The Wings of Eagles
The Wings of Eagles is a 1957 American Metrocolor film starring John Wayne, Dan Dailey and Maureen O'Hara, based on the life 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 (who died ten years earlier, in 1947, at the age of 52) from his friend, director John Ford, and was based on Wead's "We Plaster the Japs", published in a 1944 issue of The American Magazine.
|The Wings of Eagles|
|Directed by||John Ford|
|Produced by||Charles Schnee|
|Screenplay by||Frank Fenton and|
William Wister Haines
|Based on||the life and writings of Commander Frank W. "Spig" Wead|
|Music by||Jeff Alexander|
|Cinematography||Paul C. Vogel. A.S.C.|
|Edited by||Gene Ruggiero, A.C.E.|
|February 22, 1957|
John Wayne plays naval aviator-turned-screenwriter Wead, who wrote the story or screenplay for such films as Hell Divers (1931) with Wallace Beery and Clark Gable, Ceiling Zero (1936) with James Cagney, and the Oscar-nominated World War II drama They Were Expendable (1945) in which Wayne co-starred with Robert Montgomery.
The supporting cast features Ward Bond, Ken Curtis, Edmund Lowe and Kenneth Tobey. 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, Naval Aviator "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 General 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 which follow behind the main fleet as auxiliary strength to the main aircraft carrier force. He returns to active combat duty in the Pacific, witnessing first hand kamikaze attacks. The film's battle scenes, based around aircraft carriers, include real combat footage. Following a fifty-hour shift during combat operations, Wead has a heart attack and is retired home before the war ends. When he leaves the carrier he is serving in for the last time, he receives eight side boys in honor of his contributions to aviation—all of them Navy admirals or Army generals.
- John Wayne as Frank "Spig" Wead
- Dan Dailey as "Jughead" Carson
- Maureen O'Hara as Min Wead
- Ward Bond as John Dodge
- Ken Curtis as John Dale Price
[Price is credited as film's technical adviser]
- Edmund Lowe as Admiral Moffett
- Kenneth Tobey as Capt. Herbert Allen Hazard
- James Todd as Jack Travis
- Barry Kelley as Captain Clark
- Sig Ruman as Manager
- Henry O'Neill as Capt. Spear
- Willis Bouchey as Barton
- Dorothy Jordan as Rose Brentmann
- Mimi Gibson as daughter (uncredited)
- Evelyn Rudie as daughter (uncredited)
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.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Domestic take - see "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
- "'Rainmaker' 'Full Of Life', 'Wings Of Eagles' At Theaters" (Deseret News and Telegram, February 21, 1957, page 12A; photograph included)
- Ward, Henry. "Penn Film Stars John Wayne" (The Pittsburgh Press, March 4, 1957, page 6)
- "The Marquee: 'Wings of Eagles' Another Solid John Wayne Picture" (The Florence Times, April 23, 1957, section two, page seven; illustration included)
- "John Wayne Film Set For Capitol" (Deseret News and Telegram (February 16, 1957, page A7; photograph included)
- "Dell Four Color #790". Grand Comics Database.
- Dell Four Color #790 at the Comic Book DB (archived from the original)