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Only Angels Have Wings

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 1
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 0



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 5,334

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Movie Info

Virtually a textbook example of Howard Hawks' "macho" mode, Only Angels Have Wings takes place high in the Peruvian Andes. Cary Grant heads a ramshackle airmail and freight service, forced to fly in the most perilous of weather conditions to the most treacherous of destinations. Facing death on a near-hourly basis, Grant and his flyers have adopted a casual, all-in-day's-work attitude towards mortality. If a pilot cracks up and dies, it's simply because he didn't have what it took, and that's

Aug 31, 1999

Sony Pictures Entertainment

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All Critics (15) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (0) | DVD (4)

It's a fairly good melodrama, nothing more.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Perfection that defies scrutiny.

January 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy | Comment (1)
Antagony & Ecstasy

Cary Grant, one of cinema's greatest actors, gives maybe his finest performance here. (It's hard to say, there are dozens.)

May 6, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

[Grant's] relationship with the female interloper is more dry eyed and cynical than the film's sentimental male bonding.

February 17, 2006 Full Review Source:

Though everything about it is improbable, it still makes for an immensely entertaining magical film.

July 11, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

One of the subline action movies of the era, with Grant in a John Wayne-like role, matched by Jean Arthur

January 31, 2004
Atlantic City Weekly

A bizarre and gorgeous film to say the least, this masterwork (based on a story fragment written by Hawks in 1938 titled Plane from Barranca) embodies a fantastic range of opposite states of mind and being.

October 3, 2003 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Possibly Hawks' best film -- a bold statement.

August 11, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) is a quintessential adventure-aviation film with drama, dark fatalism, suspense and romance that is stocked with true-to-life sequences,

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films
Tim Dirks' The Greatest Films

Audience Reviews for Only Angels Have Wings

It's a film about adventure and romance, but what we really have here is a study on the nature of death by director Howard Hawks. A lone adventuress (Jean Arthur) steps off the boat in a tiny South American banana port, and makes quick friends with some lonely american pilots working for the local mail company. It's a friendship that ends all too suddenly and all too violently. But where she would shed tears for a soul lost to dust, his fellow pilots choose to sing songs and even laugh it off, as death could come for any one of them at any time. The dashing head of the crew (Cary Grant) is perhaps the most cavalier of the group, but then, he has to be, as he's the one who sends them out (possibly to their deaths). She's attracted to him, and he to her, not as some flighty dame, but as a real woman who knows how to value life. But it becomes her task to convince him that she won't try to change him like his last love (Rita Hayworth) did, and he must make the effort to want something, to want her, for more than a passing fancy. He, who never owns so much as a book of matches, feeling it's too much of a commitment. In the face of the constant threat of death, maybe this all seems unimportant, or maybe it's the only thing that IS important. Maybe that's the heart of the matter, the issue of what this life is all about and what are we doing here and why are we doing it.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie, a pilot is going on "one last flight", and it's one he must make alone. It's the elephant in the room, the fact that everyone knows, but no one wants to say aloud. That we all must one day die, and that we will die alone. The light will die within us and the mystery of death will finally be revealed. It may be wrong to fixate on our ultimate fate, but it's more wrongful still to deny that fate completely. Only Angels Have Wings is a microcosm of all our own little lives put together. We push forward and persevere in our work and loves in spite of our own mortality, because to do otherwise would be to negate our whole existence in the first place.
April 10, 2013
Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

Great little drama packed full of twists and great characters.
January 2, 2011

Super Reviewer

This is probably my favourite Cary Grant movie of the thirties. Jean Arthur, another favourite actor, stars alongside him in this. The movie combines adventure, drama, romance, and a bit of comedy. I loved this movie, and I highly recommend it.
September 19, 2010

Super Reviewer

*sigh* This is proof not all Cary Grant movies are good. The acting was great, of course, but the story was just severely lacking. Just at no point was I really intrigued or concerned by the characters. I'm not sure where all these positive reviews come from, but to each their own I guess. Bit of a sweet ending.
May 23, 2010
Jennifer D

Super Reviewer

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