Fredric March and Cary Grant play American pilots fighting for Britain during the first World War. The two men frequently quarrel, each coming from a different wartime philosophy. March does his best to avoid killing anyone, while Grant is out to kill any German that crosses his path. The film encourages us to empathize with both men, whose destinies entangle after Grant’s bloodlust contributes to the death of a fellow pilot, and March begins spiraling into a dangerous mental breakdown.
The Eagle and the Hawk is a surprisingly psychological anti-war film featuring two characters suffering trauma in different ways. While one man toughens, the other snaps. There are the expected aerial dogfights and moments of patriotic camaraderie, but The Eagle and the Hawk isn’t just entertainment or propaganda. Like any good (anti-) war movie, it’s more concerned with the aftermath and fallout. The many deaths of fresh-faced recruits takes its toll not just on March, but the audience as well. The climax is a surprising, poignant, and conversation-worthy one involving our demand for heroes and its heavy toll on the designated. Grant and March service the film well, with supporting star Jack Oakie providing a few most welcome comedic touches. Carole Lombard makes a cameo appearance as a sympathetic ear for March. Directed by Stuart Walker.