The Dawn Patrol


1h 43m 1938
The Dawn Patrol

Brief Synopsis

A flight commander in France almost cracks under the pressure of sending men to their deaths.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 24, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Vitaphone
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Synopsis

Major Brand, the commanding officer of a squadron of the British Royal Flying Corps stationed in France, has been called a butcher by his top officer, Captain Courtney, because of his hardened attitude toward sending inexperienced young flyers to their death. Courtney and his best friend, Lieutenant Scott, have their own way of coping with the constant death of new recruits; they drink a toast to the dead, sing a song, and then go back to devising diverting, thrill-seeking pranks. When German ace flyer Von Richter taunts the men from his plane, Courtney and Scott seize the opportunity to steal two planes and bomb the enemy camp. Brand is furious at their insubordination, but when the news arrives that they have destroyed the German camp, their devil-may-care attitude is forgiven. Unexpectedly, Brand is promoted and Courtney is appointed squadron commander, but he proves unable to manage the responsibility of his new position and begins to drink heavily. His guilt is compounded when Scott's younger brother Donnie arrives with a new group of inexperienced replacements. Courtney puts duty before personal loyalty and sends Donnie to his death. Scott holds Courtney personally responsible and, having lost his will to live, volunteers for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. This time, Courtney puts friendship first and flies the mission himself. Not only does he hit his target, but he brings down the villainous Von Richter before he dies. Scott, now first in command, is left with the burden of sending boys to certain death.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Dec 24, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Calabasas--Warner Ranch, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 43m
Sound
Vitaphone
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
12 reels

Articles

The Dawn Patrol (1938) - The Dawn Patrol


Warner Bros.' World War I drama The Dawn Patrol (1938), starring Errol Flynn and David Niven as pilot buddies facing the anguish of seeing their friends shot down in battle, is a remake of Howard Hawks' 1930 film of the same title. The remake remains faithful in many details to John Monk Saunders' Oscar-winning original story for the Hawks film. Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, upset with the remake's similarities to his 1930 Oscar-winner Wings, sued Warner Bros. He lost when it was proven that the screenplay for The Dawn Patrol was indeed based on the Saunders original, which had been written as a vehicle for Ronald Colman BEFORE it was filmed in 1930 with Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

The Dawn Patrol is set at the French headquarters of the British Royal Flying Corps, where ace pilot Flynn blames squadron commander Basil Rathbone for the heavy losses the unit is suffering. After the command is turned over to Flynn, he realizes the hard realities behind Rathbone's actions - particularly after the younger brother of Flynn's best friend, David Niven, is killed in action. The movie is unusual in that it does not contain a single female character.

Errol Flynn always seemed at his best onscreen when paired opposite his on-screen nemesis, Basil Rathbone. The Dawn Patrol is one of three films in which the two clashed, the others being Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Rathbone actually served in WWI and wears his own decorations in the movie. A few years after the release of The Dawn Patrol, Flynn saw his own desire to serve in World War II dashed when he was turned down by every branch of the armed services after being classified 4F because of heart problems and a history of malaria and tuberculosis. None of this, however, kept the popular star from serving, as studio head Jack L. Warner put it, as "all the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package" to "the Walter Mittys of the world."

Flynn loved working with friends, and David Niven qualified as one of his best. During the period when The Dawn Patrol was filmed, the two actors shared a Malibu bachelor pad, dubbed "Cirrhosis by the Sea," that the hard-drinking Flynn often used as an escape from his turbulent marriage to actress Lili Damita.

Producer: Robert Lord, Hal B. Wallis
Director: Edmund Goulding
Screenplay: Seton I. Miller and Dan Totheroh from story by John Monk Saunders
Art Direction: John Hughes
Cinematography: Tony Gaudio
Editing: Ralph Dawson
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Errol Flynn (Captain Courtney), Basil Rathbone (Major Brand), David Niven (Lt. Douglas "Scotty" Scott), Donald Crisp (Phipps), Melville Cooper (Sergeant Watkins), Barry Fitzgerald (Bott).
BW-103m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Rob Nixon

