Wings of the Navy (1939): Propganda War Film, Unfolding as Romantic Melodrama

Like other Hollywood films of the time, Warner’s Wings of the Navy was a propaganda feature about the military, released in 1939, two years before the U.S. entered into the War.  As such, it received heavy strong support from the U.S. Navy, which also used the film as a recruiting tool.

Aside from the aviation sequences, Wings of the Navy, directed by reliable pro Lloyd Bacon, is essentially a romantic melodrama involving a triangle, two rivaling brothers, competing on the air while falling in love with the same woman.

Submarine officer Jerry Harrington (John Payne) goes to Pensacola to train as a flying cadet, just like his legendary father and brother, longtime airman Cass Harrington (George Brent). Jerry falls for his brother’s girlfriend, Irene Dale (Olivia de Havilland), which increases the already tense competition between the two siblings.

After Cass is injured in a crash, he is forced to leave the Navy. Jerry becomes a pilot in San Diego and begins flying seaplanes while Cass designs a new fighter for the Navy. Jerry wants to prove to Cass that he is a better pilot, even if it means leaving the Navy to test the experimental fighter which has already led to the death of a test pilot.  Caught in the middle, Irene is forced to choose the man she really loves.

Running time: 89 Minutes

Released: February 11, 1939