806 Only Angels Have Wings

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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Sloper
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#26 Post by Sloper » Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:01 am

It's interesting that these characters are willing to die for each other, and ostracise a man who refused to do so, but then refuse to mourn for a dead comrade, urge others not to die for their sake, and in Thomas Mitchell's case ask to be left alone to die. And although Richard Barthelmess is despicable for having saved his own skin, his wife is also rebuked for not loving him unconditionally. On the one hand, these people are bound together heart and soul; but on the other hand each of them is alone. On the one hand, Barthelmess is little better than a murderer; on the other hand, he's just a flawed human being like anyone else. As matrix said above, there's something crazy and irrational about this little community, and yet it's irresistible: Jean Arthur is horrified at what she sees, but there's nowhere she would rather be. It's the kind of situation you can't imagine putting up with for more than a couple of years, but that's okay because life is short around here anyway.

It reminds me of my favourite scene in Rio Bravo, where the four male heroes sit around singing in the jailhouse. We feel like these characters have finally bonded together - and it's thanks to them that Dude is sober enough to play the guitar and sing - so there's a strong sense of camaraderie, beautifully built up in the course of the film up to that point. But Dude sings a song about 'three good companions' who are really no companions at all - it's a song about the joy of solitude and self-sufficiency. There's something weirdly moving about this mix of warmth and stoicism, even though if I met these characters in real life I'd probably run a mile.

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TMDaines
Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2009 1:01 pm
Location: Stretford, Manchester

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#27 Post by TMDaines » Fri Jan 20, 2017 10:28 am

Sloper wrote:On the one hand, Barthelmess is little better than a murderer; on the other hand, he's just a flawed human being like anyone else.
Whilst the others may initially treat him in that manner, I did not necessarily get the sense that that was a fair representation of him or the one the audience was supposed to have.

I presumed that Kid's brother died in an incident similar to one in the final act of the film. For all we know Kid's brother could have been urging him to save his skin, but to this tight-knit headstrong group, surviving alone is a greater sin than dying with your brothers.

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Sloper
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#28 Post by Sloper » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:55 am

I think that's exactly right - but it was interesting to me that Thomas Mitchell should treat Barthelmess as though he was responsible for the brother's death, then when the same situation presents itself urge him to bail out and save himself. Both attitudes are manifestations of the same code, in a way, that says you should always sacrifice yourself for another's sake if the opportunity arises. I was sympathetic to Barthelmess from the start because I'm sure I'd have done the same thing in his place, but I found it striking how the the severity with which the others treated him could morph so easily into a more understanding attitude. It seems morally paradoxical, but in the context of the film it also seems to make perfect sense.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#29 Post by knives » Fri Jan 20, 2017 2:00 pm

It's the difference between theory and practice. Additionally it is easy to blame an unknown person until you meet them.

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FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
Location: Greenwich Village

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#30 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Apr 11, 2021 9:05 pm

Has any actor had as good a year as Thomas Mitchell did in 1939.... This, Stagecoach, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Gone With the Wind.... That's a career in one year

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: 806 Only Angels Have Wings

#31 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Apr 11, 2021 9:18 pm

I know there are other Hollywood examples, but the first actors that come to mind are people like Jean-Claude Brialy (and I'm sure plenty of other players in the early years of nouvelle vague) who seemed to be rotating through those Cahiers directors like wildfire in the late 50s/early 60s

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