Give Us Wings

Give Us Wings (1940) is a Universal comedic film starring the Dead End Kids and the Little Tough Guys. The film starred several actors from both "The Little Tough Guys" and "The Dead End Kids" series, and was the last film in those series. Several members of the casts of those series were also featured in "The East Side Kids" films.[1]

Give Us Wings
Directed byCharles Lamont
Produced byKen Goldsmith (associate producer)
Written byArthur T. Horman (screenplay)
Robert Lee Johnson (screenplay)
Eliot Gibbons (story)
StarringBilly Halop
Huntz Hall
Gabriel Dell
Bernard Punsly
Bobby Jordan
Shemp Howard
Music byCharles Previn (musical director)
H.J. Salter (conductor)
Frank Skinner (composer: stock music)
Paul Van Loan (composer: stock music)
CinematographyJohn Boyle
Edited byFrank Gross
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • December 20, 1940 (1940-12-20)
Running time
62 minutes
CountryUnited States

In the years before World War II, the United States government encouraged Hollywood studios to produce films that would encourage youth to join the resurgent armed forces, especially the U.S. Army Air Corps. Give Us Wings joined 20,000 Men a Year (1939), I Wanted Wings (1941), Flying Cadets (1941) and others of that genre, as a patriotic "flag-waver".[2]


Tom (Billy Halop), Pig (Huntz Hall), String (Gabriel Dell), Ape (Bernard Punsly) and Rap (Bobby Jordan), collectively known as "The Dead End Kids", are learning to become aeronautical mechanics in the National Youth Administration Work Program plant. The Kids really want to fly and think they have learned enough to become pilots.

Their dreams of flight will not come true because the Civil Aeronautics Authority flight school requires them to have completed high school, something none of them have achieved. Seeking out a flight school, the Kids go to work for unscrupulous crop dusting operator Arnold Carter (Victor Jory). Quickly realizing that pilot training is unlikely, Carter's manager, Mr. York (Wallace Ford) puts them to work as mechanics.

Carter's aircraft are old and his only pilot, "Tex" Austin (Milburn Stone) feels that the boys are far too inexperienced to fly, but Carter is desperate to keep the crop dusting operation going, and after Tex crashes, the boys are forced to take over. York finally agrees that the boys, except for Rap who is terrified of flying after witnessing the Tex's crash, can fly, and they take to the air.

Aware of the dangers of its tall groves of trees, York refuses to dust a particular field but Carter convinces Rap to do the job. While flying over the trees, Rap crashes to his death. Losing his nerve, Carter tries to make a getaway in an aircraft, but Tom follows in another craft and forces him to earth with a dose of dust. He is met by the other boys, who turn him over to the authorities.


The Dead End Kids

[N 1]

The Little Tough Guys

Additional cast


Give Us Wings was based on Eliot Gibbon's story, "Men of Dust". [1] Principal photography on Give Us Wings began in late August 1940.[3] The film was one of the last of the prewar aviation films in which the Associated Motion Picture Pilots Association was involved.[2]


Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo, in Aviation in the Cinema (1985) noted Give Us Wings was a comedy vehicle for two noted film comedy teams with a heavy reliance on slapstick antics.[4]

The contemporary film review of Give Us Wings by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times, noted, "'Give Us Wings' is not a good, or even a passable, entertainment; in fact, it is so bad that it often is quite amusing. That may sound like a contradiction, but we'll wager audiences will find themselves in the embarrassing position of laughing involuntary at the lunatic doings."[5]

Aviation film historian James M. Farmer in Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1984), had a similar reaction, saying that Give Us Wings (was) "A terrible film even by Dead End standards."[6]



  1. After completing this film, Bobby Jordan left the Universal Dead End Kids/Little Tough Guys series, and signed on to Monogram Pictures to costar with fellow Dead End Kid Leo Gorcey in the East Side Kids series. Jordan would return to Universal to replace Billy Halop in Keep 'Em Slugging, the final Dead End Kids film for Universal.[1]
  2. Although his character is referred to as "Buzz" throughout the film, the credits for this film state that Shemp Howard's character name was "Whitey".


  1. "Notes: 'Give Us Wings' (1040)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 2, 2019.
  2. Wynne 1987, p. 161.
  3. "Original print information: 'Give Us Wings' (1040)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: July 2, 2019.
  4. Pendo 1985, pp. 19–20.
  5. Crowther, Bosley. "The screen in review." The New York Times, November 21, 1940.
  6. Farmer 1984, p. 311.


  • Farmer, James H. Celluloid Wings: The Impact of Movies on Aviation (1st ed.). Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: TAB Books 1984. ISBN 978-0-83062-374-7.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
  • Wynne, H. Hugh. The Motion Picture Stunt Pilots and Hollywood's Classic Aviation Movies. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987. ISBN 978-0-93312-685-5.
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