Directors: Stuart Walker and Mitchell Leisen
Genre(s): Drama, War
Runtime: 73 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Made in the same vein as All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), this film does to the air war what that movie did to the fighting on the ground. During World War I, two squabbling Allied airmen – Jerry Young (Fredric March) and Henry Crocker (Cary Grant) – find themselves serving in the same aircraft, with the former slowly losing his sanity amidst the costly nature of war. It may star Cary Grant, but this is no lightweight comedy.
The Eagle and the Hawk is a military aviation picture that tries to be just as bleak, if not bleaker, than the aforementioned All Quiet on the Western Front, which has certainly gone down in history as the more famous feature. It was made during the Great Depression, when anti-war and isolationist sentiment was at an all-time high, and this movie reflects that. This is a flick devoid of romance, both of the idealized-representation-of-the-past type and the lovey-dovey type (although Fredric March’s character does briefly romance a character played by Carole Lombard who’s simply referred to as “The Beautiful Lady” in the credits).
When it comes to combat, this work does an adequate job showing the stressful, intense nature of aerial warfare. The special effects are fine, although there is no fighting on the ground. Fredric March is being driven mad by constantly having to take other lives to stay alive, while Cary Grant shows off more of his killer side than some might expect. One scene has him gunning down a parachuting German balloon observer trying to escape from some stock footage from Wings (1927).
The Eagle and the Hawk was released during the Pre-Code era of Hollywood, prior to the enforcement of the Production Code, and this film doesn’t have many “goodies” associated with movies from that time period, other than its unusually grim tone and ending. I wouldn’t describe it as a “fun movie,” but it’s still an engaging, never-boring flick with a bitter disposition. Those interested in World War I cinema should watch it.
My rating is 7 outta 10.