film shop, london n16 logo

Only Angels Have Wings

Only Angels Have Wings
Film Format: 
Hawks, Howard
United States
Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Bartelmass, Rita hayworth, Thomas Mitchell
Film Reviews: 

Honest and profound hokum may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I can’t think of a better way to describe Howard Hawks’ unlikely yet beautiful and thrilling masterpiece (1939) about daredevil pilots in a remote South American port who risk their lives delivering the mail across a threatening mountain pass. The sense of void and impending, meaningless death that surrounds and encloses all the banter, braggadocio, and risk-taking makes this seem like the most existential of Hawks’ adventures. Cary Grant--once described by Dave Kehr in this film as “the high priest of some Sartrean temple”--is the group’s fatherly boss, Thomas Mitchell his best friend, Jean Arthur the showgirl who sticks around because of her love-struck devotion, and Sig Ruman plays Dutchy, the uncle type who runs the bar connected to the small airport. The uncannily expressive silent star Richard Barthelmess plays the returning pilot who once caused the death of a copilot due to cowardice, and Rita Hayworth plays his newlywed wife, an old flame of Grant’s. The precise sense of ethics governing all the interactions between this motley crew is as striking as the artificiality of the settings. [Jonathan Rosenbaum, DVD Beaver]

Date Arrival: 
10 February 1999