The Dawn Patrol (1930) is directed by Howard Hawks and stars Richard Barthelmess, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Neil Hamilton. It's an all-male cast which includes Frank McHugh in his debut role.
The year is 1915 and we are in the middle of WWI. The Dawn Patrol consists of Commanding Officer Major Brand (Neil Hamilton), two Aces Courtney (Richard Barthlelmess) and Scott (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and team of pilots and crew. Major Brand has to make some unpopular choices because of commands he receives from his higher ups. This causes tension between Brand and Courtney especially when new and relatively inexperienced recruits are added to missions full knowing that they may not come back from those missions alive. It's only until Brand is promoted and Courtney takes over his command that he realizes the stress Brand has been under. Courtney and Scott are best friends and their relationship is tested when Scott's younger brother is added to the patrol.
The Dawn Patrol is a sober study of the brutality of war, it's psychological effects on individuals and relationships between people. Grueling battles and losing their fellow pilots drives them to drink. Every night, they lose themselves in alcohol and music to numb the pain and to forget about the horrors they've faced that morning. While the film is looking back 15 years, it's still an interesting to watch for anyone interested in studying WWI.
I really wanted to enjoy this film but I found it awkward and a bit boring. I absolutely adore Richard Barthelmess and while he was not the best actor out there I will watch any film he is in regardless of what anyone says. That's how devoted I am to him! While I enjoyed watching Barthelmess, DF Jr. and Frank McHugh, I still couldn't bring myself to enjoy the film. It's one that could captivate an audience from its era with it's special effects and aerial footage. Director Howard Hawks was a WWI pilot so I feel like this would be a more accurate representation of the goings on at a WWI airbase. However, looking at it with modern eyes it does feel a bit dated.
I would recommend this film to WWI buffs or to war movie enthusiasts! The movie was remade in 1938 with the same name and with Errol Flynn as Courtney and David Niven as Scott. I would be curious to watch that to see if it's at all an improvement on the original.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received The Dawn Patrol (1930) from Warner Archive for review.