The Wings of Eagles

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Wings of Eagles
Wings of Eagles 1957.jpg
Directed by John Ford
Produced by Charles Schnee
Screenplay by Frank Fenton
William Wister Haines
Based on We Plaster the Japs
1944 in American Magazine 
by Frank Wead
Starring John Wayne
Dan Dailey
Maureen O'Hara
Ward Bond
Ken Curtis
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by Gene Ruggiero
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
February 22, 1957
Running time
110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2,644,000[1]
Box office $3,650,00[1][2]

The Wings of Eagles is a 1957 Metrocolor film starring John Wayne, based on the true story of Frank "Spig" Wead and the history of U.S. 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.

The supporting cast features Dan Dailey, Maureen O'Hara, Ward Bond, and Ken Curtis. This film was the third of five in which Wayne and O'Hara appeared together; others were Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), McLintock! (1963) and Big Jake (1971).


Soon after World War I is over, "Spig" Wead (John Wayne), 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 ("I'm gonna move that toe"). 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.

Director John Ford is himself represented in the film, in the humorously-named character of film director John Dodge, played by another Ford favorite, Ward Bond.


Historical inaccuracies[edit]

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.

Box office[edit]

MGM reported that the film earned $2.3 million in the U.S. and Canada, and $1,350,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $804,000.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Domestic take - see "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30

External links[edit]