The Wings of Eagles is filmmaker John Ford's paean to his frequent collaborator--and, it is rumored, drinking buddy--Cmdr. Frank "Spig" Wead. John Wayne stars as Wead, a reckless WW1 Naval aviator who (it says here) was instrumental in advancing the cause of American "air power". In private life, Wead becomes estranged from his wife Minnie (Maureen O'Hara) after the death of their baby. Drinking heavily, Wead tumbles down the stairs of his home, and as a result he is apparently paralyzed for life. With the help of happy-go-lucky Navy mechanic Carson (Dan Dailey), Wead is able to regain minimal use of his legs, but it seems clear that his Naval career is over. Fortunately, he manages to find work as a prolific Hollywood screenwriter, and after the attack of Pearl Harbor he is called back to active duty to oversee the construction of "jeep carriers". Not one of John Ford's more coherent films--in fact, it's downright sloppy at times--The Wings of Eagles nonetheless contains several highlights, not least of which are the "I'm gonna move that toe" scene with John Wayne and Dan Dailey, and Ward Bond's inside-joke performance as irreverent film director "John Dodge".
by Hal Erickson synopsis