[Originally published in Movietone News 40, April 1975]
Only Angels Have Wings is one of Hawks’s “male adventurer” films, but it is also one of his comedies—and is perhaps best understood as such. It’s comedy in the sense that it has its share of wisecracks and a hint of slapstick—but also, and more importantly, in that it gives humor a place as a value and subtly undercuts “masculine” toughness in a way that parallels the rug-pulling comedy in Bringing Up Baby, I Was a Male War Bride, and other more obviously comic Hawks films.
[Originally published in Movietone News 45, November 1975]
ColoradoTerritory, a remake of the HighSierra plot, is an early masterpiece of the pessimistic Western. It retains the HighSierra story and works variations on most of that film’s characters. But some significant changes are also made and the result, on the whole, is much more impressive. While HighSierra was set at the end of Dillinger-style gangsterism, ColoradoTerritory is given a setting that evokes the end of the Wild West. The Bogart figure is now Wes McQueen (Joel McCrea), “just a big Kansas jay,” escaping from jail and getting involved in one last train robbery. The Joan Leslie character becomes Julie Ann Winslow (Dorothy Malone), who is sexier and nastier than Velma was and who thus becomes a key to this version’s darker psychology. Velma’s father moves West for a better life and so does Julie Ann’s, but the latter’s dream paradise turns out to be a desert. The sentimentally symbolic dog of HighSierra is absent here, while the geographical symbolism is developed much more fully. Colorado (Virginia Mayo) is a disillusioned refugee of “the dancehall,” like her HighSierra counterpart (Ida Lupino), but here she is much more than a highly emotional spectator. HighSierra‘s cynical reporter (Jerome Cowan) is understandably missing here, but it’s intriguing to think of Brother Tomas (Frank Puglia), who watches over an all but abandoned mission, as his replacement.