Howard Hawks’s 1930 “The Dawn Patrol” has been missing in action for several years, but now it’s back in an excellent new edition from Warner Archive. Hawks’s earliest surviving sound film has been remasterd using an original release print (in place of the familiar TV version, retitled “Flight Commander” to avoid confusion with the Edmund Goulding-Errol Flynn remake of 1938) and the soundtrack has been rerecorded from the original Vitaphone discs, returning much of the crispness and clarity that’s been lost through several generations of duped optical tracks.
It’s easy to imagine the ever-competitive Hawks beings prompted by the stagey Goulding remake to tackle his own reinterpretation of the material, “. . . Only Angels Have Wings,” in 1939 — a film that also gave him the opportunity to offer some work to his original star, Richard Barthelmess, whose career had been sidelined by bungled plastic surgery). It’s possible to prefer “Only Angels” for the sexual and romantic tension added by the presence of two female cast members (Jean Arthur and a young Rita Hayworth, in the role that lifted her out of B movies at Columbia), but the 1930 “Dawn Patrol” has an unrelenting, pre-code grimness that puts it in a class by itself.
My New York Times review is here, along with an account of Flicker Alley’s superb Blu-ray presentation of Marcel L’Herbier’s 1926 rendition of Luigi Pirandello’s often-filmed “The Late Mathias Pascal.” L’Herbier’s direction is not as stylish as it would be in more self-consciously avant-garde efforts like “L’Inhumaine” (1924) and “L’Argent” (1928), but the film does offer a rare look at one of the legendary stars of European silent film, the Russian emigre Ivan Mozzhukhin, as well as the spectacle of a foppish, baby-faced Michel Simon in one of his earliest film appearances.