|Directed by||William A. Wellman|
|Produced by||Lucien Hubbard
Jesse L. Lasky
B. P. Schulberg
Otto Hermann Kahn
|Written by||Julian Johnson (Titles)|
|Screenplay by||Hope Loring
Louis D. Lighton
|Story by||John Monk Saunders|
Charles "Buddy" Rogers
|Music by||J.S. Zamecnik (uncredited)|
|Editing by||E. Lloyd Sheldon
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||141 minutes|
|Budget||US$2 million (est.)|
Wings is a 1927 American action silent film about two World War I fighter pilot friends, both involved with the same beauty, produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures. Wings was the only completely silent film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (2011's The Artist was close to being another but had a few words spoken out loud at the end). It stars Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appears in a role which helped launch his career in Hollywood and 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 first Academy Award for Best Picture at the first annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award ceremony in 1929.
The film was re-released to Cinemark theaters to coincide with the 85th Anniversary for a limited run in May 2012.
Jack Powell and David Armstrong are rivals in the same small American town, 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 the Air 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 are billeted together. 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 the Germans.
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 two Military Police barge 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 epic Battle of Saint-Mihiel. David is shot down and presumed dead. However, he survives the crash landing, steals a German biplane, and heads for the Allied lines. 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.
- Clara Bow as Mary Preston
- Charles "Buddy" Rogers as Jack Powell
- Richard Arlen as David Armstrong
- Gary Cooper as Cadet White
- Jobyna Ralston as Sylvia Lewis
- El Brendel as Herman Schwimpf, a cadet who washes out and becomes an aircraft mechanic
- Richard Tucker as Air commander
- Gunboat Smith as Sergeant
- Roscoe Karns as Lieutenant Cameron
- Henry B. Walthall as Mr. Armstrong
- Julia Swayne Gordon as Mrs. Armstrong
- Arlette Marchal as 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 the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called "Best Picture, Production") for the film year 1927/1928, and won a second Academy Award for Engineering Effects. Primary scout aircraft flown in the film were Thomas-Morse MB-3s and Curtiss PW-8s.
The film was written by John Monk Saunders (original story), Louis D. Lighton and Hope Loring (screenplay), edited and produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman, with an original orchestral score by John Stepan Zamecnik, which was uncredited. The movie was shot at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas between September 7, 1926 and April 7, 1927. A sneak preview was shown May 19, 1927, at the Texas Theater on Houston Street in San Antonio. The premiere was held at the Criterion Theater, in New York City, on August 12, 1927.
Wings was 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 show nudity. In the Enlistment Office there are nude men undergoing physical 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 the MPPDA list 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 involving Dick Grace, a stunt pilot and the other was a fatal crash of a United States Army Air Corps pilot.
The original Paramount release of Wings was color tinted and had some sequences in an early widescreen process known as Magnascope, also used in the Paramount film Old Ironsides (1926). The original release also had the aerial scenes use the Handschiegl color process for flames and explosions. Some prints had synchronized sound effects and music, using the General Electric Kinegraphone (later RCA Photophone) sound-on-film process.
Wings was an immediate success, premiering on August 12, 1927 at the Criterion Theatre in 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 of Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight. The critical response was equally enthusiastic as Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times wrote 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 the Magnascope aspect as being "used to a great extent in this film."
On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Award ceremony was held at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. Wings was 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 were Unique and Artistic Production, won by Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and Outstanding Picture (later renamed Best Picture), won by Wings which went on to also win Best Engineering Effects for Roy Pomeroy. The following year, the Academy dropped the Unique and Artistic Production award, and decided retroactively that the award won by Wings was the highest honor that could be awarded. The statuette, not yet known as the "Oscar", was presented by Douglas Fairbanks to Clara Bow on behalf of the producers, Adolph Zukor and B.P. Schulberg.
For many years, Wings was considered a lost film until a print was found in the Cinémathèque Française film archive in Paris and quickly copied from nitrate film to safety film stock. It was again shown in theaters, including some theaters where the film was accompanied by Wurlitzer pipe organs.
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, titled The 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 series Petticoat Junction that 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 Joe writes 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 of The Lucy Show titled "Lucy and Carol Burnett: Part 2". They are introduced as the stars of Wings at a ceremony to mark the graduation of Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett from 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.
As the original negatives are lost, the closest to an original print is a spare negative stored in Paramount's vaults. Suffering from decay and defects, the negative was fully restored with modern technology. For the restored version of Wings, the original music score was re-orchestrated. The sound effects were recreated at Skywalker Sound using archived audio tracks. The scenes using the Handschiegl color process were also recreated for the restored version.
In 1996, Paramount released a VHS videotape version. In 2012, the company issued a "meticulously restored" version for DVD and Blu-ray. The remastered version in high-definition coincided with the centennial anniversary of Paramount. On May 2 and 16, 2012, a limited re-release was seen exclusively in select Cinemark theaters twice daily. 
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wings (film).|
- Wings at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Wings at the Internet Movie Database
- Wings at the TCM Movie Database
- Wings at allmovie
- Wings at Rotten Tomatoes
- Wings at Virtual History
- Q&A With Paramount's VP of Archives on the restoration of 'Wings'