WINGS OF THE MORNING
(director: Harold Schuster; screenwriters: Thomas J. Geraghty/John Meehan/Gilbert Wakefield/based on two short stories by Donn Byrne in Destiny Bay; cinematographer: Ray Rennahan; editor: James B. Clark; music: Arthur Benjamin; cast: Annabella (Young Marie/Maria, Duchess of Leyva), Henry Fonda (Kerry Gilfallen), Leslie Banks (Lord Clontarf), Stewart Rome (Sir Valentine), Irene Vanbrugh (Old Marie), Helen Haye (Aunt Jenepher), Teddy Underdown (Don Diego), John McCormack (Himself), D. J. Williams (Mairik), Evelyn Ankers (Party Guest); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert T. Kane; TCM; 1937-UK)
“Noted as the first British film shot in three-strip Technicolor.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Noted as the first British film shot in three-strip Technicolor. The color was great (shot in pastel hues), and the location shots in Kerry, Ireland, Buckinghamshire and Surrey were magnificent (as were the shots of Epsom on Derby Day). Also the great tenor John McCormack knocks off a few songs, which temporarily awakens the pic from its soporific story. Otherwise it’s a bomb. It was an early starring role for Henry Fonda, and he’s a ham. The idea was for 20th Century-Fox to introduce French actress Annabella as an exotic new star to an English speaking audience, and she’s given the red carpet treatment. But she’s not a good actress. Many of the other cast members play gypsies, who all act wooden.
Director Harold Schuster (“My Friend Flicka”/”Dragoon Wells Massacre”)has his hands full trying to keep straight the muddled screenplayofThomas J. Geraghty, John Meehan, and Gilbert Wakefield, who based iton two short stories by Donn Byrne in Destiny Bay. It tries to blend a comedy and a gypsymelodrama together, aboutforbidden romance, family intrigue and horse racing.
In the prologue, in 1890, Annabella plays Marie, a gypsy camped out with her clan in Ireland. Marie won the heart of Lord Clontarf (Leslie Banks) with just one look, who gives the gypsy king Mairik (D. J. Williams), Marie’s dad,a glen called Destiny Bay on his Irish estate to be a haven for gypsies forever. Marieis rejected by the Lord’s family when he accidentally dies in a horse spill shortly after their marriage. She exits with her clan to Spain. Fifty years later, Marie (now played by Irene Vanbrugh) escapes the bloody Spanish Civil War and returns to her former Irish estate and sends for her granddaughter Maria (Annabella). To escape Spain, Maria disguises herself as a boy. When she meets Canadian horse-trader Kerry Gilfallen (Henry Fonda), she’s still in drag. When he notes she’s a girl, they fall in love. He trains Wings of the Morning, which is her great grandmother’s horse, for the Epsom Downs Derby. Only problem is the arrival of Maria’s fiancé, an impoverished Spanish nobleman named Don Diego (Teddy Underdown), who stands in the way of their happiness if she wins the rich stake race.
REVIEWED ON 5/22/2011 GRADE: C-