Showing posts with label George Brent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label George Brent. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wings of the Navy (1939)

Wings Of The Navy from Warner Bros.

Wings of the Navy (1939) shines a spotlight on U.S. naval aviation. This Warner Bros. film was directed by Lloyd Bacon and produced by Cosmopolitan Productions (a Hearst company). It stars George Brent as Cass Harrington. Cass and his younger brother Jerry (John Payne) have followed in their father's footsteps by pursuing careers in the Navy. Their rear admiral father, who recently passed away, has left them with the responsibility of carrying on the Harrington name in the Navy so that his legacy would continue. Pride, self-sacrifice and honor are all major themes in the story and the driving forces behind the actions of the various characters.

John Payne and George Brent in Wings of the Navy (1939)

Cass is an esteemed naval aviator with a reputation that has earned him respect and admiration among many of his colleagues. The younger Jerry is jealous of his older brother and seeks to surpass him. He abandoning his work with submarines and signs up to be a new naval aviation recruit, much to Cass' dismay.  Olivia de Havilland plays Irene Dale. With a father and a boyfriend (Cass) in the Navy, she's no stranger to the lifestyle. Jerry and Irene fall in love heightening Jerry's competitiveness towards his brother. What follows is a love triangle complicated by the dangers of aviation and the intricacies of a brotherly bond.

Olivia de Havilland and John Payne in Wings of the Navy (1939)

Providing some comic relief to this naval drama is Frank McHugh who plays Scat Allen. He's a farmer-turned-new-recruit who is blundering his way through the recruitment process. However, his character has the most personality and displays the most personal growth of all the characters. All of the other characterizations ultimately fall flat.

Frank McHugh in Wings of the Navy (1939)
The plot of Wings of the Navy (1939) is really secondary to the film's real purpose; to showcase the advancements in naval aviation and to entertain audiences with flying sequences both real and fake. Think of this film as a sandwich. You don't eat the sandwich for the bread, you eat it for the fillings. But without the bread it's not a sandwich. Without a plot Wings of the Navy wouldn't be a film. You need the plot to hold things together but really what you're after is the depiction of naval aviation.

As a story this film isn't very good. It's difficult not to compare Olivia de Havilland's very weak role as Irene Dale to her strong role as Melanie in Gone With the Wind which released the same year. Wings of the Navy was shot before Gone With the Wind but it's still a good example of how Warner Bros. didn't see de Havilland's true potential as an actress.

This film is worth watching especially if you are interested in military history. The planes and the aviation footage are the real stars of the movie. A New York Times review of the film reads:
"As a documentary study of the Pensacola Naval Air Training station, and its methods of turning raw recruits into seasoned pilots of combat and bombing planes, "Wings of the Navy" gets off the ground very nimbly, and has a good deal of value, interest and even excitement, of the purely mechanical sort, to offer to the curious."
Wings of the Navy was shot on location at the Pensacola and San Diego Naval Air Stations. The quality footage adds an authenticity to the film and gives it a lot of value as a historical piece.

The incredibly good looking cast of Wings of the Navy (1939). Olivia de Havilland, George Brent and John Payne.

Two of the characters head to Honolulu, Hawaii at the end of the film. I won't tell you which ones otherwise I'd spoil the ending. While Wings of the Navy is a WWII-era film, as of 1939 the United States was not yet involved with the war. However, in two years it would be when Japanese troops launched an attack on Pearl Harbor, Honolulu in 1941. After the film was over, I couldn't help wondering whether the two characters would have been victims or heroes of the Pearl Harbor attack or if they would have moved on to another base by then.

Wings of the Navy (1939) is available on DVD-MOD through Warner Archive . I usually feature Warner Archive movie reviews as part of my Warner Archive Wednesday feature. However, in honor of Veterans Day I'm posting this review early. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me a copy of Wings of the Navy (1939) to review.

