Howard Hawks' air circus and occasion to go aloft
in the Great War, action he missed despite having served, and flown besides,
during the conflict. Hawks knew good writing and value of name authors, so
inveigled John Monk Saunders, of Wingsfame, to pen The Dawn Patrol as team
effort with himself. Voila, they had a package, and studios wanted it. Result
wasWarner backing and Richard
Barthelmess to star. Posterity agreed that this Dawn Patrol creaked until Warner
Archive cleaned up the soundtrack in tandem with a fresh transfer; now the 1930
show flies high and ranks with any Hawks done in talkies' initial flowering.
Writing credit remains iffy: let's just say Hawks and Saunders made a good team
and that a follow-up would have been welcome. A big help at the time was splendid grossing The Dawn Patrol did, being one of the bigger hits WB had that year.
The players are low-key and effective,
Barthelmess strong as always in speaking mode. Young Doug staked his spot for
talkers here and went from The Dawn Patrol to precode hustling for WB. Neil
Hamilton is the neurotic-in-command;maybe it's nature of the part that makes
his a most theatrical perf of the lot, though Neil's subdued beside Basil
Rathbone twitching in the 1938 remake. Hawks should have got a nod for all the
footage WB borrowed for the encore; virtually all his air action got a recycle
with Errol Flynn and David Niven at pilot controls. Stoicism is coin of The
Dawn Patrol's realm, that inherent in the story and whichever version you
watch. It's still got power for capture of pilot experiences in contested sky
(Saunders/Hawks spoke with many who'd flown and fought). The Dawn Patrol was for me among most welcome DVD's released in 2013.