgan (Corky 'Cork' Jones), Jack Carson (Brad Maple), George Tobias (Jake Hanso), Russell Arms (Pete Hanso), Don DeFore (Gil Borden), Tom Fadden (Tom 'Cyclone' Shaw), John Ridgely (Alec Johnson), Frank Wilcox (Supervisor Stark), George Meeker (Personnel Man), Fay Helm (Miss Baxter, Mr. Gross' Secretary), Billy Curtis (Eddie, a Midget), Emory Parnell (Policeman at Garage), Edgar Dearing (Motorcycle Officer).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Lebo, Harlan Casablanca: Behind the Scenes
Life Magazine 17 Aug 42
"The Screen in Review: 'Wings for the Eagle'. Warner's Film Drama of the Men Who Build the Giant Bombers, Is Arrival at Strand Theatre" New York Times 1 Aug 42