The Dawn Patrol (1938)

The Dawn Patrol (1938), directed by Edmund Goulding.

A remake of The Dawn Patrol (1930) done only eight years after the original, using the same script with minor adjustments. Flying and battle scenes from the original were reused, which leveraged Howard Hawks' flying savvy and must have saved quite a lot of money.

Eight years was a long time in the 1930s, from the somewhat raw early talkies to the more polished studio golden age. The transition from pre-Code to the Code era does not make much difference this time. We still have a conflicted story: strong anti-war message on one hand with exciting battle scenes on the other. Still gritty despite the studio gloss.

With another war with Germany looming, "everything old is new again".

We have a new set of stars and they make the story more engaging, particularly the irreplaceable Errol Flynn, warmer and deeper-souled than dour Richard Barthelmess. Actors of that era like Flynn and Ronald Colman: they really did break the mold afterward.

After being enemies in Captain Blood (1935) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) Flynn and Basil Rathbone get to be on the same side, although with considerable tension. These are their only three films together.

David Niven replaces Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He's always convincing as a military officer and when given good material can show the pain the roles require. He and Flynn were together only in this and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936).

Donald Crisp played such a variety of parts in his career. As the squadron clerk he is good humored and not too concerned with the horrors of war, leaving that burden to the commander. When he proposes that a dog might make headquarters more "cozy", Rathbone stares at him with unblinking disbelief.

Photographed by Tony Gaudio -- The Letter (1940), High Sierra (1941).

As before, no women in the cast.

Available on DVD, much better quality image than the earlier film.