Other Angels, Other Wings

dawn patrol os small

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.

41 comments to Other Angels, Other Wings

  • Alex

    Howard Hawks seldom made film that wasn’t terrific and his 1930 “The Dawn Patrol” is hardly a exception, but am I the only one who –willing to forgive Goulding’s use of Hawks’s air footage– finds the ’38 remake more satisfying? Hardly as satisfying, of couse, as the deliriously enjoyable ONLY ANGELS — a major masterpiece if one don’t find its mega star glitze a tad too campy.

    Great News about availability of a new L’Herbier. (Just discovered availability of a 1921 l’Herbier called EL DORODO.)

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, you may not be the ONLY one, but I understand that in the Sight & Sound poll of Dave Kehr contributors, the Goulding DAWN PATROL came in at # 947.

  • Jonah Horwitz

    Dave, I don’t believe Mozzhukhin/Mosjoukine was a founder of Albatros (as you write in the NYT piece linked above). Albatros was founded and run by another Russian emigre, Alexandre Kamenka. It was essentially the heir to the Ermolieff studio. Mosjoukine was closely associated with both firms. Indeed, many Russians from the film industry (including Mosjoukine, but not I think Kamenka) arrived together in Paris via Yalta, where they had made a few films during a period when that city was in “White” hands during the Russian Civil War. I used to live less than a mile from the old Albatros studio in Montreuil.

    There is an incredibly impressive book on Albatros, written in French by François Albera and featuring an awesome number of stills, set photos, costume and set designs, posters, etc. It’s called “Albatros: des Russes à Paris 1919–1929.”

    The Cinémathèque Française had an Albatros retro not very long ago and created a website for the occasion: http://www.cinematheque.fr/expositions-virtuelles/albatros/index.htm

  • I have seen (and instantly fell in love with) Hawks’ The Dawn Patrol at Bologna 2011 (preservation by the Library of Congress), but browsing the festival catalogue I was very disappointed with Jean-Claude Missiaen’s remarks (1966): “As disappointing as it may seem, The Dawn Patrol is for Hawks what Daisy Kenyon was for Otto Preminger. [...] The Dawn Patrol is certainly an important work for understanding Hawksian themes (groups of men bound by manly friendship and danger), but it is also a film that is uneven in terms of expression”. Was the film so underrated back in the ’60s?!

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Alex, Hawks did make more than seldom films that were not at all terrific. Actually I would say that most of his films before the mid or late thirties are extremely un-terrific. I can’t remember when I first saw The Dawn Patrol, but I always felt it was definitly non-terrific. I’d rather watch Daisy Kenyon ten times (which I have done)than watch Dawn Patrol again once. But, Simone, French cinephilic tastes in the sixties were complex, bizarre and often mind-boggling. Never forget that The Searchers were dismissed in a three-line review by Cahiers du Cinema (the writer has never been clearly identified as far as I know, but his colleagues felt pretty much the way he did).

  • THE DAWN PATROL for me is Howard Hawks’s first masterpiece. There are aspects in it that are crude, yet there is a true spirit of danger and a sense of urgency, perhaps partly due to the fact that the director’s brother Kenneth had just died in a flying accident. I like the Edmund Goulding remake, as well. It is smoother, but perhaps the primitive quality and the rough edge in the Hawks original are strengths. I got to see the Goulding remake in our Howard Hawks retrospective because we did not know to request the original under the THE FLIGHT COMMANDER title at the time. THE DAWN PATROL is the first great Hawksian movie; only the Hawksian woman is missing.

    Marcel L’Herbier was a prolific director and a remarkable figure in film culture, but his most exciting period as a film artist was short. THE LATE MATHIAS PASCAL belongs to that period, and it’s great to learn about that superb blu-ray. EL DORADO and L’ARGENT are for me L’Herbier’s most durable masterpieces. Ivan Mosjoukine was at his best at the time. He had been great in Russia, and he was even greater in France. Seldom have there been world class stars as ambitious as he was, not only doing Pirandello but also directing avant-garde films, himself.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Antti’s comment sheds light on something I have wondered about since the early 80s: why the Goulding remake was shown at the big Hawks retrospective in Stockholm – the people responsible must have made the same mistake and ordered that one instead of THE FLIGHT COMMANDER. I still haven’t seen the Hawks original, so the new dvd is most welcome.

    Like most people (I guess) I count SCARFACE and 20TH CENTURY, which I have returned to many times, from the early 30s among Hawks’s best films. Haven’t seen the 1932 TIGER SHARK since the 80s, but I liked it very much then, and at least in my memory it’s a better film than the Walsh remake MANPOWER.

