films

WWI Films: The Dawn Patrol

Today I’m going to write about THE DAWN PATROL.

Released in 1938, this is unquestionably a masterpiece of classic war movie. The entire cast is brilliant – Errol Flynn, David Niven, Basil Rathbone, Donald Crisp, among others – and there is a good balance of the emotional toll The Eagle and the Hawk portrays, with the jolly camaraderie and devil-may-care attitude that Flynn and Niven pull off so effortlessly. There are distinct and well-scripted character arcs going on as well, which is fantastic.

It’s based on a story by John Monk Saunders, called The Flight Commander, and novelised by Guy Fowler. (Interestingly, Saunders also wrote Death in the Morning, which became The Eagle and the Hawk.)

Actually, I think my only real complaint about the film is that it looks like it was filmed in southern California, because it was filmed in southern California. However, this is easily dismiss-able.

But this shot just took my breath away:

One of the things many WWI films seem to feature is the music. (I didn’t mention it in my post about The Eagle and the Hawk, but in that one, more than once, the men in the mess were singing One More Drink for the Four of Us.) In The Dawn Patrol, we have Hurrah for the Next Man Who Dies as a featured motif song.

So, stand to your glasses, steady!       
  This world is a world of lies.
Then here’s a toast to the dead already—
  Hurrah for the next man who dies!
I was curious about this song, because it’s not one I’ve run across in my attempt to familiarise myself with popular ballads of the first World War. It turns out it’s adapted from a poem called The Revel.
Here’s a snippet from the 1930 version of this film that, apparently, also features this song:

Another thing I remembered from my early viewings of this film back in the early 2000s was the streamers on Errol Flynn’s helmet. I always wondered what was up with that; now know the streamers made it easy to keep track of the commanders of a given flight.

Anyway, I love this film, and it’s my favourite out of the four I’ve posted about so far in this series. It touches on the seriousness, while not 100% dwelling on heartbreak: it has plenty of comic relief and a castful of Tremendously Attractive Men. I also found some of the seemingly inconsequential details incredibly fascinating, like watching someone put on a Sam Browne belt, since I’ve never done it myself and hadn’t actually thought much about how you’d do it.

I’m planning to track down and watch the 1930 version of this film, because I’m incredibly curious to compare the two! Here’s hoping I can write a post about it soon.

Eva was born in Jacksonville, Florida. She left that humidity pit at the age of three and spent the next twenty-one years in California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington before ending up in Oregon, where she now lives on a homestead in the western foothills with her husband and five children, two of whom are human.

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