100+ New Code Films – #44. “Wings of the Navy” from 1939; Memorial Day, 2021

Although today is Monday, I’m going to publish this week’s first 100+ New Code Films article today. I usually wait until the weekend to write these articles, but I decided to post early this week in honor of Memorial Day. As usual, I will be watching and reviewing two new American Breen Era (1934-1954) films this week. They will be films that I watched and reviewed within the last week or so. With this schedule, I will watch and review over 100 new Code films this year!

Wings of the Navy (1939) - IMDb

Today’s topic is Wings of the Navy from 1939. Yesterday evening, we searched our Amazon Prime Video watchlist for a new movie to watch. After considering a few others, my mother suggested this one, confusing it with another Navy-themed film we have on our watchlist, Here Comes the Navy (1934). When we looked at this film, we realized that this was a different movie. However, when we saw that George Brent and Olivia de Havilland were the stars of this film, we decided to give it a go!

Wings of the Navy (Warner Brothers, 1939). Title Lobby Card (11" X | Lot  #50544 | Heritage Auctions


The sons of an honored Navy officer are both continuing their father’s legacy in the service. The older brother is continuing his father’s passion of expanding the air planes used by the navy. He is not only one of the best pilot and teachers but is developing a new airplane to sell to the Navy. Meanwhile, his younger brother works on submarines. He is desperate to join his brother in the air, but the older man feels that his sibling has always struggled to compete with him when they do the same things. Nevertheless, the younger brother ignores his brother’s warnings to stay away and joins him in Pensacola, Florida, to become a naval pilot. The two men are also rivals on the ground, though, as the younger brother finds himself falling for his older brother’s lovely fiancée.

Wings of the Navy (Warner Brothers, 1939). Poster (40" X 60"). | Lot #52467  | Heritage Auctions


This movie stars George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, and John Payne. Supporting actors include Frank McHugh, John Litel, Victor Jory, Henry O’Neill, and John Ridgely.

Production Notes

This movie was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It was produced by Louis F. Edelman. The executive producers were Hal B. Wallis and Jack L. Warner. The original screenplay was written by Michael Fessier.

WINGS OF THE NAVY 1939 Long Daybill Movie Poster OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND John  Payne | Moviemem Original Movie Posters

Code Compliance

This is a perfect Code film. It has the usual standards one expects of a Breen Era film, namely complying with the Code in every detail and not including any objectionable content. However, beyond these very important things, which would only make it a good Code film, it has special qualities which make it extra inspiring. This film focuses on the military during peacetime, showing the tireless work, energy, and heartache servicemen give to their country even when there isn’t a war. It is inspiring because it makes us appreciate the sacrifice which the men in every branch of the service gave to defend and protect our country during both world wars and in between.

Warner Bros. trailer typography 1935-1939


I highly recommend this film. It is truly inspiring. The acting is excellent, of course, but none of the actors seem like stars in this movie. The United States Navy is the only star. George Brent is perfectly cast as the businesslike older brother, Cass Harrington. Although he seems like he only cares about his work, it’s obvious that he cherishes a deep love for his brother, his fiancée, the new students, and his nation. All these things inspire him to persevere. John Payne plays his younger brother, Jerry. His eagerness to keep up with his big brother sometimes gets him into trouble, but he too has a passionate, generous, courageous spirit to serve in the wings of the Navy. Olivia de Havilland has a relatively small role as Irene Dale, Cass’s girl. From the first time he meets her, Jerry can’t understand how Irene can love and be loved by his matter-of-fact brother. He often jokes about how he could go for Irene’s twin sister, if she had one. The running gag is a subtle way for Irene and Jerry to reveal how they feel about each other without betraying Cass. Although her screen time is limited, she fully conveys her character as a lovely, selfless, and noble woman. Great comedic relief is provided by Frank McHugh, who plays Scat Allen, a hilarious recruit who manages to make several mistakes but still stay in the service! He’s a familiar face in many Warner comedies, always serving as the funny sidekick with great skill! Beyond these talented actors, the film gives a real spotlight to this branch of the service. Although the cast is mostly male, women can enjoy this story just as much as men can. This is a tender, exciting story which any American or friend of the USA will love!

Out of the Past: A Classic Film Blog

This movie is a fitting film for Memorial Day, since it pays tribute to the men who have given their lives for the good of the Armed Forces, both in times of war and in times of peace. I was fascinated to learn more about the aviation which was used by the Navy in the late 1930s. The use of sea planes and “big boats” was something with which I was unfamiliar, so I really enjoyed learning more about this fascinating history of our country’s navy!

Decoration Day 1939 #2 | The Richfield High School Band play… | Flickr
Decoration Day, 1939

Happy Decoration Day, as it was officially called in 1939! Let us never forget the values of freedom for which our brave soldiers fought and died.

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