Hell's Angels

Hell's Angels

Ben Lyon
Director: Howard R. Hughes, Marshall Neilan, Luther Reed
Cast: Ben Lyon
Howard R. Hughes, Marshall Neilan, Luther Reed,




No one was surprised in 1929 that aviation mogul Howard R. Hughes would produce a paean to World War I flying aces like Hell's Angels. Given Hughes' comparative inexperience as a moviemaker, however, everyone was taken slightly aback that the finished film was as good as it was. The very American Ben Lyon and James Hall play a couple of British brothers who drop out of Oxford to join the British Royal Flying Corps. Several early scenes establish Lyon and Hall as unregenerate lotharios, setting up their romantic rivalry over two-timing socialite Jean Harlow. While flying a dangerous bombing mission over Germany, the brothers are shot down. The commandant (Lucien Prival), who'd earlier been cuckolded by one of the brothers, savors his opportunity for revenge. He offers the boys their freedom if they'll reveal the time of the next British attack; if they don't cooperate, they face unspeakable consequences. Lyon, driven mad by his combat experiences, is about to tell all when he is shot and killed by Hall. The latter is himself condemned to a firing squad by the disgruntled commandant--who, it is implied, will soon meet his own doom at the hands of the British bombers. Nobody really cares about this hoary old plot, however: Hell's Angels strong suit lays in its crackerjack aerial sequences. The highlight is a Zeppelin raid over London, one of the most hauntingly effective sequences ever put on film. From the first ghost-like appearance of the Zeppelin breaking through the clouds, to the self-sacrificing behavior of the German crew members as they jump to their deaths rather than provide "excess weight," this is a scene that lingers in the memory far longer than all that good-of-the-service nonsense in the finale. Also worth noting is the starmaking appearance of Jean Harlow. When Hell's Angels was begun as a silent film, Norwegian actress Greta Nissen played the female lead. During the switchover to sound, producer Hughes decided that her accent was at odds with her characterization, so he reshot her scenes with his latest discovery, Harlow. While she appears awkward in some of her scenes, there's no clumsiness whatsoever in her delivery of the classic line about slipping into "something more comfortable." Originally, Marshall Neilan was signed to direct the film, but became so rattled by Howard Hughes' interference that he handed the reins to Hughes himself, who was in turn given an uncredited assist by Luther Reed. Also ignored in the film's credits are the dialogue contributions by future Frankenstein director James Whale, who'd been hired as the film's English-dialect coach. Modern audiences expecting a musty museum piece are generally surprised by Hell's Angels's high entertainment content: they are also startled by the pre-code frankness of the dialogue, with phrases like "The hell with you" bandied about with reckless abandon. In recent years, archivists have restored the film's two-color Technicolor sequence, providing us with our only color glimpses of the radiant Jean Harlow.

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Product Details

Release Date: 12/07/2004
UPC: 0025192593321
Original Release: 1930
Rating: NR
Source: Universal Studios
Region Code: 1
Time: 2:11:00

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ben Lyon Monte Rutledge
James Hall Roy Rutledge
Jean Harlow Helen
John Darrow Karl Arnstedt
Lucien Prival Baron Von Kranz
Frank Clarke Lt. Von Bruen
Roy Wilson Baldy Maloney
Douglas Gilmore Capt. Redfield
Jane Winton Baroness Von Kranz
Evelyn Hall Lady Randolph
William B. Davidson Staff Major
Wyndham Standing Squadron Commander
Carl von Hartmann Zeppelin Commander
Ferdinand Schumann-Heink 1st Officer
Stephen Carr Elliott
Pat Somerset Marryat
William Von Brincken Von Richthofen
Hans Joby Von Schleiben
Lena Malena Gretchen
Marian Marsh Girl Selling Kisses
Maurice Murphy Pilot
Leo Nomis Pilot
Harry Semels Anarchist
Frank Tomick Pilot
Roscoe Turner Pilot
Wilson Pilot

Technical Credits
Howard R. Hughes Director,Producer
Marshall Neilan Director
Luther Reed Director
Harry Behn Screenwriter
Douglas Biggs Editor
Carroll Clark Art Director
Elmer Dyer Cinematographer
Howard Estabrook Screenwriter
Julian Boone Fleming Art Director
Gaetano Gaudio Cinematographer
Perry Hollingsworth Editor
Frank Lawrence Editor
Joseph Moncure March Screenwriter
Paul Perry Cinematographer
Harry Perry Cinematographer
Hugo Riesenfeld Score Composer
E. Burton Steene Cinematographer
Dewey Wrigley Cinematographer
Zeck Wrigley Cinematographer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Main Titles [2:11]
2. Pretty Boy [10:03]
3. The Duel [5:24]
4. Reporting to Duty [8:02]
5. Fancy Kitty [7:50]
6. Getting Comfortable [7:19]
7. Completing the Objective [9:53]
8. Lightening the Load [11:23]
9. Intermission [:02]
10. Raw Nerves [3:17]
11. Yellow Fever [3:43]
12. Saying Goodbye to Helen [10:49]
13. All the Same [5:25]
14. Early Preparations [5:06]
15. Ready, Aim, Fire! [2:48]
16. Dogfights [6:47]
17. "So, We Meet Again" [14:01]
18. Brother to Brother [6:30]

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