Only Angels Have Wings


2h 1939
Only Angels Have Wings

Brief Synopsis

A team of flyers risks their lives to deliver the mail in a mountainous South American country.

Photos & Videos

Only Angels Have Wings - Movie Posters
Only Angels Have Wings - Lobby Cards
Only Angels Have Wings - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Film Details

Also Known As
Plane No. 4
Genre
Drama
Release Date
May 15, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 12 May 1939
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,079ft (12 reels)

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 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.

Photo Collections

Only Angels Have Wings - Movie Posters
Only Angels Have Wings - Movie Posters
Only Angels Have Wings - Lobby Cards
Only Angels Have Wings - Lobby Cards
Only Angels Have Wings - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Only Angels Have Wings - Behind-the-Scenes Photos

Videos

Movie Clip

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - Bonnie From Brooklyn Pilots Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn) are impressed with the pretty blonde Bonnie (Jean Arthur) who gets off the boat in fictional Latin American "Barranca" in an early scene from Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - This Is Mr. MacPherson New pilot MacPherson (Richard Barthelmess) meets colleagues (Allyn Joslyn, John Carroll) then gets recognized by their none-too-pleased South American jungle airline boss Carter (Cary Grant) in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - Wasn't Good Enough Hard stuff from South American mail carrier airline boss Carter (Cary Grant) explaining how pilots die to his partner Dutchy (Sig Rumann) in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - That's The Boss Jungle pilots Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) and Les (Allyn Joslyn) have just wagered to decide who gets to buy steak dinner for their unexpected visitor Bonnie (Jean Arthur) when their intimidating boss Carter (Cary Grant) makes his first appearance, in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - Same Old Goo Pilot Bat (Richard Barthelmess) launches on a dangerous flight as his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth) visits with his new boss, her old flame, Carter (Cary Grant) and Bonnie (Jean Arthur) drops by, in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - Gun Her Joe! Pilot Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) being talked down in a jungle fog by Carter (Cary Grant) and "Kid" (Thomas Mitchell), Bonnie (Jean Arthur) and Dutchy (Sig Rumann) standing by, in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) - Not Much Future Visiting Bonnie (Jean Arthur) doesn't cope when South American airline boss Carter (Cary Grant) sits down to eat a dead employee's steak, then gets consoled by Sparks (Victor Kilian) and "Kid" (Thomas Mitchell) in Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, 1939.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Plane No. 4
Genre
Drama
Release Date
May 15, 1939
Premiere Information
New York opening: week of 12 May 1939
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp. of California, Ltd.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
2h
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11,079ft (12 reels)

Award Nominations

Best Cinematography

1940

Best Special Effects

1940

Articles

Only Angels Have Wings


Originally titled Pilot Number 4, Only Angels Have Wings (1939) began as a short story written by Howard Hawks in 1938. According to Hawks, much of the story was taken from real life: "In Only Angels Have Wings, I knew every character personally that was in that picture. I knew how they talked. . . . If you've seen the picture lately, you may remember Richard Barthelmess' part. I knew the fellow that jumped out of an airplane and left somebody behind to get killed. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for that, and he got killed, finally, trying to make up for it." As in all of Hawks' adventure films, what matters most is the code of professional ethics, a code that binds together the isolated group of men.

When a member of the group dies, there is no ritualized mourning as there is, say, in a John Ford film. Instead, Cary Grant lays out the dead man's possessions on the bar and tells everyone to take what they want. According to Hawks, the pilot's reaction of death is a necessary part of their professional demeanor: "It's just a calm acceptance of fact. In Only Angels Have Wings, after Joe dies, Cary Grant says: 'He just wasn't good enough.' Well, that's the only thing that keeps people going. They have to say: 'Joe wasn't good enough, and I'm better than Joe, so I go ahead and do it.' And they find out they're not any better than Joe, but then it's too late, you see." As Bonnie Lee, Jean Arthur plays the independent woman who intrudes on the all-male community, and as she finds out early on, her emotionalism is frowned upon. If she is to join the group, she too must learn to be hard.

In fact, as Molly Haskell notes in her history of women in the movies, Jean Arthur barely figures in the film's romantic subplot: "In the all-male community of civil aviators Grant heads up, the central relationship is the tacit, mutual devotion between Grant and Thomas Mitchell." It is only with Mitchell's death that Arthur is invited (albeit quite casually) to stay. Interestingly, the manner in which Mitchell's character faces his death is again based on something that Hawks personally witnessed. It so impressed him that he used the scene again in Rio Lobo (1970). According to Hawks, "That's a good dying."

Only Angels Have Wings was the thirty-third film Cary Grant had made in only seven years. Coming off the success of Gunga Din (1939), Grant here plays a harder, more serious character than any he had yet played. Far from the suave, mannered roles that would become his trademark, Grant's character, Geoff Carter, is rude almost to the point of unlikability. When he first meets Jean Arthur, he aggressively grabs her cigarette and uses it to light his own. Immediately afterwards, Grant orders Noah Beery, Jr. to fly a dangerous mission. Beery was supposed to have dinner with Arthur and is obviously disappointed. Grant tells him not to worry: "I'll be glad to take up where you left off." This was the second of five films that Grant would make with Hawks, but it was the only adventure film they would make together. The other four were screwball comedies: Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), and Monkey Business (1952).

