The Wings Of Eagles, part of the John Ford / John Wayne Collection from Warner Brothers, is the film biography of Navy flyer and screenwriter Frank "Spig" Wead. This war movie of sorts is also famous for Ward Bond's role of John Dodge, a clear reference to director John Ford. The Wings Of Eagles opens with one of the funniest flying scenes in film history (featuring a Grumman J2F Duck) and features the kind of airplane stunts that would make the envy of the Blue Eagles. The opening scenes also include a few funny bits of slapstick comedy.
The Wings Of Eagles is told in a series of flashbacks telling the adventures of Spig Wead from his first days at Annapolis to his glory days as a pilot, the accident that changed his life, and the resolve that made him a successful Hollywood screenwriter. John Wayne plays the title role in one of the few performances where he brings very fallible qualities to a bigger than life character. A weak point in Wayne's performance is the scene right after he falls down the stairs and breaks his neck though, to his credit, the writing here is amateurish so he probably did what he could. The same can be said about the scene where the Spigs break up.
Another interesting change of pace here is Maureen O'Hara as Wead's wife. This woman is definitely not a stand by your man kind of woman. She would also not win any mother of the year award. In many ways, The Wings Of Eagles is a quite a departure for its time. The Wead marriage is shown as quite shaky from the start and the daughters are probably the first latchkey kids on film.
A lot of the writing in The Wings Of Eagles goes for the laugh and is usually successful at it. What is really interesting in this movie is watching John Wayne playing comedy at the beginning of the movie. Turns out the greatest cowboy movie actor around was pretty good at the double-take and playing for laughs. A series of very funny scenes involve Carson helping the John Wayne character in his physical rehab by getting him to move that toe and a series of doctors come in and sneak some booze in for him. This is also the part where John Wayne really shines as an actor, especially since he is lying on his stomach and you rarely see his face. The balance between drama and humor is sometimes a bit awkward but overall this biographical movie does down smoothly.
The Wings Of Eagles is part of the John Ford / John Wayne Collection. Interestingly, this DVD box set includes They Were Expendable, a movie written by Frank Spig Wead.
Other John Ford Reviews
They Were Expendable: Classic war movie by John Ford starring John Wayne
The Long Voyage Home: Classic sea-faring movie by John Ford with John Wayne
John Wayne - John Ford Film Collection: The ultimate collection of John Wayne and John Ford in one boxed set.
Stagecoach: A great western movie classic.
Fort Apache: A classic cavalry movie starring Henry Fonda
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon: Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack.
The Searchers: Simply one of the finest old style western movies John Wayne ever appeared in.
3 Godfathers: Three outlaws on the run discover a dying woman and her baby. They swear to bring the infant to safety across the desert, even at the risk of their own lives.