The Dawn Patrol (1938) - The Dawn Patrol

The Dawn Patrol (1938) - The Dawn Patrol

Warner Bros.' World War I drama The Dawn Patrol (1938), starring Errol Flynn and David Niven as pilot buddies facing the anguish of seeing their friends shot down in battle, is a remake of Howard Hawks' 1930 film of the same title. The remake remains faithful in many details to John Monk Saunders' Oscar-winning original story for the Hawks film. Nevertheless, Howard Hughes, upset with the remake's similarities to his 1930 Oscar-winner Wings, sued Warner Bros. He lost when it was proven that the screenplay for The Dawn Patrol was indeed based on the Saunders original, which had been written as a vehicle for Ronald Colman BEFORE it was filmed in 1930 with Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The Dawn Patrol is set at the French headquarters of the British Royal Flying Corps, where ace pilot Flynn blames squadron commander Basil Rathbone for the heavy losses the unit is suffering. After the command is turned over to Flynn, he realizes the hard realities behind Rathbone's actions - particularly after the younger brother of Flynn's best friend, David Niven, is killed in action. The movie is unusual in that it does not contain a single female character. Errol Flynn always seemed at his best onscreen when paired opposite his on-screen nemesis, Basil Rathbone. The Dawn Patrol is one of three films in which the two clashed, the others being Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Rathbone actually served in WWI and wears his own decorations in the movie. A few years after the release of The Dawn Patrol, Flynn saw his own desire to serve in World War II dashed when he was turned down by every branch of the armed services after being classified 4F because of heart problems and a history of malaria and tuberculosis. None of this, however, kept the popular star from serving, as studio head Jack L. Warner put it, as "all the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package" to "the Walter Mittys of the world." Flynn loved working with friends, and David Niven qualified as one of his best. During the period when The Dawn Patrol was filmed, the two actors shared a Malibu bachelor pad, dubbed "Cirrhosis by the Sea," that the hard-drinking Flynn often used as an escape from his turbulent marriage to actress Lili Damita. Producer: Robert Lord, Hal B. Wallis Director: Edmund Goulding Screenplay: Seton I. Miller and Dan Totheroh from story by John Monk Saunders Art Direction: John Hughes Cinematography: Tony Gaudio Editing: Ralph Dawson Original Music: Max Steiner Principal Cast: Errol Flynn (Captain Courtney), Basil Rathbone (Major Brand), David Niven (Lt. Douglas "Scotty" Scott), Donald Crisp (Phipps), Melville Cooper (Sergeant Watkins), Barry Fitzgerald (Bott). BW-103m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Rob Nixon

The Dawn Patrol - Errol Flynn in the 1938 Version of THE DAWN PATROL on DVD


WWI movies tend to be strongly antiwar, with undercurrents of defeat running through them, but The Dawn Patrol (1938) tries to have it both ways. It serves up a fun adventure yarn while also asking the audience to contemplate the seriousness of warfare and the wrenching human toll it takes. To be sure, lots of combat movies offer thrilling scenes as part of an overall antiwar theme, but The Dawn Patrol is something an odd movie to have come out in 1938. Very soon afterwards, Hollywood would start releasing war movies designed to get Americans psychologically ready and enthusiastic for the oncoming WWII - films like Submarine Patrol (1938), The Fighting 69th (1940) and Sergeant York (1941). The Dawn Patrol is more of a throwback to a different way of fighting and looking at war, where flyers are elite individuals rather than members of a fighting group.

The Dawn Patrol, in fact, had been made before, in 1930, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. That film became instantly famous for its amazing aerial sequences, which Warner Bros. reused for the remake as a way to keep production costs down.

The remake stars Errol Flynn and David Niven as the lead pilots of a Royal Flying Corps squadron in France who fly daily sorties across German lines and take to the bottle each night. Despite their confidence and enjoyment of flying, they are feeling increasingly bitter about the losses piling up on each mission. Their commanding officer, Basil Rathbone, detests having to send men up on de facto suicide misisons in planes ("crates") which aren't good enough. "You know what this place is?" he asks his lieutenant bitterly. "A slaughterhouse. And I'm the butcher!" Flynn hates Rathbone for continually ordering dangerous missions with new recruits every day, but when Rathbone is reassigned and Flynn inherits the job, he realizes that Rathbone's orders came from even further up the chain of command and there's not much he can do about them. Inevitably, new strains now emerge in his friendship with Niven, culminating in one of them undertaking an extraordinarily dangerous bombing mission deep into Germany.

