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Only Angels Have Wings (1939) is a movie directed by Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur. It is generally regarded as being among Hawks' finest films, particularly in its portrayal of the professionalism of the pilots, its atmosphere, and the flying sequences.

It inspired the 1983 television series Tales of the Gold Monkey.


Jean Arthur as Bonnie Lee
Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) is a pilot and the manager of a small, barely-solvent air service owned by "Dutchy" Van Reiter (Sig Ruman) carrying mail from the port town of Barrancamarker (Barrancabermeja) in Colombiamarker over the Andes Mountains. Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), a piano-playing entertainer, arrives one day and becomes infatuated with Carter, despite his fatalistic attitude about the dangerous mountain flying, and stays on in Barranca (not at Carter's invitation, as he insists on telling her).

The situation is complicated by the appearance of Bat Kilgallen (Richard Barthelmess) and his wife Judy (Rita Hayworth). Kilgallen is a pilot shunned by other fliers because he once bailed out of a plane, leaving his mechanic—the brother of 'Kid' Dabb (Thomas Mitchell), Carter's best friend—to be killed in the resulting crash. Carter refuses to hire Bat until Judy, Carter's former lover, pleads for a chance for her husband. Carter gives in, provided Bat takes the most dangerous jobs.

Dutchy can obtain a lucrative government mail contract if he can provide reliable service over a certain trial period. On the last day of the trial, bad weather forces Bat and Kid to try flying over the mountains in a new Ford Trimotor rather than through a pass. However, they are unable to climb high enough. On the way back, birds crash into the airplane, paralyzing Kid. Bat refuses to bail out and manages to land the burning plane. Kid dies, but not before telling Geoff of Bat's heroism.

Bonnie finally gives up on Geoff and bids him goodbye. He offers to toss a coin to decide: heads, she stays; tails, she leaves. Then the weather clears; Geoff rushes out to secure the all-important contract. Bonnie is unwilling to decide her life so haphazardly, until she sees that the coin has heads on both sides.


Awards and honors

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: Joseph Walker for Best Cinematography, Black-and-white, Roy Davidson and Edwin C. Hahn for the first-time Best Effects, Special Effects.

Adaptations to Other Media

Only Angels Have Wings was adapted as a radio play on the May 29, 1939 broadcast of Lux Radio Theater, with Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth reprising their film roles.

See also

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