Corky Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Gil Borden (Don DeFore) are looking for jobs in Burbank, California when they’re plucked from obscurity to champion the war effort at the very respectable Lockheed aircraft factory. Though the U.S. is technically still neutral when they’re hired on, it’s preparing for war, producing large numbers of fighter jets and bombers.
While awaiting his first paycheck, Corky stays with his old friend Brad Maple (Jack Carson) and Brad’s wife Roma (Ann Sheridan). Brad’s marriage has more than its share of troubles, as the stubborn and unemployed husband refuses to take one of the many factory jobs available, thinking they’re beneath him.
Jealousy and trouble brew at Brad and Roma’s house, as she begins to consider leaving him, especially after seeing Corky’s work ethic and positive attitude toward his job. Meanwhile, the country marches ever closer to war in 1941.
Wings for the Eagle was directed by Lloyd Bacon. The screenplay was written by Byron Morgan and B. H. Orkow with additional dialogue by Richard Macaulay.
Like Tuesday’s film, Since You Went Away, Wings for the Eagle is a wartime tale that makes very clear the horror of war, but at the same time remains overall optimistic. On top of its optimism, this film offers up a little pro-Lockheed Martin, pro-American propaganda, touting the “magnificent efforts” of airplane factory workers, which “will enable the United States to preserve a free way of life.” The film is dedicated to them.
A perfect example of the film’s blend of wartime terror and victorious optimism is in its depiction of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It’s startling to watch — they’re just washing dishes, listening to the radio, and going about an average day when chaos erupts. Immediately, though, they hop right into the action, the film offering a positive, sure-victory spin on the event.
The highlight of the film for me was, unsurprisingly, its leading lady. Ann Sheridan is a long-time TMP favorite, but generally seems so underappreciated! I wind up singing her praises whenever I review her films, not just because I want to spread the word about her, but because she genuinely adds something special to every film in which she appears.
Her character deserves better than both of the fools vying for her attention here. As bad as I feel for Roma having to put up with the foolishness, her two men are quite funny to watch in their shared scenes, fighting with words and fists. Morgan and Carson would go on to make a total of eleven films together, so it’s no surprise they work so well together here. The full trio, including Sheridan, starred in four films: Wings for the Eagle, Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Shine On Harvest Moon (1944), and One More Tomorrow (1946).
It’s not difficult to root against Roma’s husband, Brad. They have less chemistry than Sheridan and Morgan and are quite bickery, while Morgan is his usual corny-but-charming self. The love triangle takes a fun turn, though, with Corky sort of parent-trapping Roma and Brad.
Though wartime propaganda and drama make somewhat of an odd mix with the film’s lighter moments of Roma’s romantic trials, Wings for the Eagle is a pretty good watch, of particular interest to those who like to see the different ways Hollywood portrayed the war (especially while the war was still going on).