Wingsis a 1927 Americanactionsilent filmabout twoWorld War Ifighter pilot friends, both involved with the same beauty, produced byLucien Hubbard, directed byWilliam A. Wellmanand released byParamount Pictures.Wingswas the first film to win theAcademy Award for Best Picture, and the first of only two silent films to do so.(The Artist(2011) was the other, though it contains sound and a few lines of Bow,Charles "Buddy" Rogers, andRichard Arlen.Gary Cooperappears in a role which helped launch his career inHollywoodand also marked the beginning of his affair with Clara Bow.
The film, a war picture, was rewritten to accommodate Clara Bow, as she was Paramount's biggest star, but wasn't happy about her part: "Wings is...a man's picture and I'm just the whipped cream on top of the pie".The film went on to win the firstAcademy Award for Best Pictureat the first annualAcademy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciencesaward ceremony in 1929.
The film was re-released toCinemarktheaters to coincide with the 85th Anniversary for a limited run in May 2012.Plot[edit source|editbeta]Clara Bowas Mary Preston inWings
Jack Powell and David Armstrong are rivals in the same smallAmericantown, both vying for the attentions of pretty Sylvia Lewis. Jack fails to realize that "the girl next door", Mary Preston, is desperately in love with him. The two young men both enlist to become combat pilots in theAir Service. When they leave for training camp, Jack mistakenly believes Sylvia prefers him. She actually prefers David and lets him know about her feelings, but is too kindhearted to turn down Jack's affection.
Jack and David arebilletedtogether. Their tent mate is Cadet White, but their acquaintance is all too brief; White is killed in an air crash the same day. Undaunted, the two men endure a rigorous training period, where they go from being enemies to best friends. Upon graduating, they are shipped off to France to fight theGermans.
Mary joins the war effort by becoming an ambulance driver. She later learns of Jack's reputation as an ace and encounters him while on leave in Paris. She finds him, but he is too drunk to recognize her. She puts him to bed, but when twoMilitary Policebarge in while she is innocently changing from a borrowed dress back into her uniform in the same room, she is forced to resign and return to America.
The climax of the story comes with the epicBattle of Saint-Mihiel. David is shot down and presumed dead. However, he survives the crash landing, steals a Germanbiplane, and heads for theAlliedlines. By a tragic stroke of bad luck, Jack spots the enemy aircraft and, bent on avenging his friend, begins an attack. He is successful in downing the aircraft and lands to retrieve a souvenir of his victory. The owner of the land where David's aircraft crashed urges Jack to come to the dying man's side. He agrees and becomes distraught when he realizes what he has done. David consoles him and before he dies, forgives his comrade.
At the war's end, Jack returns home to a hero's welcome. He visits David's grieving parents to return his friend's effects. During the visit he begs their forgiveness for causing David's death. Mrs. Armstrong says it is not Jack who is responsible for her son's death, but the war. Then, Jack is reunited with Mary and realizes he loves her.Cast[edit source|editbeta]
- Clara Bowas Mary Preston
- Charles "Buddy" Rogersas Jack Powell
- Richard Arlenas David Armstrong
- Gary Cooperas Cadet White
- Jobyna Ralstonas Sylvia Lewis
- El Brendelas Herman Schwimpf, a cadet who washes out and becomes an aircraft mechanic
- Richard Tuckeras Air commander
- Gunboat Smithas Sergeant
- Roscoe Karnsas Lieutenant Cameron
- Henry B. Walthallas Mr. Armstrong
- Julia Swayne Gordonas Mrs. Armstrong
- Arlette Marchalas Celeste
- Hedda Hopper(uncredited) as Mrs. Powell
- George Irving(uncredited) as Mr. Powell
Wings, completed with a budget of $2 million, was the first film to win theAcademy Award for Best Picture(then called "Best Picture, Production") for the film year 1927/1928, and won a secondAcademy Award for Engineering Effects. Primary scout aircraft flown in the film wereThomas-Morse MB-3sandCurtiss PW-8s.
The film was written byJohn Monk Saunders(original story),Louis D. LightonandHope Loring(screenplay), edited and produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed byWilliam A. Wellman, with an original orchestral score byJohn Stepan Zamecnik, which was uncredited. The movie was shot atKelly Field,San Antonio, Texasbetween September 7, 1926 and April 7, 1927.A sneak preview was shown May 19, 1927, at the Texas Theater on Houston Street inSan Antonio. The premiere was held at theCriterion Theater, in New York City, on August 12, 1927.
