Wings is a 1927 American silent war film set during the First World War
produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures.
It stars Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Richard Arlen, and Gary Cooper
appears in a role which helped launch his career in Hollywood.
The film, a romantic action-war picture, was rewritten by scriptwriters
Hope Loring and Louis D. Lighton from a story by John Monk Saunders
to accommodate Bow, Paramount's biggest star at the time.
Wellman was hired as he was the only director in Hollywood at the time who had World War I
combat pilot experience, although Richard Arlen and John Monk Saunders
had also served in the war as military aviators.
The film was shot on location on a budget of $2 million at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas
between September 7, 1926 and April 7, 1927.
Hundreds of extras and some 300 pilots were involved in the filming,
including pilots and planes of the United States Army Air Corps which were brought
in for the filming and to provide assistance and supervision.
Wellman extensively rehearsed the scenes for the Battle of Saint-Mihiel
over ten days with some 3500 infantrymen on a battlefield made for the production on location.
Although the cast and crew had much spare time during the filming because of weather delays,
shooting conditions were intense, and Wellman frequently conflicted
with the military officers brought in to supervise the picture.
Acclaimed for its technical prowess and realism upon release,
the film became the yardstick against which future aviation films were measured,
mainly because of its realistic air-combat sequences.
It 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 only fully silent film to do so.
It also won the Academy Award for Best Engineering Effects (Roy Pomeroy).
Wings was one of the first to show two men kissing
(in a fraternal moment between Rogers and Arlen during the deathbed finale),
and also one of the first widely released films to show nudity.
In 1997, Wings was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant",
and the film was re-released to Cinemark theaters to coincide with the 85th Anniversary
for a limited run in May 2012. The Academy Film Archive preserved Wings in 2002.
Wings was the only silent film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
A Stunning Achievement
21 October 2007 | by drednm (United States)
Famous of course for winning the first Oscar for best film, WINGS is also one hell of a good film. Spectacular aerial photography highlights the terrific performances of the three leads: Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers, and Richard Arlen. Director William Wellman creates a solid and moving anti-war statement as he shows us the brutality and stupidity of war, its waste of youth, and its power to destroy the lives of all involved.
The film starts with star-crossed lovers in a small town in America. Bow loves Rogers but he loves Jobyna Ralston. Ralston loves Arlen and he loves her but through a mistake, Arlen thinks she loves Rogers. Then the boys go off to war. The outgoing Rogers thinks the war will be an adventure; the shy Arlen goes off, leaving his devastated parents who cannot express their emotions. Bow soon goes off to be an ambulance driver. Ralston stays homes and waits.
The story follows the rivalry and growing friendship of the boys as they head for war. The story ends in yet another bitter mistake. The viewer is as emotionally drained by the end of this film as the parents were at the beginning.
El Brendel provides some comedy relief. Roscoe Karns has a small part. Henry B. Walthall and Julia Swayne Gordon are the parents. And Gary Cooper has one brief scene with Rogers and Arlen. The scene in which he turns and flashes that famous smile as he exits the tent supposedly made him a star.
Clara Bow is solid as the spirited home-town girl who chases Rogers to no avail. She's gorgeous here and she is even moreso in the Paris scene where the matron lets her borrow a snappy and dazzling dress. Few women in film history have been able to be so sexually charismatic as Clara Bow. She's also a good actress.
Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers give their best performances here. Each takes turns as the center of attention as they become men during the grueling war. Their flight scenes are incredibly well done. Arlen's flight scene as he races toward the American lines is amazing.
Jobyna Ralston has a rare memorable film not working with Harold Lloyd. And Henry B. Walthall is quietly grand as the crippled father.
Wellman's direction and the camera work of Harry Perry are beyond perfection. The aerial battles are breathtaking as are the scenes where they blow up the German blimps. There's also one astounding scene in the beginning of the film where Ralston and Arlen are in a swing. The camera is mounted in a stationary position in front of the actors so we see the scene as though we are in the swing with them. Then suddenly in the background we see Rogers in his jalopy pulling up in the street. The swing stops and Ralston gets out and runs to Rogers (in the background) while we see the close-up of Arlen as he twists in the swing seat and turns to watch them. It's an amazing scene and all one shot.
This film is a must see.