Men with Wings (1938)

  |  Action, Drama, War


Men with Wings (1938) Poster

Plot #1 is the love triangle between two guys and one girl as they grow into adults and affiliate themselves in the new aircraft industry. Plot #2 is aircraft evolution from the days of Wilbur and Orville Wright to just prior to WWII.


6.3/10
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1 May 2008 | bkoganbing
8
| William Wellman's Lifelong Love Of Aviation
I was surprised to see Edna Ferber not listed as an inspiration for Men With Wings. It has the scope and background of one of her novels, in fact in some aspects it's like an airborne Cimarron.

Men With Wings is the story of aviation from the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk where Walter Abel is covering the event right up to 1938 and the threat of a second World War looming ahead. It's seen through the eyes of three fictional people who become a love triangle. Billy Cook, Donald O'Connor and Virginia Weidler grow up to be Ray Milland, Fred MacMurray and Louise Campbell.

Milland is the smart one, he goes to MIT and becomes an airplane designer. MacMurray is the adventurous one, he grows up to be an air ace in World War I. But MacMurray is a fly by the seat of your pants pilot who's not real comfortable with new technology. But the progress of aviation is not all these two have a disagreement over.

Louise is Walter Abel's daughter and she's grown up in aviation and has had it for good and evil. As boys Cook and O'Connor send her aloft in a big kite and Abel becomes a believer in flight after seeing the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk. She marries one of the leads and the other steps gracefully aside.

The comparison to Cimarron bears attention with MacMurray whose character is definitely modeled on Ferber's Yancey Cravat from Cimarron. It's also modeled in real life on Eddie Rickenbacker who became an airline president after his World War I service. Of course Rickenbacker was not as technology resistant as MacMurray.

Aviation buffs will love Men With Wings. It's done in early technicolor and by dint of that director William Wellman improved on his Academy Award winning Wings. The aerial footage is some of the best ever done and it's done with a loving hand. Just about everyone knows of William Wellman's lifelong love of aviation, acquired since his service in the Lafayette Escadrille in World War I.

I wish Men With Wings were shown more often. I certainly hope it's a candidate for restoration as the print I saw, the color was pretty washed out. For aviation buffs everywhere.

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