After seeing the lovely Rita Hayworth in Blondie on a Budget a while ago, I wanted to see more of her films, and decided to go back to the beginning, or at least near enough to the beginning. In 1939, Hayworth had already appeared in nearly two dozen movies, under her real name Margarita Cansino, or in uncredited bit parts. But Only Angel Have Wings could be considered her first major role. She got top billing after Cary Grant, Richard Barthelmess and Jean Arthur, who were by this time veteran actors, with Barthelmess and Arthur having filmographies dating back to the silent era. Even though her screen time is considerably shorter than Jean Arthur’s Hayworth’s role was a challenge for her, and director Howard Hawks helped her develop her distinctive sultry, understating acting style that she would utilize throughout her career, except when she would doing lighter comedic roles. Although Jean Arthur is engaging and entertaining as a big city gal who is on a stop over on a small island in the South Pacific, when Hayworth arrives nearly 50 minutes into the film, she simply melts the screen.
Howard Hawks served in the Air Force during World War I and remained an avid pilot his whole life. He is really in his element in this movie, set on a tiny fictional island in the South Pacific on which Cary Grant’s character runs an air cargo service in which men risk their lives to make a buck.