  • Robert Garrick

    Dave writes in The New York Times that “The Dawn Patrol” might have been Hawks’s answer to the much lighter “Wings” (1927). That’s certainly possible, but note that both films came from stories by John Monk Saunders, and Saunders wrote the screenplay for “Dawn Patrol.”

    Saunders was a major figure at the time–probably a more major figure than Howard Hawks. He’d been a Rhodes Scholar, an Air Service flight instructor during World War I, and in 1928 he married Fay Wray. He divorced Wray in 1939 and committed suicide in 1940, at the age of 42, after battling health problems.

    Saunders won an Oscar for his screenplay for “Dawn Patrol”–it was the only award won by the film. Hawks had done some massaging of Saunders’s work, adding dialogue and no doubt tweaking it in other ways.

    So how exactly did “The Dawn Patrol” come to bear the Hawks touch and feature many of his classical themes? Two of Hawks’s earlier films are lost, but the six that remain are minor. Was Hawks able to take a good Saunders screenplay and, through some subtle changes and strong direction turn it into a film characteristic of his work over the next 35 years? If so, it’s a major moment in the history of American cinema.

  • Barry Putterman

    Hawks fans will be interested to learn that A GIRL IN EVERY PORT is minor. Still, I came across a poster slide for a 1926 Fox Film called HONESTY – THE BEST POLICY, and on the poster it said “story by Howard Hawks.” So clearly he hadn’t come into his own by that point.

  • Junko Yasutani

    About THE DAWN PATROL, I have only seen bad print, but even from bad print I can see visual contrast between headquarters set and sky location that is thematic interest. Headquarters is confined and safe, sky is open and dangerous, freedom of flight is dangerous, obeying orders at headquarters is safe but it is not free. That is how I remember this movie from viewing many years ago.

  • Any decent DVD release of Girl In Every Port?

  • Alex

    jean-pierre coursodon.

    Yeah, I can see that the stretch of Hawks fils I view as mostly terriifc doesn’t actually start until “20th Century” or so. (Before that there are some pretty minor works like A GIRL IN EVERY PORT and others like the 1930s; from then until around “20th Century” the work is pretty variable,)

    Barry Putterman

    Nice try at parody, but content wise the 947 ranking of Goulding’s DP by DK Sight and Sound contributors looks very imprecise to me in light of DP-1930s IMDB ranking of 1697 on the one hand and Antti Alanen’s two cheers for the Gould DP on the other hand.) Fortunately, the IMDB ranking of Hawks’ DP at 9166 adds some perspective to your effort at precision,

  • patrick henry

    John Monk Saunders wrote a quite good novel, SINGLE LADY, about WWI U.S. airmen who stayed on in Paris through the twenties, drinking unceasingly, and a very eccentric young American women they “adopt.” It was filmed by William Dieterle as THE LAST FLIGHT (with script by Saunders). Barthelmess, Helen Chandler and Elliot Nugent are all outstanding. From seeing her in DRACULA you wouldn’t think Chandler was at all an interesting actress. She must’ve found the role (and Browning?) dull, so didn’t do much.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, you fail to factor in Hawks’ BABIP and Goulding’s LIPS which is why you can’t see the precision of those rankings. Better to stick with the bush leaguers on Imdb.

    Michael, none of Hawks’ silent films are available on commercial DVD as far as I know. Would that Fox has stayed the course and produced one of those massive boxes that would include both the Hawks and Walsh films. Ah well, you can always try to tell yourself that A GIRL IN EVERY PORT is a minor work anyway.

  • alex

    Barry,

    You’ve got me out over my head.

    I’ve not been so flumoxed since my son expained the Pastaferian ratonale for substituting rigatoni for rice at weddings — and refusing to choose between THE SHAWSHANK REBELLION and CITIZEN KANE.

  • Barry Putterman

    Alex, it all becomes perfectly clear, crystal clear if you simply listen to the Monkees’ “Headquarters” album backwards. As for SHAWSHANK vs. KANE, just keep in mind what the KANE poster tells us: “It’s Terrific!” Apparently unlike a number of Hawks films.

    Rigatoni, eh.

  • alex

    SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION as well.

  • “A Girl in Every Port” is a major Hawks film and stands out among the extant silent films. The Hawksian universe makes its appearance here with all the characteristic behavioral gestures and themes.

    With regard to “The Dawn Patrol” I’d like to see how it relates to “The Air Circus.”