Only Angels Have Wings is also the film that may have created the often-quoted Cary Grant impersonation line: "Judy, Judy, Judy." Grant often says the name "Judy" in the film, but never three times in succession. In interviews over the years, Grant expressed his bemusement over the tag line. In the 1980s, he said he thought "it started with a celebrity impersonator by the name of Larry Storch. He apparently was appearing in a nightclub and doing me when Judy Garland walked in. And that's how he greeted her." However it started, the phrase stuck, and like "Play it again, Sam," has become one of the most beloved movie lines never spoken in a movie.

Playing Judy is a young Rita Hayworth, who had made a dozen films since signing a contract with Columbia. Unfortunately, none of the roles made much of an impact. Harry Cohn, though, was desperate to make her a star. Cohn changed Hayworth's name from Margarita Cansino, approved the use of electrolysis to raise her hairline and persuaded Howard Hawks to cast her in Only Angels Have Wings. This was Hayworth's first appearance in a major film, and the experience was far from satisfying as Hawks treated the budding starlet with nothing but disdain. In an interview some thirty years later, Hawks' antipathy to Hayworth had not diminished. Claiming that Hayworth was "never a good actress," Hawks told Joseph McBride that when he couldn't get Hayworth to act drunk for a scene, he gave up and instead told Cary Grant to pour a bucket of ice water over her head. "She'll holler or scream or do something," he told Grant, "and we'll dissolve, and you put a towel over her head and be drying her hair and say 'What you want to know is this.' You take her lines and your lines too." But despite her mistreatment, Only Angels Have Wings was a breakthrough for Hayworth and within a year Cohn took her out of B pictures for good.

Nineteen thirty-nine is often cited as the high-water mark for the studio system as so many great films were turned out that year. What is often overlooked is that Thomas Mitchell played a part in five of these. In addition to Only Angels Have Wings, Mitchell appeared in Stagecoach (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Gone With the Wind (1939). Not a bad year! For the always terrific Jean Arthur, the year was also a high point as her performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was one of her best and won her critical acclaim. And for Richard Barthelmess, 1939 was a comeback of sorts as he hadn't appeared in front of the camera in three years. Barthelmess was one of the silent era's great actors and his performances in D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) are unforgettable.

Only Angels Have Wings was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Joseph Walker) and Best Special Effects (Roy Davidson and Edwin C. Hahn). Though the film took home no awards that year, it has remained a consistent winner with film fans for over sixty years.

Producer/Director: Howard Hawks
Screenplay: Jules Furthman, Howard Hawks, Eleanore Griffin, William Rankin
Art Direction: Lionel Banks
Cinematography: Elmer Dyer, Joseph Walker
Costume Design: Robert Kalloch
Film Editing: Viola Lawrence
Original Music: Manuel Maciste, Dimitri Tiomkin, Morris W. Stoloff
Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Geoff Carter), Jean Arthur (Bonnie Lee), Richard Barthelmess (Bat McPherson), Rita Hayworth (Judith McPherson), Thomas Mitchell (Kid Dabb), Allyn Joslyn (Les Peters), Sig Ruman (Dutchy).
BW-122m. Closed captioning.

