Dawn Patrol, The (1938)

Dawn Patrol, The (1938)

“You know what this place is? It’s a slaughterhouse – and I’m a butcher.”

The commanding officer (Basil Rathbone) of an RFC squadron in WWI-era France is replaced by one of his ace pilots (Errol Flynn), who quickly learns how challenging it is to send young men into the air without sufficient training. When Flynn’s best buddy (David Niven) loses his younger brother (Morton Lowry) in a flight, Flynn feels especially responsible, and vows to make things right.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Airplanes and Pilots
  • Barry Fitzgerald Films
  • Basil Rathbone Films
  • David Niven Films
  • Donald Crisp Films
  • Edmund Goulding Films
  • Errol Flynn Films
  • World War I

Edmund Goulding directed this closely aligned remake of Howard Hawks’ 1930 film of the same name, using stock aerial footage from the previous movie. Thankfully, all the selling points of Hawks’ version are here as well, including powerful performances by the male leads (there were once again no women in the cast) and almost unbearable tension built through cyclical repetition of key themes and motifs — including counting the number of airplane motors heard returning after a mission (to determine how many have died); young replacement recruits arriving just in time to head into the air towards their near-certain death; and alcohol-fueled carousing by the men in order to numb the insanity of their existence. While this film isn’t must-see viewing (I give that status to the original), it remains highly recommended if you can stomach it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Errol Flynn as Courtney
  • David Niven as Scott
  • Basil Rathbone as Major Brand
  • Tony Gaudio’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely recommended.


One thought on “Dawn Patrol, The (1938)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Though, all told, it’s not a bad film, it doesn’t particularly improve on Hawks’ superior 1930 version – so it feels redundant. As well, though its running time is actually a bit shorter, it feels longer than the earlier one.

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