  • Alex

    “A Girl in Every Port” certainly is both enjoyable and a major film in Hawks’s development.

    None of the films I know seem like masterpieces to me before SCARFACE. After that it’s masterpieces every few years, though in bunches (and mostly terrific movies in between):

    1934 Twentieth Century

    1938 Bringing Up Baby

    1939 Only Angels Have Wings
    1940 His Girl Friday
    1941 Sergeant York

    1944 To Have and Have Not
    1946 The Big Sleep
    1948 Red River

    1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

    1959 Rio Bravo

    1966 El Dorado

  • Foster Grimm

    I’ve just come from “Cradle Song” and “Zoo In Budapest”. Who knew 1933 was so raunchy?

    Anyway, from what I’ve read, the opinion on L’Herbier is that his work in the sound era is inferior to his silent work.
    I believe he felt the 30’s sound films were only work for hire, joining Mr. Hawks, Walsh, and a few others.
    I’ve only seen “Le Bonheur” (which I found amazing visually) and the bits of “L’Argent” and “La Nuit Fantastique” (both of which are fascinating)
    on You Tube.
    Has anyone seen other L’Herbier films to put things in perspective?

    Alex – No “Ball of Fire” for Hawks?

    Barry L – I got my hands on “A Way of Life Like No Other” – will start this weekend.

    Cheers

    Cheers

  • Robert Garrick

    Let’s talk for a moment about “A Girl in Every Port” (1928). It’s certainly not “minor” in the sense that it’s unimportant. The fact is that it’s surpassingly important. Henri Langlois said that it was “the first truly modern film.” It was a huge hit in America, and a hit and a cult favorite in France, and its financial success secured Hawks’s future as a director. It introduced Louise Brooks to the world, and it was full of sex–that’s one of the ways it was “modern.” Stripper Sally Rand was in it, and so was Myrna Loy. Brooks spent almost all of her time in the film wearing a bathing suit.

    The no-nonsense, clean Hawks style emerged with this film. It was after watching “A Girl in Every Port” that French critic Jean-George Auriol wrote (in the December 1928 issue of La Revue du Cinéma) of Hawks’s “simplifying style,” and that was meant as a compliment. Auriol was noticing the eye-level camera, though he also spoke of Hawks’s “violent cuts” and “seductive images.”

    Most importantly, the great Hawks themes began to appear with this film. You had two men, bonding through their professional relationship, competing in their search for women, and ultimately finding greater comfort in each other than in any single female. The preference for “action” over intellectual activity (cf “The Thing”) was also there. For Hawks scholars, the film is fascinating, and it’s fun to watch. I saw a 35mm print, years ago.

    So it was probably glib and flip and stupid of me to lump this film in with the other six extant pre-“Dawn Patrol” Hawks films and call them all “minor.” “A Girl in Every Port” is in another category.

    That said, I still think the film is relatively minor when viewed in the context of Hawks’s entire output. Robin Wood would agree: He found “A Girl in Every Port” hopelessly adolescent and unsatisfying because the resolution, “in which the characters remain arrested at an immature state of development,” is presented as a happy ending. Todd McCarthy, in his book on Hawks, thinks that Hawks would agree with Wood’s assessment, because the later Hawks films took a decidedly different view of male/female relations and of character development.

    Beyond this, Hawks’s skills as a filmmaker were not yet fully developed. Here we can cross-reference our recent discussion on the British Hitchcocks. You would expect a great director to hone his talents during the course of a career.

    There’s a “pull my finger” bit in “A Girl in Every Port” that is explained by Hawks to Joseph McBride in “Hawks on Hawks.” Hawks said: “You ever hit anybody hard? Your finger goes out of joint, and somebody takes it and pulls it back into joint. I hit Hemingway, and I broke the whole back of my hand. I wish it had just gone out of joint.”

    He was talking about Ernest Hemingway. Apparently Hemingway had to stay up the whole night, “laughing like hell” and making a splint out of a tomato can, so that Hawks could go shooting with him the next morning.

    The Hawks themes are in that story, too.

  • Robert Garrick

    Todd McCarthy, incidentally, spends a lot of time in his Hawks biography writing about the interplay between Hawks and John Monk Saunders in preparing the story and screenplay for “Dawn Patrol.”

    Basically, both men claimed to be primarily responsible for the material, but both men also acknowledged the other’s contribution.

    What really happened remains a mystery, but there’s no question that the resulting film bleeds Hawks through and through.

