1950s The Wings of Eagles (1957)

Published on February 26th, 2013 | by Chris


The Wings of Eagles (1957)

Movie directed by:
John Ford

Reviewed by:
On February 26, 2013
Last modified:February 17, 2013


A classic if odd Ford/Wayne combo about one "Spig" Wead...

The Wings of Eagles (1957)

The inimitable combination of John Wayne and John Ford team up once again for 1957's The Wings of Eagles.  The story of Frank "Spig" Wead, a pioneer of Naval avation who overcame many hardships and challenges to become a Hollywood screenwriter and Navy strategist...

The movie starts early in the dawn of aviation and in Wead's career.  I'm not sure what Ford was thinking in these early scenes, though.  They almost put me right off this entire movie, which would have been a disaster.  The mad-cap wacky humor of Wead taking Army pilot Shorty up for a ride, ultimately crashing into the Admiral's swimming pool... followed directly (and I mean directly) by a rather crushing scene of Wead and his wife Min (Maureen O'Hara) losing their child suddenly to illness.  I couldn't believe that Ford would go from one extreme to the other so abruptly.  It didn't seem right at all.

Then things really take a strange and tragic turn, as he suffers a fall in his home, and breaks his neck, effectively paralyzing him with little hope of recovery.  Through the perseverance of his friends and doctors, most notably "Jughead" (Dan Dailey), Spig finally gets back on his feet, and falls into a screenwriting gig or two or three, writing a few war movies with John Dodge (Ward Bond) in a strange crossover experience I couldn't help but marvel at.

There is a small problem, too, with how the timeline progresses.  Its not really clear at any given moment when we are supposed to be.  From one scene to the next, you realize that OH! this is some further point in the future, like years down the road....  It's a bit confusing at times.

Frank "Spig" Wead

The real Frank "Spig" Wead

When WWII arrives, he's called upon due to his experience and ingenuity, and comes up with the idea of "Jeep Carriers", essentially floating carrier supply ships designed to provide resupply of aircraft and other bits....

But, his achievements are overshadowed in this film (I thought) by his failures on the home front.  According to this movie, he barely saw his children, and his marriage to the Navy far outweighed his marriage to Min.  I was hoping for maybe a bit more of this, but the film ends with Spig being transferred back to the world, I guess that's all anyone thought to do.

It probably goes without saying that John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara delivered as always.  Wayne especially surprised me in being able to pull off a slightly less than stereotypical role for him.  He actually showed some depth of character and was able to portray the difficulties and stubbornness of a man trying to overcome a disability.

And I also learned that alcohol can cure paralysis.  There should be more research into this subject.  Should I become paralyzed, I'd like to volunteer.  And the "I'm gonna move that toe" business gets a little played out... but it works.

The Wings of Eagles begins on shaky footing, but eventually gels into a solid biopic of a Navy legend.... with a few caveats of course.  I have to give it a 3.8/5.   Because of the strange gear changing that occurs at the beginning, and the rather abrupt ending...

It's unfortunate that this trailer elects to illustrate mainly the comic elements of the film, which isn't what it was about at all.  But I guess that's how you get them in the door.

The Wings of Eagles The Wings of Eagles
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Wings Of Eagles, The (DVD) (Commemorative Amaray)John Wayne, Dan Dailey, and Maureen O'Hara star in one of John Ford's most personal films, in which he pays tribute to a man he knew and admired in real life, pioneering World War I naval aviator Frank "Spig" Wead...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: Warner Home Video
Manufacturer: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
  • John Wayne
  • Dan Dailey
  • Maureen O'Hara
  • Ward Bond
  • Ken Curtis


  • Run Time: 110
  • Release Date: 5/22/2007
  • NR


Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Golden Wings, Salt Spray- Ford's Tribute to A Naval Aviator, March 18, 2001
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This review is from: Wings of Eagles [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is a factual naval aviation story, intermixed with Army Air Corps rivalry and combat scenes. It provides a chronological view of one naval family- their love and adversity, including Navy and Army aviators supported by their loyal maintenance personnel who helped in the advancement of U.S. military aviation during 1920s to 1940s. Add, of course, a mixture of competition provided by the navy wives and their only rival- the United States Navy. Released 22 February 1957, The Wings of Eagles was considered an adult story, wrought with the thrills, laughter, and family hardships all to well experienced by the real heroes of this story- the pioneer naval aviation wives (there is still no "Hall of Fame" dedicated to these gallant ladies at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, NAS Pensacola, FL).
Ms. Maureen O'Hara who acted the gallant part of Mrs. Minnie (Bryant) Wead was well received by the "naval aviation wives of gold", and was nominated at a Naval Aviation Cadet Recruiting... Read more
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still think john wayne can't act,watch this movie and see just how good he really was, May 8, 2006
This review is from: The Wings of Eagles (DVD)
john ford and john wayne,friends,partners,they had a father/son relationship that lasted till ford died.they also had a friend named frank "spig" wead,a navy pilot(when there were none)and later top screenwriter(her wrote ford's and wayne's they were expendable)and ford and wayne wanted to tell his story.

the movie starts like acomedy as "spig"tries his best to get the world to notice that the navy has some good pilots and should let them fly. as frank moves up in the ranks his wife right beside him(maureen o'hara never anymore beautiful than here)they have kids and life looks good.

one night hearing something(a child cring i think) frank runs down the steps of his house and falls,breaking his back and neck.this is where wayne really shows what he's got.the scene where he learns he must leave the navy and will never walk very much anymore are just stunning. the look on waynes face when he is told tears your heart out,we see this big tall man and can see the... Read more
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Wings of Eagles, June 20, 2006
This review is from: The Wings of Eagles (DVD)
The Wings of Eagles

Not your typical John Wayne war picture it shows the amazing chemistry of Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne it does seem that these two could never go wrong. This movie is no exception. It starts as John Wayne is learning to fly the first planes in the navy in a hilarious barn busting scene. At times it has a very Gomer Pyle feel to it at other times it has a Last Days of Patton feel.

The Transfer is descent for its age doesn't seem to have been given anything special, though that's not surprised when you think of John Wayne this isn't the first movie to come to mind, the audio isn't in 5.1 but it's not a movie that lends itself to needing it. As most of the movies of the 1950's it has that parent trap look too it, which to me ads to the charm of the movie. Of course let's not forget John Ford Directed it.

In conclusion for 10 bucks it's a great DVD to own. For John Wayne fans its must to complete there collection this comes from... Read more
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The Wings of Eagles (1957) Chris

Summary: A classic if odd Ford/Wayne combo about one "Spig" Wead...


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About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

One Response to The Wings of Eagles (1957)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    I have not seen this movie since I was a kid. Amazingly, I can still remember “I’m gonna move that toe”. And yet I can’t remember my wife’s name. Does anyone think this is strange? My excuse is that it’s John Wayne.

    I need to rewatch it to see if anything else was said in the movie.

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