Only Angels Have Wings

Screening on Film
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess.
US, 1939, 16mm, black & white, 121 min.

Based in part on the director's own aviation experiences in Latin America, Only Angels Have Wings remains, according to critic Andrew Sarris, "the most romantic film of Hawks's career." The story takes place in an obscure Andean outpost serviced by a small commercial airline, which must maintain regular service in order to win a lucrative contract. Cary Grant plays the operations manager, who seems always to be scrounging a light for his ubiquitous cigarette. Through this small gesture, Hawks reveals the nature of social interaction in the microcosmic community he has created among the flyers-both the heroes and the failures-and the women who love and betray them (Jean Arthur as a stranded showgirl, Rita Hayworth before she was a star). As in his best work, Hawks deploys the genre's action elements as a foil for the emotional turmoil that becomes the real test of character.

Part of film series

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: Directors E–J

Other film series with this film

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The Complete Howard Hawks