  • All the positive qualities of A GIRL IN EVERY PORT quoted above are certainly valid, but in my opinion a sense of gravity appears for the first time in a Howard Hawks film in THE DAWN PATROL. FAZIL is a special case.

  • Barry Lane

    Foster,

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop.

  • Barry Putterman

    Indeed, CRADLE SONG turned out to be a remarkably assured first feature, showing Leisen to be in full command of his architecture and moving camera style from the get go. And, it was shown in a fine 35 mm. print that one assumes came from the studio vault.

    It leads one to wonder what else might be rattling around down there in the dungeon that has never been shown only because nobody has ever requested to run it.

  • “I still think the film is relatively minor when viewed in the context of Hawks’s entire output.”

    With all of the (snipped) qualifications you so accurately summarized above Robert, I think that’s a fair assessment, but we can’t forget that “A Girl in Every Port” is the first milestone in Hawks’ career.

  • Alex

    Foster Grimm,

    I always though “Ball of Fire” was –excuse me– minor romantic comedy, though it’s lots of fun,

    If I were adding comdoies, I’d add MALE WAR BRIDE before FIRE.

  • “I always though “Ball of Fire” was –excuse me– minor romantic comedy, though it’s lots of fun,

    If I were adding comdoies, I’d add MALE WAR BRIDE before FIRE.”

    I agree, and I’ll add that Greg Toland’s photography does complement Hawks’ mise-en-scene.

  • Foster Grimm

    Doh! How could I forget MALE WAR BRIDE?

    No cheer here.

  • alex

    Now, MONKEY BUSINESS and BALL OF FIRE – that’s a close contest!

  • David D.

    Great review of Hawks’ The Dawn Patrol! I’m going to make sure to pick this one up when it comes out. The only store in Toronto that gets all of the new Warner Archives film (in small quantities, so you have to get them early) is Sunrise Records on Yonge str.

    I’ve been really getting into Hawks lately and I think that with John Ford and Hitchcock that he might be my favorite director. I like how those directors are able to express ideas about the times and themselves in a kind-of invisible style. Some of my favorite of his films include Rio Bravo, Land of the Pharaohs, Air Force, I Was a Male War Bride, Twentieth Century, The Thing, Only Angels Have Wings, Hatari. I recently picked up the Todd McCarthy bio which looks like a good read. The bfi anthology of Hawks pieces is really good as they translated a lot of pieces on him that were only available in French like the pieces by Auriol, Bazin, Douchet, Langlois among others.

    Hawks’ films seem as relevant today for being studies on groups and in terms of gender politics. One could probably trace a cinematic line between the cross-dressing romantic comedies War Bride, Some Like It Hot and Tootsie as great studies of relationships. And I like what Stanley Cavell says in Pursuits of Happiness about His Girl Friday, and the other comedy of remarriages, about their representation of women, and I think that it really applies to Hawks’ heroines:
    “The genre it projected, on my interpretation, can be said to require the creation of a new woman, or the new creation of a woman, something I describe as a new creation of the human. If the genre is as definitive of sounds comedy as I take it to be, and if the feature of the creation of the woman is as definitive of the genre as I take it to be, then this phase of the history of cinema is bound up with a phase in the history of the consciousness of women (…) Our films may be understood as parables of a phase of the development of consciousness at which the struggle is for the reciprocity or equality of consciousness between a woman and a man, a study of the conditions under which this fight for recognition (as Hegel put it) or demand for acknowledgment (as I have put it) is a struggle for mutual freedom, especially of the views each holds of the other.”

    So what are the neo-Hawks films? I would definitively say Spielberg’s Always is trying to be like Hawks with its aviation subject and the fast-paced dialogue. Bogdanovich’s “What’s Up, Doc?” really has the screwball feel to it (though maybe it is not Hawksian). Some people bring up Cameron Crowe and We Bought A Zoo, but I think that that movie is more Capraesque. And I think that Zero Dark Thirty is similar to some thing in Hawks as in it is an intimate studies of a group of professionals where the woman in it emerges as strong and determined.

  • jbryant

    David D: For neo-Hawks, see the ouevre of John Carpenter.

    I haven’t seen ALWAYS in a good while, but I guess I never thought of it in terms of Hawks, possibly because it’s a remake of Fleming’s A GUY NAMED JOE (which I like a lot). I also haven’t seen WHAT’S UP, DOC? in a while, but if it’s not “Hawksian,” it’s not for the want of trying. I’m pretty sure Bogdanovich was explicitly inspired by BRINGING UP BABY on that one.

