Wings for the Eagle

Wings for the Eagle (aka Shadow of Their Wings) is a 1942 American drama film directed by Lloyd Bacon and written by Byron Morgan, B. Harrison Orkow and Richard Macaulay.[2] The film stars Ann Sheridan, Dennis Morgan, Jack Carson and George Tobias. Wings for the Eagle was released by Warner Bros. on July 18, 1942.[3]

Wings for the Eagle
Directed byLloyd Bacon
Produced byRobert Lord
Screenplay byByron Morgan
B. Harrison Orkow
Richard Macaulay
StarringAnn Sheridan
Dennis Morgan
Jack Carson
George Tobias
Music byFriedrich Hollaender
CinematographyTony Gaudio
Edited byOwen Marks
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • July 18, 1942 (1942-07-18)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1 million (US rentals)[1]

Wings for the Eagle had the following dedication in the credits: " 'Wings for the Eagle' is the dramatic, deeply human story of the people of the production lines. All their toil and tears and hard-won joy are in this mightily moving picture. We are deeply grateful to the War Department, to Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and to all the men and women of Lockheed for their help in making this picture. Behind sentry-barred gates much of it was filmed, without the loss of a single production hour on Lockheed P-38s and Hudsons." [4]


In 1940, Corky Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Gil Borden (Don DeFore) come to Burbank, California, looking for jobs. They get work at the Lockheed aircraft factory. Although the United States is still neutral, the country is frantically gearing up for war, and Lockheed is producing fighters and bombers. As he has little money before his first paycheck, Corky stays with his friend Brad Maple (Jack Carson) and his wife Roma (Ann Sheridan) (whom he tried to pick up earlier before he knew who she was). Brad is unemployed, even though factory jobs are plentiful, because he thinks they are beneath him. This strains the marriage.

At work, Corky befriends Jake Hanso (George Tobias) and his son Pete (Russell Arms). Pete is studying to become a military pilot. Corky rents a room from Jake after Brad becomes jealous of him. Later, Jake is let go because he is not an American citizen, enraging Pete. However, Jake and Corky calm him down, and Pete is accepted into the United States Army Air Corps as originally planned. Jake opens a diner. Later, he becomes a citizen and goes back to work building aircraft.

Meanwhile, Roma leaves Brad. Corky, though sheer persistence, manages to get her to go out with him. Brad finally swallows his pride and gets a job at the Lockheed factory. This pleases Roma, who also now works at the factory, but not enough to take him back. This leads to an uneasy romantic triangle. In the end, Corky arranges for Roma and Brad to get back together.

When the Japanese launch a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Pete reports back to base and is shipped out.

For the 2000th aircraft produced, a Lockheed Hudson bomber, the factory holds a ceremony. The company president singles out Jake, who played a major part in speeding up production tremendously. However, Jake has just received a telegram informing him that Pete was killed in action in the Philippines. He asks Corky, who has himself enlisted, to shoot down a couple of Japanese aircraft for Pete. Corky promises to do so. While Corky is flying a Hudson, his turret gunner shoots down two attacking Japanese fighters.



Wings for the Eagle, originally titled Shadow of Their Wings was partly set in Burbank, California near the Lockheed Corporation which had built a production facility where 45 buildings spread out over 550 acres. Warner Bros. received permission to shoot at the Lockheed plant, but, for security reasons, the film crew and actors were instructed to keep a birth certificate on them at all times. The original casting had Ronald Reagan co-starring with Dennis Morgan but he was replaced by Morgan and Jack Carson became the "sidekick".[4]

Warner Bros. advertised the connection with Lockheed in a full-page ad in Life magazine, dedicating the film, "to the workers who actually build Wings for the Eagle. To the workers of America's Fighting aircraft industry ... men and women devoted to the new gospel "We can! We must! We Will!" [4][N 1]

Wings for the Eagle was churned out quickly between January 12–February 1942 at both the Lockheed plant and the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company in Buffalo, New York, using a near-documentary film style. At the conclusion of the production, Sheridan, Morgan and Carson go on war bond tours together. Later, best friends Morgan and Carson would visit hospitals and camps throughout the South Pacific during the war.[4]


Film reviewer Theodore Strauss (T.S.) of The New York Times said, "Out of the drama of our roaring airplane assembly lines Warners has made a rather substantial and satisfying film. Wings for the Eagle. now at the Strand, doesn't have the tight construction of its planes and it lacks some of the flaring excitement of films devoted mainly to scenes of air combat. But in the less spectacular job of making the war birds, emphasized by the urgent tempo of stamp presses and drills and cranes as the ribbed crates become sleek and perfect, it has taken some of the drama of battling planes out of the air and onto the ground. And because Warners' writers have the knack of taking dialogue out of a dinner jacket and putting it to work in overalls their smudged assembly line fighters act and talk like the ordinary folk they are supposed to be."[5]

Aviation film historian Stephen Pendo in Aviation in the Cinema (1985) described how Wings for the Eagle benefitted from its association with Lockheed, especially being able to photograph the ceremony highlighting the rollout of the 2,000th aircraft produced for the war effort. An interesting anecdote involved "Billy Curtis, a midget, who showed one way of solving a fuselage construction problem."[6]



  1. Despite Lockheed factory staff working in close proximity with the Warner Bros. operation, not one day of aircraft production was lost.[4]


  1. "101 pix gross in millions" Variety, January 6, 1943, p. 58.
  2. Beck 2016, p. 219.
  3. "Overview: 'Wings for the Eagle' (1942).', October 28, 2014. Retrieved: June 23, 2019.
  4. LaBianco, Lorraine. "Articles: 'Wings for the Eagle' (1942)." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: June 23, 2019.
  5. Strauss, Theodore (T.S.). "The screen in review: 'Wings for the Eagle,' Warner's film drama of the men who build the giant Bombers, is arrival at Strand Theatre.", August 1, 1942. Retrieved: June 23, 2019.
  6. Pendo 1985, p. 200.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2016. ISBN 9-781476-663494.
  • Paris, Michael. From the Wright Brothers to Top Gun: Aviation, Nationalism, and Popular Cinema. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-7190-4074-0.
  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.
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