The Wings of Eagles
|The Wings of Eagles|
1957 movie poster
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||Charles Schnee|
William Wister Haines
based on the book by
|Music by||Jeff Alexander|
|Editing by||Gene Ruggiero|
|Release date(s)||February 22, 1957|
|Running time||110 minutes|
|Box office||$2.25 million (US)|
The Wings of Eagles is a 1957 Metrocolor film starring John Wayne about Frank "Spig" Wead and US Naval aviation from its inception through World War II. The film is a tribute to Wead from his friend, director John Ford.
John Wayne plays naval aviator-turned-screenwriter Wead, who wrote the story or screenplay for such films as Hell Divers with Wallace Beery and Clark Gable, Ceiling Zero with James Cagney, and They Were Expendable with John Wayne.
Soon after World War I is over, "Spig" Wead, along with John Dale Price (Ken Curtis), tries to prove to the Navy the value of aviation in combat. To do this, Wead pushes the Navy to compete in racing and endurance competitions. Several races are against the US Army aviation team led by Captain Herbert Allen Hazard (based on Jimmy Doolittle – played by Kenneth Tobey).
Wead spends most of his time either flying or horsing around with his teammates, meaning that his wife Minnie, or "Min" (Maureen O'Hara), and children are ignored.
The night Wead is promoted to fighter squadron commander, he falls down a flight of stairs at home, breaks his neck and is paralyzed. When "Min" tries to console him he rejects her and the family. He will only let his Navy mates like "Jughead" Carson (Dan Dailey) and Price near him. "Jughead" visits the hospital almost daily to encourage Frank's rehabilitation. Carson also pushes "Spig" to get over his depression, try to walk, and start writing. Wead achieves some success in all three goals.
After great success in Hollywood, Wead returns to active sea duty with the Navy in World War II, developing the idea of smaller escort, or "jeep," carriers to augment the main aircraft carrier force. A heart attack sends Wead home before the war's end.
- John Wayne as Frank W. "Spig" Wead
- Dan Dailey as "Jughead" Carson
- Maureen O'Hara as Min Wead
- Ward Bond as John Dodge
- Ken Curtis as John Dale Price
- Edmund Lowe as Adm. Moffett
- Kenneth Tobey as Capt. Herbert Allen Hazard
- James Todd as Jack Travis
- Barry Kelley as Capt. Jock Clark
- Sig Ruman as Manager
- Henry O'Neill as Capt. Spear
- Willis Bouchey as Barton
- Dorothy Jordan as Rose Brentmann
- Tige Andrews as Arizona Pincus
Dramatic license allows for some historical inaccuracies in the film. One scene shows first the US Army around-the-world flight and then the US Navy winning the Schneider Cup. In fact the US Navy won the Schneider Cup in 1923 and the US Army embarked on the first aerial circumnavigation from March to September 1924.
Another scene shows a newsreel related to the sinking of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8), suggesting that she had been doomed by the hit of three kamikaze suicide planes. Although two aircraft did crash into her, she also received substantial damage by bombs and torpedoes before finally being sunk by Japanese destroyers. Additionally, the term "kamikaze" was not in use to describe suicide pilots at the time of Hornet's sinking.
See also 
- John Wayne filmography
- The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955), a similar film about the birth of US Army aviation
- "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
- Wikipedia article on the USS Hornet (CV-8)
- The Wings of Eagles at the Internet Movie Database
- The Wings of Eagles at AllRovi
- The Wings of Eagles at the TCM Movie Database
- Article at Turner Classic Movies website