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Hell’s Angels: the perils of plot vs. action
Though the film was originally shot as a silent , Hughes retooled Hell's Angels over a lengthy gestation period. Most of the film is in black-and-white , but there is one color sequence, the only color footage of Harlow's career. Controversy during the Hell's Angels production contributed to the film's notoriety, including the accidental deaths of several pilots, an inflated budget, a lawsuit against a competitor The Dawn Patrol , and repeated postponements of the release date. Hell's Angels was one of the highest-grossing films of the early sound era , but despite this, it still failed to recover its exorbitant production costs. It is now hailed as one of the screen's first sound action films. Strait-laced Roy loves and idealizes the apparently demure Helen Jean Harlow.
Granville-Davis Nora Cecil. Harry Behn Howard Estabrook. English French German. If you are at all familiar with Howard Hughes then you know how important Hell's Angels is to film history. The first true American action blockbuster with sound.
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Roy is an idealist and a romantic, while Monte is a womanizer who is skeptical of politics and war. The aerial battle sequences could be dubbed in post-production but the dialogue scenes would have to be reshot, which meant that a new screenplay had to be written. Hughes hired James Whale to direct them. Whale apparently hated the original story and ordered for drastic changes to be made. Jean Harlow, an year-old platinum blonde who was then unknown, was hired to replace original leading lady Greta Nissen, whose accent was too heavy.
Thrilling flashes of airplane fighting in the clouds and magnificent scenes of a Zeppelin supposed to be bombing London during the war counteract silly episodes in the early stages of "Hell's Angels," the costly audible film which young Howard Hughes presented last night at both the Criterion and Gaiety Theatres. In every instance so soon as the producer forgets Helen, the flaxen-haired creature, and takes to the war, his film is absorbing and exciting. But while she is the centre of attraction the picture is a most mediocre piece of work. In fact the less said about these glimpses and those in a student's rooms at Oxford the better, for after being filled with admiration for the Zeppelin episode and those dealing with two brothers going forth to bomb a German ammunition dump in an enemy plane, it seems all the more strange that they should have been included in the production. The first view of the Zeppelin prowling through the clouds in the direction of the British metropolis starts the suspense. An excellent conception of what goes on in a Zeppelin, together with an idea of its enormous bulk, comes to the screen.