October 26th 1938
'Men With Wings' (Par.)
Lavish air spectacle in Technicolor that means big business.
Men With Wings
Paramount release of William A. Wellman production. Features Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Louise Campbell, Andy Devine, Walter Abel. Directed by William A. Wellman. Story and adaptation, Robert Carson; editor, Tommy Scott; photography, W. Howard Greene. At Paramount N.Y., on Preview October 20 '38. Running time, 102 mins._______
Pat Falconer................Fred MacMurray
Scott Barnes................Ray Milland
Peggy Ranson................Louise Campbell
Joe Gibbs...................Andy Devine
Hank Rinebow................Lynne Overman
Hiram F. Jenkins............Porter Hall
Nick Ranson.................Walter Abel
Martha Ranson...............Kitty Kelly
J.A. Nolan..................James Burked
Colonel Hadley..............Willard Robertson
Peggy Falconer (8)..........Virgina Welder
Pat Falconer (10)...........Donald O'Connor
Scott Barnes (10)...........Bill Cook
Mrs. Hill...................Dorothy Tennant
First Woman.................Helen Dickson
Second Woman................Lillian West
Telegraph Operator..........Charles Williams
'Men With Wings' is a giant bomber from the Paramount hangar. Designed on a lavish scale by the skilled air picture mechanic, William A. Wellman, and polished off beautifully in Technicolor, it will triumph through rain, sleet or snow for any account placing it to a test. Given the gun on exploitation and advertising, Wellman's aerial colussus should search out the b.o. beacon lights for handsome profits. It has been very ably publicized in advance of release, having received unusual plugging on the radio, and needs nothing more than expert piloting to come through for a happy landing.
It may not match 'Test Pilot,' which it parallels in a somewhat distant manner, but it won't be far behind that epic of the air turned about by Metro. 'Test Pilot' had the advantage of stronger marquee values in Gable-Loy-Tracy, but Wellman's production is anything but odious in comparison in any particular.
It has a very able cast, a good story, breadth, historical scope, romance, comedy, pathos and last, but not least, great photographic beauty. The action scenes, including a dog fight in the air, are exceptionally impressive. While the romance involving three people, is subjugated to a program carrying out the story of the development of aviaton, from Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903 down to the present, the love interest is never left very far in the background.
There is enough built around the lives of many people figuring in the large cast, from kids to grownups, to satisfy the women, although there is no reason why the femmes should not experience the same thrills as the men over the fine aerial action and other ingredients. There are numerous touching scenes, such as the opening with the kids and the pioneer flier who burns to death; also the turn that's taken later when the young wife and baby are left alone time and again as wars come up.
Wellman has made his picture as factual as he could and, in addition to much research, employed large staffs of mechanics on planes during the filming. Story stems from the beginning of aviation when the Wright Brothers got off the ground at Kitty Hawk 35 years ago. It opens on the refusal of a small-time editor to believe the story of a breathless reporter that he had just seen a man fly. History is that this reporter's story place on the wires and scooping the world was used by only three newspapers when filed. Walter Abel, the reporter, takes up flying at the beginning and perishes on his first attempt in a fire scene that is both very impressive and touching as wife and children view the disaster.
In this first scene the three kids of the picture, who grow up into Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland and Louise Campbell, are charmingly pictured in an effort to fly with a kite, successful as it happens. Virgina Weidler is particularly cute in this sequence. The two boys, childfully in love with her, are Donald O'Connor and Billy Cook, also playing themselves very naturally and effectively.
Action progresses through various stages of Wellman's aviation cavalcade down to the last, when MacMurray, leaving his wife (Louise Campbell) and baby for the Sino-Jap war, takes the final count and Milland, disappointed suitor but faithful friend, steps in to take his place at home. Milland plays his part with fine restraint, understanding and poise. The reckless but fairly likeable character of the flier who can't stay down, done to a crisp by MacMurray, is reminiscient of Gable in 'Test Pilot,' which also contains the wife angle. Andy Devine is around as a mechanic and friend for comedy purposes, while for additoinal risibility there is the team of Porter Hall, small-town editor, and Lynne Overman, his chief of staff. Hall is excellent in his assignment. Kitty Kelly is disposed of early, but she's very good in the footage in which she figures.
Miss Campbell, who screens exceptionally well, is a romantic find for pictures. She's youthful, speaks her lines well, has a lot of bridled charm and from all the signs, should go far. Miss Campbell has been playing in 'B' product for Par.
Wellman directed as well as produced. A world war flyer himself, among his hits was 'Wings,' which was distinguished for dog-fighting in the air. His sequence in 'Men With Wings' dealing with that phase, is a photographic standout. Other scenes dealing with flights, tests, the race between a bomber and pursuit planes, etc. are equally awe-inspiring. The camera crew was headed by W. Howard Greene who rates a big palm.
The Technicolor tinting is along pastel lines, avoiding sharpness in contrast of hues as much as possible. Shots of action in the air, of landscapes, mountains, fields, etc., are prismatically superb. Char