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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Guess Who's Not Coming to Dinner

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) on IMDb air mail plane

Plot Overview

glassIn Barranca, a South American port of call, the air mail goes out on schedule and so do the pilots. A freighter leaves at 4:00 a.m. with bananas and the odd passenger. In the mean­time passenger Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) from Brooklyn is tooling around the dock and gets picked up by two Americans John and Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) They repair to a hotel bar owned by Dutchy (Sig Rumann) who also owns the local air trans­port company. “One of you has to fly the mail tonight,” he tells them. The manager Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) announces on the P.A., “Joe Souther, you're up next.” Joe has already ordered their steaks, but word from the 14,000 ft. pass is that it's open, so he has to take off right away.

He's not going to make it back in time to enjoy his steak with the pretty young lady. Not unless the pass gets socked in again and he has to turn right around. In that case he can make it back, but if Barranca is socked in as well, then he'll just have to circle waiting for it to clear. Geoff will insist Joe holds. “Mr. Wise Guy” might have other ideas.

There's the dinner, there's the music, and there's the glamorous flyboys. Bonnie finds herself falling in love with one of them before her ship sails (“Say, things happen awfully fast around here.”) Maybe it's reciprocated, and maybe her flyboy has been burnt before by a girl who couldn't stand waiting for bad news. At any rate there's pressure on these boys to fulfill their quota to land a needed contract to preserve their jobs and way of life. Females play second fiddle to their true love of flying. A lot can happen before the next boat leaves.


The Book of Ecclesiasticus, a.k.a. The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach, is one of the Wisdom books of the Apocrypha. Though it's not canonical, Protestants may read the Wisdom books for edification, and it's part of the Catholic Bible. Some of its sayings seem applicable here. (Sirach 7:33) “A gift hath grace in the sight of every man living; and for the dead detain it not.” Might as well some­one eat that steak; it's not going to do the guy who ordered it any good.

(Sirach 7:34) “Fail not to be with them that weep, and mourn with them that mourn.”

Geoff Carter: “And he's been dead about 20 minutes, and all the weeping and wailing in the world won't make him any deader 20 years from now. If you feel like bawling, how do you think we feel?”

Bonnie Lee: “Oh, I'm sorry—”

Geoff Carter: “Oh, come on. Go outside and walk around … and stay there until you put all that together!”

(Sirach 7:35) “Be not slow to visit the sick: for that shall make thee to be beloved.” Geoff assigned a new pilot in a Pilgrim 100B to make the risky pickup of an injured son of a big mining man from a plateau that's dicey to land on.

(Sirach 7:36) “Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember the end, and thou shalt never do amiss.” Geoff had to consider the big picture, to continue known risky flights in order to secure the contract that they needed.

(Sirach 9:4) “Use not much the company of a woman that is a singer, lest thou be taken with her attempts.” Geoff wisely kept his distance from show girls.

(Sirach 9:5) “Gaze not on a maid, that thou fall not by those things that are precious in her.”

Bonnie Lee: “Well, what are you lookin' at? What's the matter with me?”

Joe Souther: “Nothing. Oh, you're sure easy on the eyes.”

(Sirach 9:6) “Give not thy soul unto harlots, that thou lose not thine inheritance.” Camp groupies were looking to score.

(Sirach 9:7) “Look not round about thee in the streets of the city, neither wander thou in the solitary place thereof.” Bonnie's initial excursion around the dock area left her vulnerable until she ran into the two Americans.

(Sirach 9:8) “Turn away thine eye from a beautiful woman, and look not upon another's beauty; for many have been deceived by the beauty of a woman; for here­with love is kindled as a fire.” Geoff had to resist the beauties that clung to him like raindrops.

(Sirach 9:9) “Sit not at all with another man's wife, nor sit down with her in thine arms, and spend not thy money with her at the wine; lest thine heart incline unto her, and so through thy desire thou fall into destruction.” Geoff had a history with one lovely who is now married.

(Sirach 9:10) “Forsake not an old friend; for the new is not comparable to him: a new friend is as new wine; when it is old, thou shalt drink it with pleasure.” Geoff has been friends with Kid Dabb (Thomas Mitchell) for donkey years.

(Sirach 9:13) “Keep thee far from the man that hath power to kill; so shalt thou not doubt the fear of death: and if thou come unto him, make no fault, lest he take away thy life presently: remember that thou goest in the midst of snares, and that thou walkest upon the battlements of the city.” It was dicey between the new flyer Bat Kilgallen (Richard Barthelmess) and gun-toting Kid Dabb who held him responsible for his brother's death.

(Sirach 9:14) “As near as thou canst, guess at thy neighbour, and consult with the wise.” Geoff needed both input from his men and an ability to make shrewd evaluations of them.

Production Values

“Only Angels Have Wings” was directed by Howard Hawks, known for “Scarface” and other assorted flicks. The screen­play was written by Jules Furthman. It stars Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Thomas Mitchell, and Rita Hay­worth. The cast was top-notch. This film is not rated. There was a music score by Dimitri Tiomkin and some vaude­ville type piano playing. It featured excellent cinema­tog­raphy with interesting aerial scenes in all kinds of weather. The pacing is swift and the timing spot-on. Hawks is a master of movie mechanics.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

A lot of people liked this film, but it's hard to say why. I think it's because it appeals on multiple levels. It would be hard to miss with this one no matter what your viewing tastes. It would make a low risk date movie so long as she wasn't dealing with air crash trauma.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suitability for children: Not rated, pre-code. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.