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On May 6, 1933, Paramount unveiled the antiwar drama The Eagle and the Hawk in theaters, starring Fredric March, Cary Grant and Carole Lombard. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below.
Destined to take its place with All Quiet on the Western Front in the archives of screen achievements in depicting the unabridged horrors of war, The Eagle and the Hawk admirably fulfills its purpose.
It attacks its subject with praiseworthy vigor and directness. It leaves utterly nothing to the imagination. Blood and gore being the reason for its central character’s revolt against the system of senseless slaughter, it gives us blood and gore in profusion. It is, in fact, more horrible because it is more real than most of the fantastically horrible pictures that have been turned out so consistently in recent months.
There is absolutely no reason why The Eagle and the Hawk should not be a smash at the box office. In the strictest sense of the word, it is not entertainment. For that matter, neither was its unforgettable predecessor, All Quiet, or the equally memorable Cavalcade. But like both of these graphic anti-war documents, this picture will send them from the theater still in its spell. It will cause them to talk — and talk sells tickets.
Don’t commit the error of approaching it as you would just any aerial-warfare film. It comes at a time when there is no cycle of similar themes. It will need intelligent exploitation, of course. What picture doesn’t?
But look what you have to sell. First there is Fredric March, giving one of the finest performances of his career of fine performances. He rises to tremendous heights in his portrayal of this ace of aviators, slowly breaking under the strain of being the model of bravery by which young boys are spurred on to their destruction. One by one he sees them die because they follow his highly lauded example, until, finally, unable to stand it longer, he dies — a suicide. It is a great acting role and March makes it greater.
Second in performance honors is Cary Grant, doing a character that turns from heavy to a sympathetic lead, when he disguises the suicide and sends his comrade to a hero’s grave. Grant plays with restraint and more than a little finesse.
Jack Oakie has a part that, although not overly long, is outstanding in comedy opportunities of which he makes the most. Carole Lombard, however, should be awarded some sort of prize for the world’s shortest leading woman assignment. She is on the screen for only a single brief sequence. Lombard none the less completes the quartet of box-office names for your marquee.
Sir Guy Standing heads the supporting cast with a well-conceived portrayal of the squadron’s commanding officer. Notable among the others are Kenneth Howell, Russell Scott, Leyland Hodgson and Forrester Harvey.
The direction of Stuart Walker never misses a trick. He has an ability of cloaking his climaxes to make them all the more unexpected. In this he was aided, of course, by the well-written script of Bogart Rogers and Seton I. Miller from John Monk Saunders’ original story. The photography, by Harry Fischbeck, maintains a high level.
You have then, a distinguished cast, excellent direction and production, a story unusual enough to be controversial, and unlimited exploitation possibilities. Get behind it, give it a big advance campaign and watch the money roll in. — Staff review, originally published on April 25, 1933.
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