  • alex

    Perhaps Don Siegel, a meticulous craftsman of action genre pieces done in a transparent style and centered on professional male protagonists, if not multicenterrred professional milieux, might be considered neo-Hawksian– even though his lack of romantic and comedic reach entails a far narrower range than Hawks ‘s.

  • Dan Sallitt’s “All the Ships at Sea” (2004) feels Hawksian. Not in story: it is utterly different from Hawks in subject matter. But somehow the storytelling, characters and structure have a Hawksian feel.
    ***
    Dawn Patrol is memorable, well made, a good film, but awfully grim.
    The characters keep cooperating with the awful war system of WWI. They probably feel they have no choice.
    Red River startles because the characters actual rebel against the repressive social system of the movie. I wasn’t expecting this at all!
    Rio Lobo is another Hawks film about people in revolt.
    ***
    With Richard Barthelmess as the star, and Fairbanks and Neil Hamilton in support, Dawn Patrol is full of silent film actors, in the new age of the talkies. And its subject and screenwriter recall Wings, as people here point out – also a silent film landmark.
    ***
    I always thought Bogdanovich’s “What’s Up, Doc?” is hilarious. It is an endearing film.
    This is the opposite of “Up the River” (Ford), filled with actors imported from the Broadway stage, like Spencer Tracy and Bogart.

  • alex

    Review of any L ‘Herbier is happy occasion to alert cinephiles to the astounding performances, exhilerating visual virtuosity (of camera, sets and overall mis-en-scene) and acute narrative and socioeconomic intelligence of L’ARGENT.

  • My neo-Hawksian favourite: THE RIGHT STUFF.

  • alex

    Antti Alanen,

    RIGHT STUFF seems right on –at least so far as script goes. However, by your logic what heist, robbery-gang, bomber flight-team or combst-squad movie would not be neo-Hawksian?

  • David D.

    I think that there is something neo-Hawksian about Hayao Miyazaki’s Porco Rosso. It seems more about the characters and there is the whole aviation connection. As well the one woman who runs the restaurant in that film is very similar to the woman in Red Line 7000 whose husband dies and she opens a restaurant.

    Thanks jbryant, yeah, the work of Carpenter is really inspired by Hawks. I love Assault on Precint 13 and the Snake Plissken films (the recent Schwarzenegger film The Last Stand also seems really inspired by Rio Bravo). I really want to listen to Carpenter’s audio commentary on Rio Bravo. That has been on my to do list for a while now. Has anyone listened to it? Is it any good? I have fond memories of listening to Carpenter’s dvd commentaries, and the making-of The Thing is just great.

    I think that one of the turning points, for me, regarding Hawks is hearing the Godard anecdote about how he was inspired by the story of how Hawks described Rio Bravo to John Wayne as not being about a “story” but just about people. Apparently this modernist film approach inspired Alphaville.

    For a while Quentin Tarantino was really going into the Hawksian direction. Movies like Reservoir Dogs, his episode in Four Rooms, Death Proof seem really inspired by characters just playing a version of themselves and lengthy sequences of dialogue. QT would also talk about Hawks and Rio Bravo (he praises the Robin Wood book on him, too). But what I think is interesting about his last two films is that he seems to be changing his aesthetics from Hawks to Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, he says is his new favorite film). And the suspense sequences in Django and Inglorious seem under this sway with their extended confrontations that explode in moments of violence.

  • jbryant

    David D: You can also see a Leone influence in parts of Tarantino’s KILL BILL VOL. 2.

  • Gregg Rickman

    It would be hard to think of two directors more different than Hawks and Leone! I guess Renoir and Hitchcock… although I do recall a Film Comment essay circa 1972 entitled “A Man Can Serve Two Masters,” praising Truffaut’s influence by both.

    So I guess that makes Tarantino our homegrown Truffaut, and his Redondo Beach video store our Cinematheque Francais. As it happens I have visited both locales, but both institutions were shuttered when I stopped by.

    I did think of Hawks while watching George Clooney’s turgid IDES OF MARCH. What this film needs, I thought, is a Hawks who’ll recognize that this triangle (politician/aide/worker) should be played as a comedy.

    Dan Sallitt’s new film, UNSPEAKABLE ACT, together with a career retro, is at Anthology Film Archives Feb 28-Mar 8. Some long-delayed recognition of a distinct (and Hawksian) voice.

  • alex

    A WALK IN THE SUN, THE WARRIORS, Soderbergh ‘s OCEAN ‘S ELEVEN.