I used to hear a lot about this film being one of Howard Hawks' best. For that matter, I used to hear a lot about Howard Hawks. These days, not so much on either of those things. So recently I watched ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS for the first time in about forty years to see if it holds up.
Boy, does it.
This is the story of a small flying service in
South America that's trying to get a contract flying the mail over the . Cary Grant plays the chief pilot, and he's ably supported by the great Thomas Mitchell, John Carroll, Noah Beery Jr., Don "Red" Barry, and several more fine character actors. Grant's life is complicated by the arrival of down-on-her-luck showgirl Jean Arthur, then another pilot who has a checkered past (Richard Barthelmess) shows up with his wife, who just happens to be the ex-fiancee of Grant's character, in tow. (The wife is played by a young and beautiful Rita Hayworth.) Andes Mountains
In other words, what you've got here is a great cast, working with a good script by Jules Furthman, and directed by one of my all-time favorite directors, Howard Hawks. The result is maybe one notch below a classic film, but it's not far from that status. For a movie with no real crime in it, this is one of the most hardboiled films you'll ever see, with plenty of tight-lipped, unsentimental dialogue and a number of flying sequences that are very suspenseful. The miniature work is outstanding, too.
Hawks is famous for his films centered around the interaction of small groups, and that's in full force here. The claustrophobic setting, a small town hemmed in by mountains, just adds to the effect. The plot is maybe a little thin, but other than that, ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS is a great movie and one that I'm glad I watched again after all these years. If you haven't seen it before, you should give it a try. And if it's been a long time, I bet you'd enjoy it all over again.