The Wings of Eagles

John Ford's unfairly overlooked 1957 film is the biography of Frank “Spig” Wead, a World War I fighter pilot who was grounded by paralysis and went on to become a Hollywood screenwriter. (He wrote Hell's Angels for Howard Hughes and Air Mail for John Ford, among others.) John Wayne plays Wead, and the character, of course, becomes him, turning the film into a brave, memorable study of a man of action who suddenly finds himself unable to act. Maureen O'Hara, as Wead's wife, embodies the domestic virtues that frighten him even more than his disability. Ford directs with complete disdain for period detail—rightly, for it doesn't matter—designing his film instead around the growing stillness of Wead's life: it begins in frenzy and ends in tranquillity. And then there's Ward Bond, playing a crusty Hollywood director suggestively named “John Dodge”—with a shot of whiskey secreted in the cap of his walking stick. 110 min.

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