Wings of Eagles, The (1957)

Wings of Eagles, The (1957)

“Say it, mister: I’m gonna move that toe!”

After becoming paralyzed due to a fall, former WWI ace flier Frank “Spig” Wead (John Wayne) — who is separated from his wife (Maureen O’Hara) and two young girls — receives help from a longtime friend (Dan Dailey) in learning to walk again, and starts a new life for himself as a Hollywood writer before returning to service in WWII.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Biopics
  • Dan Dailey Films
  • Disabilities
  • John Ford Films
  • John Wayne Films
  • Marital Problems
  • Maureen O’Hara Films
  • Military
  • Ward Bond Films
  • Writers

John Ford’s affectionate homage to his screenwriter friend Frank “Spig” Wead — perhaps best knowing for writing the play upon which Howard Hawks’s Ceiling Zero (1936) was based, and for scripting Ford’s They Were Expendable (1945) — is a classic inspirational biopic which plays loose with the facts to portray a man obsessively dedicated to his craft, living through a troubled marriage, and rallying to recover after a seemingly devastating accident. The film’s best-known scene shows the ever-chipper Dailey encouraging Wayne to “move that toe!” and get circulation back into his paralyzed body:

… which, by gum, he manages to do. Ward Bond has fun impersonating a Ford-like director who gives Wayne his chance at success in Hollywood:

… and O’Hara is ever-feisty as his disillusioned wife (who somehow thinks it’s okay to leave her young girls alone at home to fend for themselves while she’s off at a bridge club; what a different era that was).

This one is only must-see for John Ford completists or diehard fans of the lead stars.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography

Must See?
No; you can skip this one.


One thought on “Wings of Eagles, The (1957)

  1. First viewing (2/15/22). Not must-see.

    A rather ho-hum biopic… until it gets a little more interesting in the last 30 minutes when Wayne’s character (noted playwright and screenwriter Frank Wead) begins his writing career.

    It’s a little disturbing early on to see Wayne come home for a visit – seeing that his two little girls are left there alone while their mother (O’Hara) is off playing bridge (!).

    Ford apparently felt a real connection with this film since he and Wead were friends – and Ford directed one of Wead’s scripts, ‘They Were Expendable’. Still, the film feels a bit like it’s all over the place when it might have been better if it had focused more on the latter part of Wead’s life instead of just giving that a half-hour.

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