Cast & Crew
Harold D. Schuster
D. J. Williams
Philip Sydney Frost
In 1890, Lord Clontarf gives gypsy king Mairik a glen called Destiny Bay on his Irish estate to be a haven for gypsies forever and marries Mairik's daughter Marie, who suffers the snubbing of Clontarf's friends. After Clontarf dies from a riding fall, Marie goes south with the gypsies because a fortune-teller predicts that her mixed marriage will curse three generations. Some fifty years later in Spain, Marie's great-granddaughter Maria, the Duchess of Leyra, is engaged to Don Diego, the Duke of Montreal. Marie returns to Destiny Bay because of the rebellion in Spain and sends for Maria, who arrives dressed as a boy to get safely across the frontier. She trades Marie's prize horse, Wings of the Morning, without knowing the horse's value, to Kerry Gilfallen, a Canadian visiting his cousin, Sir Valentine MacFarland, Lord Clontarf's cousin who knew Marie who he was young. When Maria learns her mistake, she tries to retrieve the horse, but Wings escapes. Maria, still dressed as a boy, and Kerry find the horse in the dense fog by the cliffs, and Kerry insists that they spend the night in a barn. In the morning, when Maria refuses to swim, Kerry removes her shirt, which embarrasses them both. Kerry becomes Wings's trainer for the Derby at Epsom Downs and falls in love with Maria, but when Don Diego arrives and Kerry learns of Maria's engagement, he decides to return to Canada after the race. Although Kerry has hired famed jockey Steve Donoghue to ride his own horse, Destiny Bay, when Wings's jockey is rejected, Kerry has Donoghue ride Wings because Marie, who is near death, plans to use the prize money for Maria's dowry. Wings wins, but when an objection flag is raised, Don Diego tells Maria that he would be helpless without her money, and she sends him away. Wings is declared the winner, and Maria finds Kerry swimming, dives to him and announces that she wants to marry him.
D. J. Williams
Philip Sydney Frost
E. V. H. Emmett
Capt. R. C. Lyle
Michael William Balfe
W. Ralph Brinton
James B. Clark
E. V. H. Emmett
Robert T. Kane
Capt. R. C. Lyle
Wings of the Morning
The film showcased Annabella in two roles, with scenes presenting her in romantic, tragic and comic lights. In the prologue, she plays Marie, a gypsy who wins the heart of a British lord, only to be rejected by his family when he dies shortly after their marriage. Almost 50 years later, Marie (now played by Irene Vanbrugh) returns to her former estate and sends for her granddaughter, with Annabella taking over the gamine role. To escape the Spanish Civil War she disguises herself as a boy, keeping up the charade when she meets Canadian horse-trader Kerry Gilfallen (Henry Fonda). They fall in love as he trains Wings of the Morning, her great grandmother's horse, for the Epsom Downs Derby, but the arrival of her fiancé, an impoverished Spanish nobleman, threatens their happiness.
Wings of the Morning was Annabella's first English-language film, though it wasn't her first time working for Fox. She had played Loretta Young's role opposite Charles Boyer in the French language version of Caravan (1934), shot simultaneously with that film. It was her European success that brought Fox calling again, but initially she refused to return to Hollywood. They finally offered to star her in English-made films, starting with her role as Marie/Maria. Despite the film's success, her later Fox films did not propel her to American stardom, even when she finally agreed to re-locate to Hollywood.
This was also the first production for New World Pictures, the new British subsidiary of 20th Century-Fox, which sent producer Robert T. Kane to head up production in England. They rented Alexander Korda's Denham Studios, which were built on an English country estate with lavish grounds and a river running through it. The studio also imported Fonda, who had starred in their first Technicolor film, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), cinematographer Ray Rennahan, who had shot the first three-strip Technicolor feature, Becky Sharp (1935) and director Glenn Tryon. The latter was a curious choice for Wings of the Morning. Better known as an actor, he had only directed three minor films previously. After shooting the Irish locations and the Derby scenes, he quarreled with producer Robert T. Kane, who fired him. In his place, one of Fox's top editors, Harold D. Schuster, got his first shot at directing.
