Only Angels Have Wings review – a likable, garrulous Cary Grant romance

This 1939 Howard Hawks rerelease is an effervescent and entertaining one about a rackety air-freight company in South America

There’s drama, intrigue, laughter and thrills in this rereleased 1939 movie directed by Howard Hawks. It is an eccentric and entertaining movie soap-opera about a rackety airfreight company in South America, whose daredevil pilots risk life and limb getting the mail and other commodities back and forth across the Andes. Cary Grant plays the airline manager Geoff Carter, wearing an bizarrely exotic white outfit with broad-brimmed hat. Jean Arthur plays showgirl Bonnie Lee, a spirited gal who finds herself stranded with Carter and his employees on a stopover, where she becomes entranced by the boys’ soldierly swagger. Richard Barthelmess is a pilot with a terrible secret, whose wife (Rita Hayworth) just happens to be Carter’s ex-fiancee: a twist whose essential outrageousness is cheerfully taken as read. It’s a garrulous, effervescent movie – not my favourite Hawks picture, but very likable all the same. The vision of a tough but idealistic American abroad looks a little like Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca, and that romantic pilot on the brink of eternity may put you in mind of the beginning of Michael Powell’s A Matter of Life and Death. It takes wing.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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