Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Wings of the Navy (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

WINGS OF THE NAVY (1939) is an enjoyable film about the training of Navy pilots just prior to the start of World War II. It's a new release from the Warner Archive.

Cass (George Brent) and his kid brother Jerry (John Payne) are both in the Navy, as their father was before them. Jerry is stationed on a sub but dreams of being a Navy flyer like Cass; Cass tries to squelch Jerry's dream, as he's worried Jerry might make dangerous mistakes attempting to live up to his brother's reputation. Eventually, however, Jerry gets his transfer and begins training as a Navy pilot.

The brothers are also in competition for lovely Irene (Olivia de Havilland), who is in a serious relationship with Cass but falls for Jerry soon after meeting him.

This is a relatively simple plot but the film is pure gold for those who love aviation movies as I do. The training sequences are well-presented and interesting; I especially loved the look inside the big seaplane Jerry learns to pilot. It was also interesting watching the men in bathing suits who push the planes into the water.

It was rather poignant that a number of pilots take off for a new station in Honolulu at the end of the movie, as the viewer knows what will happen in Hawaii just two years later.

The cast is wonderful, starting with Brent and de Havilland, who had previously worked together on GOLD IS WHERE YOU FIND IT (1938); they would later costar in IN THIS OUR LIFE (1942). They are both charming, and it's easy to imagine any girl being torn between Brent and Payne.

Payne was very handsome in his Warner Bros. days early in his career, and he and de Havilland make a very attractive couple. Soon Payne would move over to 20th Century-Fox and become a much bigger star.

The deep cast has many wonderful faces, beginning with one of my favorites, longtime Warner Bros. stalwart John Ridgely; a decade before appearing as an officer in the Warner Bros. Navy film TASK FORCE (1949), which I recently reviewed, he appears here as a young pilot in training.

Frank McHugh overdoes the comedy a bit, although much of that can be blamed on the screenplay, but his character calms down by the end. Victor Jory, Donald Briggs, and John Gallaudet are all excellent as Navy instructors; Regis Toomey's role as an instructor is so brief that if you blink you might miss him!

The cast also includes Henry O'Neill, John Litel, Jonathan Hale, and Alberto Morin.

WINGS OF THE NAVY was directed by Lloyd Bacon and filmed by Arthur Edeson. The screenplay was by Michael Fessier. The film runs 89 minutes.

WINGS OF THE NAVY is a nice print, and the DVD includes the trailer.

This film was just released by the Warner Archive as part of a "wave" of Olivia de Havilland movies. Look for more de Havilland DVD reviews coming soon!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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