Wings of the Navy marquee on the Hemet Theater in Hemet, CA circa 1939. Source

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Miss Pinkerton (1932)

Source: Cinemagraphe

Joan Blondell as Nurse Adams in Miss Pinkerton (1932). Nurse Adams is sick of the monotony of being a hospital nurse and is quite vocal about her discontent. But things are about to change for the bored nurse. She's given the exciting opportunity of working at the home of the well-known Mitchell family. The head nurse informs Nurse Adams that she'll also be assisting the police in a homicide case that happened at that same home. When she arrives, she finds herself in a situation that is a lot more than she bargained for. Her situation brings to mind the common saying: Be careful what you wish for because it might come true.

George Brent plays Police Inspector Patten who is continuously at the house investigating the suspicious death of the Mitchell family heir Herbert Wynn. He enlists Nurse Adams to help him look for clues and dubs her Miss Pinkerton, a reference to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. It's a reference that someone from 1932 would have gotten right away but a contemporary audience might scratch their head in confusion.

The film has a rather convoluted plot and there is quite a lot going on including murder disguised as suicide, insurance fraud, a secret marriage, affairs, poisoning, forgery, tricks and more. The film tries to spook audiences but in my opinion it falls flat and loses itself in its own plot. Even Joan Blondell couldn't save the movie for me. And I absolutely adore her and will watch just about any movie she's in. In Miss Pinkerton, Blondell's wide eyes grow even wider whenever she screams in fear. She does the frightened look well. But her character is in no way a victim even when she's put in various dangerous situations. She's sassy, clever and scrappy: the perfect detective. If I had to chose one thing I really liked about the film, it was Miss Pinkerton as a pre-code woman!


Nurse Adams/Miss Pinkerton and Inspector Patten (George Brent) have a romance which I thought could have been played up a bit more. The love story is rather neglected. It isn't given enough time to develop and because of that we don't really see any sparks between the two love birds. That whole plot line seems to have been added as after thought rather than an important part of the story.

It was nice to see actress Mary Doran in the film. She plays Florence Lenz, a gopher of one of the story's villains. Doran also played the other woman in one of my favorite pre-codes The Divorcee (1930). Also, Lyle Talbot has a bit part early on in  Miss Pinkerton as newspaper reporter.

Miss Pinkerton (1932) is one of five films in Warner Archive's Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume 5 DVD set. If you are a Pre-Code enthusiast, I recommend watching this film at least once to add to your repertoire.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I purchased Miss Pinkerton as part of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume 5.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dark Victory (1939)

Dark Victory (1939) is a tear-jerker to end all tear-jerkers. Judith Trahearne (Bette Davis) has been diagnosed with Glioma by Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent). Glioma is a type of brain tumor that when malignant almost certainly means a death sentence. It's pretty serious and we as the audience are full aware of this as we watch Judith deal with her impending death at the tender age of 23. This film showcases Bette Davis' talent as an actress. She's expressive, emotive, delivers dialogue well and her character is so believable that it seems only Bette Davis was meant for this role. In the role department, Humphrey Bogart didn't fare as well as George Brent or Geraldine Fitzgerald in this movie. Bogie plays Michael O'Leary (he again tries an accent, this time Irish and doesn't quite manage to get it right), Judith's resident stable man and horse trainer. He looks after her prize racing horse, tends to all the horses in the stable as though they were his children and coaches Judith in her equestrian pursuits. He appears in the beginning of the film, a couple of times throughout and towards the end but only has one notable scene towards the climax of the film when Judith is in utter despair. It's at this point Michael reveals his love (in my opinion it's only lust) for Judith and she in turn reveals her tragic fate. It's not the best role for Bogie but he did well with it. The role is definitely not as bad as Ronald Reagan's character Alec who is a perma-drunk party-goer who acts like a leech around Judith, filling her (and himself) up with drinks and only sticking around when the going gets fun. At least there is Ann King (Geraldine Fitzgerald) as the voice of sympathy and caring to balance things out. This really isn't Bogie's movie, it's Bette Davis'. It's a movie that almost didn't get made because Jack Warner didn't want to make it. Lucky for us, Bette Davis didn't take no for an answer.

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