The Dawn Patrol (1938)


THE DAWN PATROL —-“Man is a savage animal, who, periodically to relieve his nervous tension, tries to destroy himself”.  A 1938 remake of Howard Hawk’s 1930 epic, this story of a squadron of British pilots in WW1 is basically an anti-war plea mixed with rousing action: coming out as it did a few months before WW2 kicked in a lot of younger viewers forgot the futility & butchery angle and reveled in the glory & camaraderie.

Dated, it’s nonetheless a quite well acted picture, with effective moments of comedy and drama from pals Errol Flynn and David Niven, their real-life friendship shining through their scenes together.


Good action from the Do-or-Die school, with much of the flying footage lifted from the previous version and spliced in. Directed by Edmund Goulding, at 103 minutes, with Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper, Barry Fitzgerald and Carl Esmond.

The director’s biographer noted “Everyone remembered a set filled with fraternal good cheer…The picture was made to the accompaniment of more ribbing than Hollywood has ever witnessed.”  Fine lot of chaps, wot?


Rathbone had been in action in WW1 and was decorated for bravery.  Flynn & Niven were too young for that ‘show’, but when the next calamity arrived Niven signed up.  Flynn was excused due to myriad health problems, and ‘fought’ the Axis in films.

This outing came in #17 for its year, buzzing $5,250,000.  Errol was having a banner 1938, with this hit following The Sisters and Fours A Crowd after a royal start via his career-high success The Adventures Of Robin Hood.

Dawn Partol.sized

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