Monday, April 21, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Wings for the Eagle (1942)

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE is an interesting slice of early WWII and Southern California aviation history, depicting the contributions of Lockheed Aircraft workers to the war effort.

From a dramatic point of view, a love triangle among factory employees Dennis Morgan, Ann Sheridan, and Jack Carson meanders, and Morgan's character, who had initially hoped to ride out the war employed in an "essential industry," changes his mind about military service quite quickly. George Tobias is touching as a supervisor who's a naturalized citizen with a son in the Air Force. These are thin storylines on which is hung a bigger theme, the importance of aircraft production for the war effort.

As a reflection of its times and an example of a film made to support the war effort, the movie is well worth seeing, though far from the best of Hollywood's morale-boosting war films. Scenes such as the installation of anti-aircraft guns and camouflage at Lockheed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor were of great interest to me, as I grew up hearing stories about what it was like when nearby McDonnell Douglas was camouflaged in WWII. (My grandmother kept a copy of the Long Beach Press-Telegram about the California coast being shelled by the Japanese, a bit of history which some people have forgotten.) The film was released in July 1942, so it was obviously put together fairly quickly.

A "REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR" banner hanging in the factory particularly caused me to contrast this film with Hollywood's lack of support for our current war effort, something I also pondered last year when I watched a couple of WWII shorts. As a pair of Japanese planes were shot down and blew up near the end of this film, I thought back to last year's post, when I wrote, "These movies could not and would not be made today, when too many people are afraid of giving offense. You just know that today some timid P.C. types would claim that in insulting those who would kill us, we'd be driving them to hate us even more and inciting them to greater violence."

Although IMDb says that the movie was filmed on location at Lockheed in Burbank, most or all of that filming appears to have been second-unit footage which was mostly used in very obvious back projections.

This black and white film was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It runs 84 minutes.

WINGS FOR THE EAGLE has not had a DVD or video release. It can be seen on cable on Turner Classic Movies.

The trailer can be seen here.

October 2018 Update: WINGS FOR THE EAGLE is coming out on DVD from the Warner Archive. My review of the DVD may be found here.


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