The Wings of Eagles

Even the lesser films from director John Ford have a warmth of character and a respect for human frailty that’s rarely seen anywhere else. A good example is The Wings of Eagles, Ford’s sentimental tribute to Frank “Sig” Wead. An ace pilot in World War I, Wead turned to screenwriting after a fall left him partially paralyzed. He went on to write the script for They Were Expendable (1945), one of the best films about World War II.

While the first half of The Wings of Eagles suffers from occasional outbreaks of not-so-subtle physical comedy, on the whole, the movie is well worth watching. In this case, Ford may have been too close to the material. As he explains in a 1964 interview with Peter Bogdanovich:

I tried to tell the story as truthfully as possible, and everything in the picture was true. The fight in the club — throwing the cake — actually happened; I can verify that as an eye witness — I ducked it. I thought it was funny when they all fell into the pool; that actually happened — they ran like hell through the kitchen and all landed in the pool. And the plane landing in the swimming pool — right in the middle of the Admiral’s tea — that really happened.

Watch for Ward Bond who plays a gruff Hollywood director who looks, dresses, and acts suspiciously like John Ford. The giveaway to the joke is the fictional director’s name: John Dodge.

The Wings of Eagles
(1957; directed by John Ford; cable & dvd)
Warner Home Video
List Price: $12.98

Sunday, June 19 at 10:00 p.m. eastern on Turner Classic Movies