19 December 1999 | JHC3
A true gem, but not a happy film.
"The Eagle and the Hawk" follows the World War One exploits of three American volunteer airmen who are members of Britain's Royal Flying Corps (which was later to be renamed the Royal Air Force). After months of training, Jeremiah Young (March) and Mike Richards (Oakie) are transferred from England to an observer unit in France. The third airman, Henry Crocker (Grant), washes out and later becomes an aerial gunner.
The observer unit flies two-seat biplanes doing primarily reconnaissance work, but this does not stop Young from being a very successful pilot, downing two enemy aircraft on his first mission alone. His initial jubilation over this feat is crushed when he discovers that his observer has been killed. Though he continues to shoot down many German aircraft, he has the appalling luck of losing five observers in his first two months.
The film follows the career of this heroic pilot and his comrades, including Crocker who ultimately becomes his observer. As the weeks go by, Young becomes more and more guilt-ridden, not only over losing those who fly with him, but over the many young Germans he has slain.
"The Eagle and the Hawk" is a well-made, well-acted film with decent aerial footage and a wonderful, anguished performance by Fredric March. Though he might be overlooked, Forrester Harvey's character is rather thought-provoking. He plays an enlisted man who has the unenviable task of collecting the belongings of slain airmen for safekeeping. On Young's first day, he had to perform this task five times.
This film is truly a gem which presents a strong anti-war message, one which is particularly interesting considering the time it was made (1933 being the year that Hitler achieved power in Germany and the 1930s being the period of appeasement). Its ending has a pair of surprises which are well worth the price of admission. This is a film which is highly recommended for classic movie fans.