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 Manufacturing
Manufacturer: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
  • John Wayne
  • Dan Dailey
  • Maureen O'Hara
  • Ward Bond
  • Ken Curtis


  • Factory sealed DVD


Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Biopic of Frank Wead, February 22, 2013
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This review is from: The Wings of Eagles (DVD)
This is a fine biopic and tribute to Frank "Spig" Wead, who I'm guessing most folks have never heard of. He was a naval aeronautical pioneer, screenwriter of such fine war films as "They Were Expendable"; and innovator during WW II of the escort carriers, called CVEs. He was also a friend of John Ford, who directs this biopic...the John Ford character appears in the film, thinly disguised as John Dodge, played by Ward Bond. John Wayne plays Wead in one of his better roles...he has to do some real acting in this film as Wead was crippled in mid-life in a home accident and his mobility was limited at best through the rest of his life. Maureen O'Hara plays Wead's wife, Min, one of five collaborations between Wayne and the fiery redhead. I don't know if there was anything going on off-screen; but their on-screen chemistry was always there, including in this film. In addition to Wayne, O'Hara and Bond, look for Dan Dailey, Kenneth Tobey and Ken Curtis in fine support... Read more
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Its Army vs Navy, December 30, 2008
James (North Carolina, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wings of Eagles (DVD)
Wings of Eagles is the lighthearted story of naval Commander Frank W. (Spig) Weed, a pioneer in naval aviation at the end of WWI. While not a biography in the strictest sense the movie highlights his life adventures, beginning as he serves as one of the first naval flight cadets and ending with his final retirement during WWII. John Wayne stars in the role of Spig, Maureen O'Hara as his wife and Dan Dailey as the supportive Navy CPO "Jughead" Carson.

While somewhat comical at times, the movie portrays actually events as Spig takes on the Army in the quest to support naval aviation. Unfortunately, life takes a nasty turn leaving Spig Weed crippled with little chance of recovery and now medically out of the navy. Spig now turns to writing and is offered a job to write about the navy for a Hollywood producer who is actually a representation of Director John Ford and played by Ward Bond. As WWII approaches and Spig is able to maneuver his way back to the Navy with the help... Read more
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4.0 out of 5 stars Flying for freedom, June 12, 2014
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This review is from: The Wings of Eagles (DVD)
Having been born in the early 50's and having a deep debt of gratitude for our past and present service men , I love watching war movies especially the classics. It doesn't hurt that I adore John Wayne . His cast of supporting actors are usually awesome. The intergration of actual screens in the movies help me to fully realize the horror and sacrifice that was made for all of us eventhough it makes me very sad. I would recommend this movie and many other movies of this sort to all generations so that we never forget the sacrifice that was made. Freedom is never free and cost a great cost in many families.
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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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