I Wanted Wings

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I Wanted Wings
Film poster
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Written by Eleanore Griffin story
Sig Herzig writer
Beirne Lay, Jr. book, screenplay
Richard Maibaum writer
Frank Wead story
Starring Ray Milland
William Holden
Veronica Lake
Music by Victor Young
Cinematography Leo Tover
Edited by Hugh Bennett
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)
  • March 26, 1941 (1941-03-26)
Running time 135 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I Wanted Wings is a 1941 American drama film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Ray Milland and William Holden. It also stars Wayne Morris, Brian Donlevy, Constance Moore and Veronica Lake. Production began in the summer of 1940 at Randolph Field near San Antonio, Texas. The United States Army Air Corps provided 1160 airplanes, 1050 cadets, 450 officers and instructors and 2543 enlisted men for the film. The premiere was held at Randolph Field.[1]

The film is notable for containing Veronica Lake's first major film role. It is frequently said that she stole every scene she was in and her career took off shortly after. The same year, she was put into leading roles starting with her part in Sullivan's Travels. Lake would become one of the most popular and successful actresses of the early 1940s.


After an air raid simulation in Los Angeles, involving eighteen bombers, one of them goes down into the desert on its way back to base. Mysteriously, the dead body of a woman is found in the wreck.

The pilot, Jefferson Young III, is accused of having an unauthorized passenger on board the plane and charged accordingly for disobeying orders. Before the court martial decides on a ruling, they review Jeff's military background and history.

Jeff was the son of a wealthy New York businessman who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. At basic training in Texas he met his friends Tom Cassidy, former football hero, and Al Ludlow, a garage mechanic.

Jeff and Al get to be close friends, and support each other through the training. He meets a girl named Sally Vaughn, unaware that she used to be Al's sweetheart, and she decides to try and catch the heir, although he is already in love with another woman, a photographer by the name of Carolyn Bartlett.

Sally sees her chance when Carolyn is out of town, and Jeff is drunk after one of his buddies has perished in the flames after a crash. Fortunately, Al comes between and pulls Jeff away from Sally. After this, Jeff continues to court Carolyn.

Soon Al is made senior cadet captain, but during a training at another airfield, Tom crashes his plane while performing a daredevil stunt. Tom and Al is discharged from the corps, taking the blame for what happened.

It turns out Jeff has secretly continued seeing Sally, after she threatened to destroy his career by revealing their relationship to everyone else. Now she claims to be pregnant with his child.

Al steps in and marries Sally, partly because he loves her, partly to save Jeff's career. However, Carolyn finds out about Jeff's deceit and leaves him. He graduates from flight school some time after.

After six months of marriage, Sally tells Al that she lied about being pregnant, and he tells her he knew all along. Upset and believing that Al never loved her, Sally leaves Al and runs away. One day when Jeff is about to go up in the air to participate in a war game training, he meets Al, who is appointed crew chief on the plane. When their old mentor Commander Mercer finds out about Al, he starts working to get him back as a pilot.

All of a sudden, Sally turns up, begging Al for help. She claims to be wanted for murder. Al gives her money to go to Los Angeles. Before she can leave the hangar, other flight officers enter the building, and afraid to be caught Sally hides out inside the cargo bay of the bomber. She is still there when the plane takes off.

When the games are completed, Mercer asks Jeff to test a new set of emergency flares. Al goes to fetch them in the cargo bay and discovers Sally. As they argue a flare is ignited by accident. It blows before they can get it out of the plane through the bomb bay doors.

Mercer is burnt badly and falls into the open sky. Using a parachute, Al jumps after him and rescues him. Jeff manages to land the plane in the dark desert to pick up his crew members. When he tries to take off again, he accidentally crashes the plane and Sally dies in the crash.

When Al has appeared at the stand in the court martial and told the full story, Jeff is cleared of all charges. He reunites with Carolyn and Al is reinstated as a bomber pilot in training. Mercer eventually fully recovers.[2]



This was the film where during rehearsal Veronica Lake's hair fell over her eye, leading to the famous hairstyle that helped make her a star.[3]


The film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects (Farciot Edouart, Gordon Jennings, Louis Mesenkop) at the 14th Academy Awards.[4]


  1. ^ Thompson, Frank. Texas Hollywood: Filmmaking in San Antonio Since 1910. San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Company, 2002. pp 36.
  2. ^ http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/78892/I-Wanted-Wings/
  3. ^ Veronica Lake, Ex-Actress, Dies By Martin Weil Washington Post Staff Writer. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] 08 July 1973: C8.
  4. ^ "The 14th Academy Awards (1942) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2013-06-21. 

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