WINGS OF THE NAVY is really not much more than a footnote, a curio rating mention due to the presence of Olivia De Havilland—in 1939, a few months before her coup in Gone With The Wind. Showing up during the same year supporting Errol Flynn again, in Dodge City and The Private Loves Of Elizabeth And Essex, the popular 23-year-old trouper also had to do Warner’s bidding in this forgotten item (plus Raffles—yawn).
As such, this is one of a slew of “get ready to fight!” flicks that started cropping up as it became clear Hitler wasn’t going away without a shove (better watch that Hawaiian backdoor, Uncle Sam) and the War Department enlisted Hollywood to drop the hint via commercials like Dive Bomber, Keep ‘Em Flying and Buck Privates.
Here, the Navy shows off its (quickly-to-be-obsolete) Grumman FC-3 biplane under the cover of a romance battle between brothers George Brent and John Payne for Olivia’s attentions. Brent, 35, was enjoying maybe his strongest year, shoring up The Rains Came, Dark Victory and The Old Maid, while Payne, 27, was busy getting the build-up treatment.
With work handed out to Frank McHugh, John Litel, John Ridgely, Victor Jory and Regis Toomey, the acting is decent, story pat, flying scenes nifty if dated into prehistory. Directed by Warner’s workhorse Lloyd Bacon, at 89 minutes, its tagline making subtle with “FOR ALL THE WORLD TO WITNESS AMERICA WILL NOT BE UNPREPARED!”