by Mark Frankel
Only Angels Have Wings

Only Angels Have Wings

Originally titled Pilot Number 4, Only Angels Have Wings (1939) began as a short story written by Howard Hawks in 1938. According to Hawks, much of the story was taken from real life: "In Only Angels Have Wings, I knew every character personally that was in that picture. I knew how they talked. . . . If you've seen the picture lately, you may remember Richard Barthelmess' part. I knew the fellow that jumped out of an airplane and left somebody behind to get killed. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for that, and he got killed, finally, trying to make up for it." As in all of Hawks' adventure films, what matters most is the code of professional ethics, a code that binds together the isolated group of men. When a member of the group dies, there is no ritualized mourning as there is, say, in a John Ford film. Instead, Cary Grant lays out the dead man's possessions on the bar and tells everyone to take what they want. According to Hawks, the pilot's reaction of death is a necessary part of their professional demeanor: "It's just a calm acceptance of fact. In Only Angels Have Wings, after Joe dies, Cary Grant says: 'He just wasn't good enough.' Well, that's the only thing that keeps people going. They have to say: 'Joe wasn't good enough, and I'm better than Joe, so I go ahead and do it.' And they find out they're not any better than Joe, but then it's too late, you see." As Bonnie Lee, Jean Arthur plays the independent woman who intrudes on the all-male community, and as she finds out early on, her emotionalism is frowned upon. If she is to join the group, she too must learn to be hard. In fact, as Molly Haskell notes in her history of women in the movies, Jean Arthur barely figures in the film's romantic subplot: "In the all-male community of civil aviators Grant heads up, the central relationship is the tacit, mutual devotion between Grant and Thomas Mitchell." It is only with Mitchell's death that Arthur is invited (albeit quite casually) to stay. Interestingly, the manner in which Mitchell's character faces his death is again based on something that Hawks personally witnessed. It so impressed him that he used the scene again in Rio Lobo (1970). According to Hawks, "That's a good dying." Only Angels Have Wings was the thirty-third film Cary Grant had made in only seven years. Coming off the success of Gunga Din (1939), Grant here plays a harder, more serious character than any he had yet played. Far from the suave, mannered roles that would become his trademark, Grant's character, Geoff Carter, is rude almost to the point of unlikability. When he first meets Jean Arthur, he aggressively grabs her cigarette and uses it to light his own. Immediately afterwards, Grant orders Noah Beery, Jr. to fly a dangerous mission. Beery was supposed to have dinner with Arthur and is obviously disappointed. Grant tells him not to worry: "I'll be glad to take up where you left off." This was the second of five films that Grant would make with Hawks, but it was the only adventure film they would make together. The other four were screwball comedies: Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), I Was a Male War Bride (1949), and Monkey Business (1952). Only Angels Have Wings is also the film that may have created the often-quoted Cary Grant impersonation line: "Judy, Judy, Judy." Grant often says the name "Judy" in the film, but never three times in succession. In interviews over the years, Grant expressed his bemusement over the tag line. In the 1980s, he said he thought "it started with a celebrity impersonator by the name of Larry Storch. He apparently was appearing in a nightclub and doing me when Judy Garland walked in. And that's how he greeted her." However it started, the phrase stuck, and like "Play it again, Sam," has become one of the most beloved movie lines never spoken in a movie. Playing Judy is a young Rita Hayworth, who had made a dozen films since signing a contract with Columbia. Unfortunately, none of the roles made much of an impact. Harry Cohn, though, was desperate to make her a star. Cohn changed Hayworth's name from Margarita Cansino, approved the use of electrolysis to raise her hairline and persuaded Howard Hawks to cast her in Only Angels Have Wings. This was Hayworth's first appearance in a major film, and the experience was far from satisfying as Hawks treated the budding starlet with nothing but disdain. In an interview some thirty years later, Hawks' antipathy to Hayworth had not diminished. Claiming that Hayworth was "never a good actress," Hawks told Joseph McBride that when he couldn't get Hayworth to act drunk for a scene, he gave up and instead told Cary Grant to pour a bucket of ice water over her head. "She'll holler or scream or do something," he told Grant, "and we'll dissolve, and you put a towel over her head and be drying her hair and say 'What you want to know is this.' You take her lines and your lines too." But despite her mistreatment, Only Angels Have Wings was a breakthrough for Hayworth and within a year Cohn took her out of B pictures for good. Nineteen thirty-nine is often cited as the high-water mark for the studio system as so many great films were turned out that year. What is often overlooked is that Thomas Mitchell played a part in five of these. In addition to Only Angels Have Wings, Mitchell appeared in Stagecoach (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and Gone With the Wind (1939). Not a bad year! For the always terrific Jean Arthur, the year was also a high point as her performance in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was one of her best and won her critical acclaim. And for Richard Barthelmess, 1939 was a comeback of sorts as he hadn't appeared in front of the camera in three years. Barthelmess was one of the silent era's great actors and his performances in D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms (1919) and Way Down East (1920) are unforgettable. Only Angels Have Wings was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Joseph Walker) and Best Special Effects (Roy Davidson and Edwin C. Hahn). Though the film took home no awards that year, it has remained a consistent winner with film fans for over sixty years. Producer/Director: Howard Hawks Screenplay: Jules Furthman, Howard Hawks, Eleanore Griffin, William Rankin Art Direction: Lionel Banks Cinematography: Elmer Dyer, Joseph Walker Costume Design: Robert Kalloch Film Editing: Viola Lawrence Original Music: Manuel Maciste, Dimitri Tiomkin, Morris W. Stoloff Principal Cast: Cary Grant (Geoff Carter), Jean Arthur (Bonnie Lee), Richard Barthelmess (Bat McPherson), Rita Hayworth (Judith McPherson), Thomas Mitchell (Kid Dabb), Allyn Joslyn (Les Peters), Sig Ruman (Dutchy). BW-122m. Closed captioning. by Mark Frankel

Quotes

Trivia

Near the end of the film Bonnie ('Arthur, Jean' ) says to Geoff (Cary Grant), "I'm hard to get, Geoff, all you have to do is ask me." This line would of course be more famously re-utilized by director Howard Hawks and screenwriter Jules Furthman in their later film To Have and Have Not (1944), spoken this time by Slim (Lauren Bacall) to Steve (Humphrey Bogart).

Notes

The working title of this film was Plane No. 4. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, 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-January 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 May 29, 1939, the Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio version of the story featuring the film's stars.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1999

Released in United States March 1987

Released in United States on Video November 2, 1988

Released in United States Summer May 25, 1939

Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Columbia 75" November 19 - January 13, 1999.)

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (UCLA Movie Marathon: A Tribute to Cary Grant) March 11-26, 1987.)

Released in United States Summer May 25, 1939

Released in United States on Video November 2, 1988