And still, she finds herself unconditionally falling for the brusque Geoff, though their romance is complicated by the arrival of his old fiance, Judy (Rita Hayworth) - the woman to whom he attributes his emotional reticence. In reality, though, that cruel mistress is the one thousands of feet in the air and it's also the siren that calls Judy's new husband, and Geoff's new flyer. A past transgression has made a name for him amongst jobbing pilots, and cast him as a professional pariah. However, he bears that burden stoically, never confiding in his wife and continuing to take to the skies. Of course, there is point at which the facade will slip and the film probes this area with precision.
The local bar may be full of laughter and merriment in the wake of the early death, but just hours later a sombre, melancholic mood has descended as quickly as the crates rattling onto the soggy landing strip. Grant is absolutely superb as the impassive Geoff, adept at being unfeeling and ever on the wing, but even he has those he can't help but mourn - try as he might. Gravity is destined to catch up with them all in the end, but whilst they're airborne Only Angels Have Wings soars, not least during its incredibly taut bad-weather flights which pound with the slow thudding tension of the depth-charges in Das Boot. Like a rhythmic heartbeat sounding for the masculine flock that dare not acknowledge their own.
Only Angels Have Wings is released on blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection in the UK.
Ben Nicholson | @BRNicholson