Wingswas one of the first to show two men kissing: when several aviators are presented medals by a French general and are ceremonially pecked on their necks, and a fraternal moment during the deathbed finale. It is also one of the first widely released films to shownudity. In the Enlistment Office there are nude men undergoingphysical exams, who can be seen from behind, through a door which is opened and closed.Clara Bow's breasts can also be seen for a second during the Paris bedroom scene when army men barge in as she is changing her clothes. This film was released a few months before theMPPDAlist of "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" was established.
Producer Lucien Hubbard hired director Wellman because of his World War I aviator experience. Arlen, Wellman, and John Monk Saunders had all served in World War I as military aviators. Arlen was able to do his own flying in the film and Rogers, a non-pilot, underwent flight training during the course of the production, so that, like Arlen, Rogers could also be filmed in closeup in the air. Lucien Hubbard offered flying lessons to all, and despite the number of aircraft in the air, only two incidents occurred, one involvingDick Grace, a stunt pilot and the other was a fatal crash of aUnited States Army Air Corpspilot.
The original Paramount release ofWingswas color tinted and had some sequences in an earlywidescreenprocess known as Magnascope, also used in the Paramount filmOld Ironsides(1926). The original release also had the aerial scenes use theHandschiegl color processfor flames and explosions. Some prints had synchronized sound effects and music, using theGeneral ElectricKinegraphone (laterRCA source|editbeta]
Wingswas an immediate success, premiering on August 12, 1927 at theCriterion Theatrein New York and playing 63 weeks before being moved to second-run theaters. One of the reasons for its resounding popularity was the public infatuation with aviation in the wake ofCharles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight.The critical response was equally enthusiastic asMordaunt HallofThe New York Timeswrote in his August 13, 1927 review that the realism of the flying scenes was especially impressive, noting also the direction and acting of the entire cast. Hall notes only two criticisms, one slight on Richard Arlen's performance and of the ending, which he described as "like so many screen stories, much too sentimental, and there is far more of it than one wants." Hall finished his positive review by describing theMagnascopeaspect as being "used to a great extent in this film."Academy Awards[edit source|editbeta]
On May 16, 1929, thefirst Academy Awardceremony was held at theHotel honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928.Wingswas entered in a number of categories but in contrast with later ceremonies, there were two awards that were seen as equally the top award of the night. These wereUnique and Artistic Production, won bySunrise: A Song of Two HumansandOutstanding Picture(later renamedBest Picture), won byWingswhich went on to also winBest Engineering EffectsforRoy Pomeroy. The following year, the Academy dropped theUnique and Artistic Productionaward, and decided retroactively that the award won byWingswas the highest honor that could be awarded.The statuette, not yet known as the "Oscar", was presented byDouglas Fairbanksto Clara Bow on behalf of the producers, Adolph Zukor and B.P. Schulberg.Legacy[edit source|editbeta]
For many years,Wingswas considered alost filmuntil a print was found in theCinémathèque Françaisefilm archive in Paris and quickly copied fromnitrate filmto safety film stock.It was again shown in theaters, including some theaters where the film was accompanied byWurlitzerpipe organs.
In 1997,Wingswas selected for preservation in the United StatesNational Film Registryby theLibrary of Congressas being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
In 2006, director William A. Wellman's son, William Wellman Jr., authored a book about the film and his father's participation in the making of it, titledThe Man and His Wings: William A. Wellman and the Making of the First Best Picture.
The film was the focus of an episode of the television seriesPetticoat Junctionthat originally aired November 9, 1968. Arlen and Rogers were scheduled to appear during the film's opening at one of the local cinemas in 1928. They opted, instead to attend the New York screening that was held the same night.Uncle Joewrites a letter chiding the pair for forsaking the town. To atone, and generate publicity, they agree to attend a second opening, 40-years late.Arlen and Rogers also appeared together as themselves on a December 18, 1967, episode ofThe Lucy Showtitled "Lucy and Carol Burnett: Part 2". They are introduced as the stars ofWingsat a ceremony to mark the graduation ofLucille BallandCarol Burnettfrom stewardess training. They appear on stage beneath stills taken from the film and, later in the ceremony, star in a musical with Ball and Burnett, as two World War I pilots.
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Wings Movie Souvenir Program 1927 Clara Bow Gary Cooper :