Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who meets a handsome yet aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant, staring down death while delivering airmail in treacherous mountain terrain.
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I've watched this twice ovr the the course of 12 hours or so, my third and fourth revisitings of this very complex movie. The first of the two viewings was, in short, a disaster; much felt flat, Hawks' mastery of Hollywood conventions felt too much in the way.
Thankfully, the second viewing killed me. This is Hawks' film about Death, and the formal precision reflects that thematic. A great, demanding(for me) movie.
Cinematography by Joseph Walker. "Desire" list. Cary Grant, a (the?) most ambiguous Hollywood male icon - according to Anger's grapevine in "Hollywood Babylon" - in one of his most star-fetch character, a brilliant performance, a luminous face.
After Rio Bravo, my favorite Hawks. I was expecting a humorous and rousing melodrama and instead got a remarkably melancholy meditation on work, romances platonic and sexual, and death. Arthur and Grant still have their timing, but it's mostly gallows humor here. An unexpectedly resonant film.
Living dangerously in South America! Of course, this being a Howard Hawks movie, it's also a battle of the sexes. Admittedly, the film's gender ideals seem damn near irrelevant in an era where women have career opportunities and Weezer has gone platinum. But as a movie, it still crackles. A great Hawksian line, from a plaintive Arthur to an emotionally withdrawn Grant: "I'm hard to get. All you have to do is ask me."