The Dawn Patrol (1930)

The Dawn Patrol (1930), directed by Howard Hawks.

WW1 was still recent history in the late 1920s-early 30s and several famous directors did treatments of a favorite theme, the heroic fighter pilot: Wings (1927) (William A. Wellman), Hell's Angels (1930) (Howard Hughes).

The Dawn Patrol must be close the center of the emerging mythology of that scene:

Howard Hawks had been a barnstormer before the War and then a flight trainer during it. He knew planes and how to stage the action scenes. Cannily, he hired cameramen and stunt pilots who had been working on Howard Hughes's Hell's Angels (1930), years in the making. Hawks had made silent pictures but this was his first all-sound film.

Although not as large scale as Wings (1927) the stunts are phenomenal and he stages what looks like full-scale ground bombings. Biplanes have the startling ability to almost stop in mid-air, turn and fly off at a different angle.

The acting often has the stylized theater-based mannerisms typical of early talkies, with the actors speaking up for the rudimentary sound equipment. An exception is the natural, engaging Douglas Fairbanks Jr., very much ahead of his time.

No women in the cast.

Photographed by Ernest Haller -- Dark Victory (1939), The Roaring Twenties (1939), Men in War (1957), What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962).

Available on DVD. Soft image.