Fonda was cast in the film as box-office insurance in case Annabella did not take off with U.S. audiences. He only accepted the role because it gave him the chance to visit England and Ireland, but it provided an added bonus in his personal life. Early on, he had to dodge his co-star's amorous advances and later, her jealous husband, actor Jean Murat, to whom she had written proclaiming her new love. Once that was settled, Fonda developed a more congenial on-set romance of his own when a group of American tourists visited to observe British filmmaking. One of them was the high-society widow Frances Seymour Brokaw. Before long, Fonda was motoring up to London at every break in filming to spend time with her. When the film was finished, he joined her in Berlin for the Olympics. Within months they were married. She would be the mother of future actors Peter and Jane Fonda.
The lush English countryside and spectacular racing scenes were designed to showcase the still-new Technicolor process, but the film also offered some rewards that, though less visually spectacular, are still important to film buffs. For one thing, it provided a rare opportunity to see legendary Irish tenor John McCormack, who played himself and sang four songs, including his great hit "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms." He received special billing reading "Introducing the famous Irish tenor," but he had actually starred in an earlier film, Fox's Song o' My Heart (1930). Also cast as himself was the famous jockey Steve Donoghue.
Wings of the Morning won solid reviews, with most of the praise going to its stars and the photography; it was hailed as the most beautiful Technicolor work of the day. Although the story now seems quaint and dated, the cinematography still looks spectacular. Unlike most early Technicolor films shot in Hollywood, it has subtler colors, a characteristic of later British color films like the Oscar®-winning Black Narcissus (1947), whose cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, had worked as an assistant on Wings of the Morning.
Producer: Robert Kane
Director: Harold D. Schuster
Screenplay: Thomas J. Geraghty, John Meehan, Gilbert Wakefield
Based on two short stories by Donn Byrne in Destiny Bay
Cinematography: Ray Rennahan
Art Direction: Ralph W. Brinton
Score: Arthur Benjamin
Principal 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), Evelyn Ankers (Party Guest).
by Frank Miller
Wings of the Morning
The first Technicolor movie shot in Europe.
Wings of the Morning was the first film of New World Pictures, Ltd., which was a British subsidiary of Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., and marked Robert T. Kane's first production in England for Twentieth Century-Fox. According to Lib, the film's cost was $500,000. According to International Photographer, the film was made at the new Denham Studios, which were built on an old estate previously owned for generations by a once-wealthy family. The estate included lavish grounds and parks, and the river Coine flowed through it. Scenes were shot in Ireland and London, and at Epsom Downs racetrack. The picture was the first Technicolor film produced in England and also was French actress Annabella's first English language film. (In 1934, she came to Hollywood to star in Caravane, Fox's French language version of Caravan.) A modern source states that William Burnside, the assistant to the producer, taught Annabella English, and information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library states that a "Miss Downson" was hired to help Annabella perfect her English and her diction.
Glenn Tryon is listed as director in Hollywood Reporter production charts until June 29, 1936, when Harold Schuster's name first appears. According to modern sources, Tryon directed some location shooting in Ireland and the filming of the Derby before he had a disagreement with Kane and was replaced by Schuster. Wings of the Morning was Schuster's first credited film as director. Earlier, he had been an editor with Fox and had lost an opportunity to direct in the early 1930s when Chase Manhattan took over the company. In 1935, Schuster directed additional scenes in Spring Tonic and was scheduled to direct Fly by Night, but before production began, Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures, and the new studio head, Darryl Zanuck, cancelled that film.
According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the Technicolor processing was done in Hollywood, as was the editing, which Schuster oversaw. The opening credits listing John McCormack reads "Introducing the famous Irish tenor." McCormack sang three songs in the film. According to the screen credits, racing commentator E. V. H. Emmett appeared "By Courtesy of the Gaumont-British News." The well-known jockey Steve Donoghue played himself. Henry Fonda, who made the first outdoor Technicolor film the year before, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, met his future wife Frances Seymour Brokaw during the shooting, according to Lib. Fonda was loaned by Walter Wanger for the production. Hollywood Reporter production charts list the following additional cast members: Anthony Bushell, Niall McGinnis, Dorothy Dewhurst, John Hepworth and Edana Rubinstein. Their participation in the final film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, Evelyn Ankers also was in the film. Modern sources state that the working title was The Sport of Kings. A 1919 Fox Film Corp. production with the same title was not based on the same source.