THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK flew down the memory hole after it came out in 1933, when it got good reviews and did decent business, landing on 34th spot for the year. Released to TV in 1959, it’s all but unknown today, even with famous faces in the cast.
World War 1: three American volunteers join the Royal Flying Corps and fly dangerous reconnaissance missions over France. The high casualty rate and ultimate futility hardens and disillusions them. Drinking and medals are the only solace and reward for what they endure.
Directed by Stuart Walker (Werewolf of London), it’s stagy and creaks with age. Save one, the performances are dated and the brisk, simple action scenes are fortified with clips from preceding airwar epics Wings and The Dawn Patrol. Two aspects give it some interest and a third earns it respect and a look.
People weren’t clamoring for conflict when this was made, and the tone and message is definitely anti-war. Starring are Fredric March, Cary Grant, Jack Oakie and Carole Lombard. The popular Oakie does his usual hearty-pal comic stuff, which is a matter of patience as the style has gone by. Lombard has a brief scene, with some big close-ups, playing an aggressive party-goer (possibly a prostitute), one of six pictures the 29-year old riser appeared in that year. Also 29 and likewise scoring six for ’33 is second-billed Cary Grant, playing a rash and caustic jerk who has to learn lessons the hard way. Like his character, the actor was still in the learning curve at this point.
“I’m a chauffeur for a graveyard, driving men to their deaths day after day.” By far the best thing in the 68-minute item is the fine work from Fredric March. A handsome 35, flush from his first Oscar win for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a big hit Roman epic The Sign Of The Cross, March’s excellent, restrained, heartfelt performance as the ‘hero’ who can’t take any more ‘heroism’ still packs power and is the main reason to seek out this oldie. The wrap-up is a bleak and surprising shocker.
With Sir Guy Standing (a stiffo, but ya gotta love that name). Written by Seton I. Miller and Bogart Rogers, from a story by John Monk Saunders, a former flight instructor who specialized in sagas about fatalistic men risking all aloft, pitting perilous crates against advancing odds, with skill and luck between glory and the grave.