Basically, The Dawn Patrol is about the comradeship of men (there are no women in the picture), and even between enemies. A captured German flyer who shot down one of their own is welcomed onto the British base with respect and civility, in an example of yet another device which fits in perfectly with WWI movies but which would soon have no place in WWII films.

The aerial combat scenes remain quite exciting. One spectacular sequence finds Flynn and Niven disobeying orders by taking to the air, attacking a German base and narrowly escaping when one gets shot down and must hold onto the wing of the other plane to escape. (And there are still further complications ahead.) There's also some interplay with what is meant to be the Red Baron, though in the film he's called "von Richter" instead of "von Richthofen." The cast does very well, with stiff upper lips maintained all around and Flynn easily projecting the good looks and nobility that made him such a star.

The Dawn Patrol, which has been issued with excellent picture and audio, is included in Warner Home Video's DVD 5-pack entitled Errol Flynn: Signature Collection Volume 2. It's also available separately. Extras on this disc include two short subjects, The Prisoner of Swing and Romance Road, the cartoon What Price Porky?, a newsreel and trailers. If one chooses, they can be viewed all in one click via the "Warner Night at the Movies" option.

Other titles in the set are The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dive Bomber (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). The latter comes with a commentary track featuring director Vincent Sherman (he died in June 2006), and all titles come with many extras including a new documentary featurette on the Dive Bomber disc and a radio adaptation of Gentleman Jim. Also worth a mention is the beautiful cover art - drawn from the films' original posters - on all the cases and the discs themselves. It's nice to be thrown back in time like this before one even opens the case.

Now if only Warner Bros. would release the original Howard Hawks version of The Dawn Patrol onto DVD...

For more information about The Dawn Patrol, visit Warner Video To order The Dawn Patrol, go to TCM Shopping.

by Jeremy Arnold

The Dawn Patrol - Errol Flynn in the 1938 Version of THE DAWN PATROL on DVD

WWI movies tend to be strongly antiwar, with undercurrents of defeat running through them, but The Dawn Patrol (1938) tries to have it both ways. It serves up a fun adventure yarn while also asking the audience to contemplate the seriousness of warfare and the wrenching human toll it takes. To be sure, lots of combat movies offer thrilling scenes as part of an overall antiwar theme, but The Dawn Patrol is something an odd movie to have come out in 1938. Very soon afterwards, Hollywood would start releasing war movies designed to get Americans psychologically ready and enthusiastic for the oncoming WWII - films like Submarine Patrol (1938), The Fighting 69th (1940) and Sergeant York (1941). The Dawn Patrol is more of a throwback to a different way of fighting and looking at war, where flyers are elite individuals rather than members of a fighting group. The Dawn Patrol, in fact, had been made before, in 1930, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. That film became instantly famous for its amazing aerial sequences, which Warner Bros. reused for the remake as a way to keep production costs down. The remake stars Errol Flynn and David Niven as the lead pilots of a Royal Flying Corps squadron in France who fly daily sorties across German lines and take to the bottle each night. Despite their confidence and enjoyment of flying, they are feeling increasingly bitter about the losses piling up on each mission. Their commanding officer, Basil Rathbone, detests having to send men up on de facto suicide misisons in planes ("crates") which aren't good enough. "You know what this place is?" he asks his lieutenant bitterly. "A slaughterhouse. And I'm the butcher!" Flynn hates Rathbone for continually ordering dangerous missions with new recruits every day, but when Rathbone is reassigned and Flynn inherits the job, he realizes that Rathbone's orders came from even further up the chain of command and there's not much he can do about them. Inevitably, new strains now emerge in his friendship with Niven, culminating in one of them undertaking an extraordinarily dangerous bombing mission deep into Germany. Basically, The Dawn Patrol is about the comradeship of men (there are no women in the picture), and even between enemies. A captured German flyer who shot down one of their own is welcomed onto the British base with respect and civility, in an example of yet another device which fits in perfectly with WWI movies but which would soon have no place in WWII films. The aerial combat scenes remain quite exciting. One spectacular sequence finds Flynn and Niven disobeying orders by taking to the air, attacking a German base and narrowly escaping when one gets shot down and must hold onto the wing of the other plane to escape. (And there are still further complications ahead.) There's also some interplay with what is meant to be the Red Baron, though in the film he's called "von Richter" instead of "von Richthofen." The cast does very well, with stiff upper lips maintained all around and Flynn easily projecting the good looks and nobility that made him such a star. The Dawn Patrol, which has been issued with excellent picture and audio, is included in Warner Home Video's DVD 5-pack entitled Errol Flynn: Signature Collection Volume 2. It's also available separately. Extras on this disc include two short subjects, The Prisoner of Swing and Romance Road, the cartoon What Price Porky?, a newsreel and trailers. If one chooses, they can be viewed all in one click via the "Warner Night at the Movies" option. Other titles in the set are The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936), Dive Bomber (1941), Gentleman Jim (1942) and Adventures of Don Juan (1948). The latter comes with a commentary track featuring director Vincent Sherman (he died in June 2006), and all titles come with many extras including a new documentary featurette on the Dive Bomber disc and a radio adaptation of Gentleman Jim. Also worth a mention is the beautiful cover art - drawn from the films' original posters - on all the cases and the discs themselves. It's nice to be thrown back in time like this before one even opens the case. Now if only Warner Bros. would release the original Howard Hawks version of The Dawn Patrol onto DVD... For more information about The Dawn Patrol, visit Warner Video To order The Dawn Patrol, go to TCM Shopping. by Jeremy Arnold

