Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Hawk and/or the Eagle

Some time back I DVRed a double feature of World War I airplane movies off of TCM. I already blogged about Hell's Angels; the other movie was The Eagle and the Hawk.

Jerry (Fredric March) and Henry (Cary Grant) are a pair of trainees in the British air corps, or whatever it was called before the RAF. On one of their training flights together, Henry crash-lands their plane, much to Jerry's consternation. The result is that when the rota is prepared for the next round of reconnaissance flights, Jerry is one of the pilots, but Henry's name is nowhere to be found. Henry blames Jerry for this. Anyhow, Jerry flies his first mission, and it's successful, except that as part of the dogfighting with a German airplane, Jerry's observer (the man with his eyes to the ground doing the actual reconnaissance work) gets hit and during a loop-de-loop, falls out of the plane to his death. Jerry is none too pleased about it.

Jerry keeps flying missions, and he keeps having the terrible luck of losing observers, to the point that he loses five in two months. Attrition among the air corps is so high that pretty much any available hand is brought it, and that eventually means that Henry is back with the reconnaissance team. And he gets paired with Jerry, something which makes neither of them happy.

To be honest, I found The Eagle and the Hawk to be less of an action movie and a bit closer to a character study of two men who are turned cynical by the violence of war. Fredric March, unsurprisingly, is excellent in his role, as he had had more than enough opportunities over the course of his career to play men with hardened hearts. Grant, on the other hand, is usually remembered for much lighter fare, so it's easy to forget that he had a couple of hard-boiled men like his Henry. This is one of the movies that shows just how good of an actor Cary Grant was.

Adding to the cast is Jack Oakie as another pilot whose role in the movie is to provide the lighter moments. Carole Lombard gets fourth billing although she only has a few scenes when Jerry has leave in London. Even thouse scenes are well-handled, as Jerry has to face a kid who wants to see one of those pilots that people back home are putting on a pedestal. Jerry knows he's no hero.

The Eagle and the Hawk is available at the TCM shop both as a standalone, and in a couple of box sets.

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