Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ The Dawn Patrol (1930)


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.

14 comments:

  1. I have never seen Richard Barthelmess out of silent films, so this would be why I'd give a chance to this movie. Oh, and knowing that there is a remake I'm more interested, since I love to compare the original and the remake!
    Kisses!

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    1. Le - If you have an opportunity, watch Richard Barthelmess in the talkie Cabin in the Cotton. He's paired with Bette Davis and it's quite a fun movie. She has that famous line "I'd kiss ya but I jus' washed ma hair". LOL!

      I'd love to see your post comparing the original and the remake. I saw you did that with Cat People, great idea!

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  2. i'm just like you Quele, i will watch Barthelmess in anything! he has a strange style of acting, very underplayed but somehow it works and he's in some damn good films too. it is def a creaky early talkie (Hawks' first actually) but the cast is great and i still find this much more enjoyable than some of those stale MGM early talkies.
    the Flynn version is nearly a scene for scene remake including re-using much arial footage! It is overall a better film imo and Flynn's performance is really excellent! :)

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    1. Paulie! Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad to hear you are a fellow Barthelmess fan. I guess what I like about him is that strange style of acting you mentioned. He's very quiet and understated but he doesn't blend into the background either. Also, he's obscure nowadays and I think he should be more remembered. I like supporting the underdog.

      Oh wow didn't know that the Flynn version used all that footage! I guess if that part ain't broke don't fix it. ha!

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    2. and in Jack Warner's case if it aint broke dont spend money on another one either, lol

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  3. I've seen the remake but have yet to see this one. I like Flynn and Niven but don't remember being in love with the 1938 film version.
    I'll have to check it out!
    Excellent review!

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    1. Hey Jessica - Thanks! I might watch the remake eventually but I'm not in any rush. I like both Flynn and Niven but I'm not sure if I'm ready to watch the story again. Was it really somber like the original?

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  4. I also prefer the remake. In almost every aspect I think it is the better film. Flynn's performance is great. And Donald Crisp gives the movie a much needed human touch that is missing in the original. But I still liked Hawks' film.

    The aerial footage of the bombing wasn't only reused in the remake but also later in "British Intelligence" (a 1940 spy movie with Boris Karloff, not worth viewing). I put a simple video on YouTube comparing these scene.

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    1. Hey Nicsopana - I haven't seen the remake so I can't say whether I would like it or not but I'll definitely check it out. I didn't know that about the aerial footage being also used in British Intelligence. Thanks for that info!

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  5. I have always enjoyed the remake. I particularly loved Basil Rathbone a Major Brand. (His glee at leaving Courtney to take his place, it's a wonderful scene.)

    I only just acquired this one and haven't seen it yet, so I can't compare, however.

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    1. The Daring Novelist - Oh yes that was a good scene in the 1930 version too. And that's so pivotal to the plot as you know things are definitely going to be shaken up with that change. Come back and tell me what you think of the original once you have seen it.

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  6. I can't believe I consider myself a classic film buff and yet I've never heard of Richard Barthelmess! I love Howard Hawks, though, and our local cult video outlet (luckily, they're hanging on!) has recently opened their own Warner Archive section, so I will have to check this out. Great review, Quelle! I love how you promote the idea that something can be considerably less than great and still totally worth watching.

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    1. i hope Quele doesnt mind my interjecting here but also be sure to see Hawks' classic "Only Angels Have Wings", it was one of Barthelmess' last films and is imo, one of Hawk's best! cheers! :D

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    2. Mark - Well now you know about Richard Barthelmess and knowing is half the battle! (gijoe). Have you watched many silent films? Barthelmess was a very popular silent film actor with some classics dating back into the 1910s! He was in some well-known D.W. Griffith silents including Broken Blossoms and Way Down East, two sob-fests costarring Lilian Gish. I wish Cabin in the Cotton, one of Barthelmess' talkies, was available on DVD. I would buy a copy and send it to you.

      Paulie - Interject away. I do love Only Angels Have Wings but it makes me sad because it's at the end of Barthelmess' career and the other really big actors in that film definitely over shadow him. But great movie nonetheless! Helped start the myth of the Judy Judy Judy line that everyone associates with Cary Grant.

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