Quotes

Trivia

Most of the aerial footage comes from Warner Bros.' previous 1930 version (Dawn Patrol, The (1930)).

The filmmakers needed several shots of the planes taking off and landing. They assembled a squadron of 17 vintage WW1 aircraft, most of them Nieuports. Flying them proved just as hazardous as in WW1. By the time filming ended, stunt flyers had crashed 15 of them.

Notes

The film opened with the following written foreword: "Today, when ominous rumblings of war echo throughout the world again, this story of the last great war is especially significant. On the Western front in 1915, Britain's Royal Flying Corps found itself engaged in a desperate struggle for existence against an enemy of superior size, strength and experience. At that time, the Royal Flying Corps had little except magnificent courage and a grim determination to do its job."
       Exterior airfield shots were made at Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. Period music includes "Poor Butterfly," words by John L. Golden, music by Raymond Hubbell, T. B. Harms and Francis, Day & Hunter and "Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kitbag and Smile, Smile, Smile," words by George Asaf, music by Felix Powell. The Dawn Patrol marked the American motion picture debut of Vienese-born actor Carl Esmond (1908-2004).
       According to information contained in the production file on the film in the Warner Bros. Archive at the USC Cinema-Television Library, in 1930 Howard Hughes' Caddo company sued Warner Bros., claiming that certain story ideas and techniques used in the 1930 production of The Dawn Patrol were based on similar ones in Hell's Angels. Hughes lost the suit when it was determined that the disputed ideas originated with John Monk Saunders.
       Saunders had recently left the air service when he wrote the story that was the basis for the award-winning film Wings, which was produced in 1927 by Famous Players-Lasky, (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). In 1929, Howard Hawks was looking for an air war story as a vehicle for Ronald Colman, and Saunders wrote the story "Flight Commander," which became the basis of the first Dawn Patrol, directed by Hawks and starring Richard Barthelmess, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Neil Hamilton (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). The film was novelized by Guy Fowler and Saunders in 1930. Extensive aerial footage and exterior shots from the Hawks film were used in the 1938 remake. According to memoes in the Warner Bros. files on the film, scenes were planned around the 1930 footage to minimize production expenses. In 1941, Warner Bros. blended aspects of The Dawn Patrol and their 1936 film Ceiling Zero and produced Flight Patrol.