Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Only Angels Have Wings

- only Angels Have Wings [the way the title appears on the print] / Vain enkeleillä on siivet / Eroi senza gloria / Gli avventurieri dell’aria. US © 1939 Columbia Pictures. D: Howard Hawks. SC: Howard Hawks, Jules Furthman, Howard Hawks (non accred.), William Rankin (non accred.), Eleanore Griffin (non accred.); DP: Joseph Walker; ED: Viola Lawrence; PD: Lionel Banks; Co.: Robert Kalloch; Eff. spec.: Roy Davidson; Op.: Elmer Dyer; M: Dimitri Tiomkin; Cast: Cary Grant (Jeff Carter), Jean Arthur (Bonnie Lee), Richard Barthelmess (Kilgallon alias Bat MacPherson), Rita Hayworth (Judy MacPherson), Thomas Mitchell (Kid Dabb), Noah Beery Jr. (Joe Souther), Allyn Joslyn (Les Peters), Sig Ruman (Dutchy), Victor Kilian (Sparks), John Carroll (Gent Shelton), Donald “Red” Barry (Tex Gordon), Melissa Sierra (Lily), Lucio Villegas (dr. Lagorio), Pat Flaherty (Mike), Pedro Regas (Pancho), Pat West (Baldy), Forbes Murray; P: Howard Hawks; Pri. pro.: 25 maggio 1939. 35 mm. 121’. B&w. English version. From: Sony Columbia. Tuesday, 28 June 2011 at 14.30, Cinema Arlecchino (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato).

Catalogue: "Only Angels Have Wings is the first Hawks film in which the visual concept is completely unrealistic. More so than in Barbary Coast, the sets and the lights are set off by a stylization and dramatic effect that accentuate the use of mist and the succinct signs of an artificial exoticism. The clever use of model airplanes reinforces this artificial appearance. This panoply does not hinder the viewer’s enjoyment. It creates an architecture that, like a comic, hints at an underlying imaginary structure and reveals truth. This choice of representation reminds us how much Hawks abhors naturalism. If he tends towards a documentary quality, he does so to better avoid mimicking reality. Nature is hostile in his films both thematically and conceptually. And that he can create human beings does not soften his opinion. He believes it would generate characters who are too weak: the suicidal “heroes” of The Road to Glory, the professor in Bringing Up Baby, Johnny Lovo in Scarface and, in Only Angels Have Wings, the funeral speech for the dead pilot is summed up in these words: “He wasn’t strong enough.” Nature can also create sick tyrants and psychopaths: Tony Camonte in Scarface, Pancho Villa in Viva Villa, Chamalis in Barbary Coast and, in a different way, Barney in Come and Get It. These characters can never communicate directly with nature. They need accessories produced by civilization to deal with an enterprise of this kind. They need mechanical objects: cars, airplanes, ships, machine guns. Used like prostheses, they replace what nature did not give them or took away, like the hook of the character in Tiger Shark." (Noël Simsolo: Howard Hawks, Edilig, Paris, 1984.

AA: Revisited the first fully Hawksian film, with Jules Furthman's contribution essential, the first of the core Hawks-Furthman trio (Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, Rio Bravo). I have usually been seeing a low contrast print of this film. Now for the first time I saw a brilliant print on screen. Another great achievement from Sony Columbia.

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