Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Cary Grant plays Geoff “Pop” Carter and if you find yourself trying to stifle a giggle when you first see him and he’s decked out like some sort of jungle Indiana Jones with his wide brimmed hat, safari clothes, and six shooter strapped to his hip, don’t worry. It isn’t long before he slaps on his flying leathers and starts looking like the hard driving, risk taking, mail jockey whose hair is just as oiled up as the propeller on old #4 he truly is.

Pop is running the local airline and has to frequently remind Dutchy of this whenever Dutchy complains about Pop’s gruff, death-defying style. Dutchy actually owns the airline, but leaves the day to day stuff like romancing Jean Arthur to Pop.

Don’t think that Pop is one of those pencil pushers who sits around the office scouring invoices and stewardesses though. He’s the guy who’s always the first one to test out the new planes, the experimental equipment, and when does he fly a mission himself? When it’s too damn dangerous for anyone else! You think he’s tough just because of his leather jacket and his nickname?

It doesn’t matter whether he’s flying his plane unconscious after getting conked on the head when his cockpit windshield flies into his face or if he’s taking on the final, dramatic flight moments after being shot by his girlfriend!


Heck, it was just a shoulder wound. Sure, he’s got one bum wing, but that’s why God gave you two, right? Besides, he’s taking up Les who’s also only got one good arm. (He broke it during a fight with the pilot called Kid earlier.)

Pop’s job sounds like one that’s tailor made for empty romances with showgirls and the like, but it’s recent arrival Bonnie Lee who starts to melt the ice around his heart like one of the head mechanic’s welder’s torches.

With her platinum blonde hair, squeaky voice, and a dogged determination that rivals Pop’s, Bonnie is able to get under his skin, despite him being haunted by his ex-girlfriend!

His ex, Judy, got so that she couldn’t stand not knowing whether every time that Pop went off on his tricky runs through condor country, battling sudden fog banks, whipping winds, and snow storms straight out of Satan’s butt itself, if he’d come back.


That’s no way for a lady to have to live and one day when he did come back and she said she wished that he hadn’t because it would be easier to take than the not knowing every time, well, it was time to taxi on down that runway and lay in a course for some far away place where dames don’t break your heart like it was some drunken pilot’s arm in a rum-soaked bar fight.

Now Pop’s always borrowing matches from everyone and he explains that that’s just his way. He never lays in supplies or plans for tomorrow, but dang it, the ladies are always trying arrange and schedule everything and that just isn’t how he’s going to live his life.

Bonnie understands where Pop is coming from and decides to stay another week to see if their relationship has any future. There proves to be turbulence ahead though.

If Tomorrow Is Forever is that quintessential old movie melodrama full of secret pasts and unfulfilled longing, Only Angels Have Wings is the quintessential old movie action drama.


It’s all here: the big time stars, the exotic locale (well, it looked like they dressed up a soundstage to look exotic anyway), the hero drowning in manliness whose emotions can only be accessed by the plucky dame who won’t quit on him, the tragedy of losing good friends because they’re just too damn brave to know when to hang it up, and lots of model airplanes flying around a set that vaguely called to mind Monster Island.

Rita Hayworth as Judy seemed to occasionally forget what kind of movie she was in, delivering her lines in a breathless, husky way designed more for some kind of film noir set in a nightclub rather than a movie where Cary Grant stood around the radio room in his bomber jacket demanding to know the weather forecast from Tex. Pop is such a man’s man though that he dumps a couple of pitchers of water on her head to sober her up.

Normally, I might have a beef that Bonnie Lee vanished for a good portion of the action in the middle of the movie and that the whole thing between Pop and Judy seemed lukewarm, but Pop had so much going on with all the other crises, you can understand if romancing the ladies had to wait until those quieter moments right after some best friend bought it in a crash landing.

A testosterone-fueled tale made in simpler times when tough guys in leather named Pop and Kid could love each other, but still want to settle down with a gal.

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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