The Wings of Eagles

Friday night at 10:30 Eastern / 9:30 Central, AMC is showing a John Wayne / John Ford curiosity about which I’ve blogged here before, in fact more than once. You could argue that it’s a deeply flawed movie and I would be unable to refute you, but I find it fascinating and fun anyway — and if you’re a fan of legendary director John Ford, it’s a must if only for the chance to see Ford stock company regular Ward Bond portraying a cantankerous character based on Ford himself, called “John Dodge.” (Ford … Dodge. Subtle, huh?)

“The Wings of Eagles” is the true story of one of Ford’s good friends, heroic Naval aviator turned scriptwriter Frank “Spig” Wead. It’s an atypical John Wayne role because a good part of the movie has Wead in a hospital bed, trying to regain the use of his legs, and the rest of the movie after that has him on crutches and braces.

It’s also unique because it doesn’t sugar-coat the rollercoaster relationship between Wead and his wife Min, played brilliantly by Wayne’s most compatible female co-star, Maureen O’Hara.

Speaking of rollercoasters, the movie’s great flaw is its rollercoaster tone — silly comedy one moment, tragedy and pathos the next. But I think that’s the way John Ford saw his friend — a larger-than-life character who experienced both hijinks and heartbreak.

I would, of course, prefer for you to watch the movie on TCM, without commercials and without being edited to fit a time slot. But it’s not on TCM this weekend, it’s on AMC, and so if you’ve never seen it that will have to do.

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